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May 15, 2021

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Vancouver OKs $6.22M for housing, shelter projects

Affordable Housing Fund allocations aid low-income people

By , Columbian staff writer

The Vancouver City Council has awarded $6.22 million to housing and shelter projects, completing its annual allocation process from the city’s Affordable Housing Fund.

The vast majority of the funds – $5.62 million – went toward 11 projects that will boost low-income housing stock through construction or preservation. Big-ticket projects set to receive funding include:

• $1.5 million to the Vancouver Housing Authority for the Fourth Plain Commons project, a 106-unit apartment complex over a shared community space at the southwest corner of East Fourth Plain Boulevard and Norris Road;

• $975,000 to Ginn Gives, a nonprofit arm of local housing developer Ginn Group, for a 50-unit apartment building at 2929 N.E. 65th Ave.;

• $900,000 to Second Step Housing for acquisition of a 26-unit complex at 6305 and 6409 Kansas St.

• $700,000 to the Vancouver Housing Authority for renovation of the Fruit Valley Commons at 1910 W. 31st St.

All told, the funds will support construction of 173 housing units for families making up to half of the area’s median income. Recipients will additionally preserve 142 units for low-income households.

A smaller portion of the funds, the remaining $600,000, will go toward three temporary shelters. Outsiders Inn’s shelter for men at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Share’s WHAT Shelter for women and Xchange Recovery’s From Homeless to Recovery and Sustainability program each received approximately $200,000 in the latest round of allocations.

Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund formed in 2016, when voters approved a property tax levy set to last seven years. The levy collects up to $6 million per year from commercial and residential property owners.

When the current levy expires in 2023, city leaders have the option of asking voters for an extension.

“It’s clear that the Affordable Housing Fund, which was approved by the voters in November 2016, is expanding housing opportunities for very low-income households as intended,” Chad Eiken, Vancouver’s director of community and economic development, said in a media release Tuesday.

Outside of the Affordable Housing Fund, the city council also allocated just shy of $3.13 million in federal funds from the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships programs. Of that money, $1.13 million is earmarked specifically for COVID-19 relief projects.

The largest portion of that money, almost $500,000, will go toward direct payment assistance for families struggling to cover rent, utilities or move-in costs. Another $467,000 was set aside for small-business aid, including grants, loans and technical assistance.

City councilors approved the recommended grants by a unanimous vote at their meeting Monday evening, following a public hearing that heard testimony from a handful of local supporters.

“This funding couldn’t be more well timed,” John McDonagh, president of the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, told the council.