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June 25, 2022

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Affordable housing being built adjacent to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center

PeaceHealth, Mercy Housing site includes 6 buildings

By , Columbian staff writer
3 Photos
Construction is underway on 69 affordable apartments next to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Units will be reserved for families earning less than half the median local income.
Construction is underway on 69 affordable apartments next to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Units will be reserved for families earning less than half the median local income. (Peace Health/Mercy House Development) Photo Gallery

A new affordable housing community will be opening adjacent to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center next summer. PeaceHealth and Mercy Housing Northwest recently celebrated a groundbreaking at the site.

The community will consist of six three-story apartment buildings and include spaces for gatherings and play areas for children. The complex will have 23 one-bedroom apartments at an average of 560 square feet, 31 two-bedroom apartments at an average of 800 square feet and 15 three-bedroom apartments at an average of 1,080 square feet. There will be 93 parking spaces for the 69 apartments.

“This property in Vancouver will be a real family-focused property,” said Chris Bendix, project developer at Mercy Housing Northwest.

Half of the units will be reserved for households earning up to 30 percent of the area’s median income, about $23,000 per year for a family of four, and the other half will be reserved for households making up to 50 percent of the area’s median income, about $37,000 per year for a family of four.

“We care for a lot of patients that are struggling and people that are struggling with homelessness,” said Sean Gregory, chief executive of the Columbia Network at PeaceHealth. PeaceHealth donated the vacant land for the project, as well as $2.4 million in capital funding. Gregory says his organization works closely with other groups working to provide access to housing and is active in other affordable housing projects in the area.

After conducting a community needs assessment, PeaceHealth found one of the biggest health needs is access to housing.

“It’s hard to meet your health needs if you’re unhoused,” Gregory said.

“The development is also an opportunity for our own employees who are struggling with affordable housing,” added Gregory. “We know the need is real across the community. And this project is really designed to help particularly single working parents and other people that have really been hit hard by the pandemic.”

Because the project is in a neighborhood of primarily single-family homes, it was designed to be smaller in scale. Instead of one large apartment block, there are multiple smaller buildings. Units are set back from the road and will be landscaped like the surrounding homes. The community will be a transition in scale between the hospital next door and the neighborhood that surrounds it, Bendix said.

The development, which has been in the works for four years, is a collaboration between PeaceHealth and Mercy Housing Northwest. The two organizations have partnered on a similar development in Bellingham. Mercy Housing Northwest is a regional nonprofit affordable housing developer with properties across Washington. It specializes in providing housing that includes on-site enrichment programs like health and wellness assistance, homework clubs for kids, and financial wellness and housing stability help. It’s the first project in Vancouver for Mercy Housing Northwest.

“A lot of residents come to us with challenges finding conventional housing,” said Bendix, adding overall financial stability can play a role.

“So, we’re available to provide on-site services that assist people in households to find more stability and overall set themselves up for future success,” he said.

Mercy Housing Northwest has seen success with its other properties, Bendix said. The organization’s Bellingham property has seen almost all of its high school student residents graduate on time, which Bendix said is in part due to the on-site services. The organization’s communities also develop relationships with schools, so they can be a liaison between schools and resident families.

“I hope this sort of partnership can serve as a catalyst for other large institutions who may have either the land or the financial resources to think about how they can play a really active role in ensuring housing stays affordable in whatever community they’re located in,” Bendix said.

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