The Vancouver City Council began the process of allocating $9.27 million in city and federal grant funds for affordable housing developments, homeless shelters and relief for tenants and businesses hard hit by COVID-19.
In a workshop Monday evening, council members heard a proposal on how the money ought to be spent. The list of 40 applicants encompasses 11 housing development proposals and three temporary shelter programs.
“It’s exciting to see the number of dollars that can be leveraged, and what can be accomplished,” Mayor Pro Tem Linda Glover said.
The money for the annual project allocation comes from four sources:
• $6.22 million from Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund, funded by a voter-approved citywide property tax.
• $1.25 million from the Community Development Block Grant program sourced by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
• $1.13 million in block grant money to help the city respond to the housing-related crises linked to COVID-19.
• $670,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program.
Another round of COVID-related funding is likely headed to the city, should the $1.9 trillion package passed by the House of Representatives last week ultimately be signed into law.
“CDBG funds are tied to COVID response, and this is also CARES Act funding,” Vancouver Associate Planner Bryan Monroe told the city council. “If the Senate passes the current CARES Act, we will probably receive more funding through CDBG.”
Community organizations applied for the funds between October and December in a competitive grant process. A committee made up of 27 people — including both city staff and members of the public — judged and prioritized the applications based on their scope, location, budget and timeline.
Five of the applicants are not on track to receive funding for their projects, according to the recommendation viewed Monday evening.
“We wanted to make sure projects could begin as soon as funds were made available,” said Peggy Sheehan, Vancouver’s community development programs manager.
What will the funds pay for?
The single biggest line-item in the proposed 2021 allocations is the Fourth Plain Commons facility, which is on track to receive $1.5 million from the Affordable Housing Fund this year toward a 106-unit apartment complex, the next major chunk of a public housing project that will cost an estimated $36 million to complete.
In order to qualify for Affordable Housing Fund dollars, a project must price its rental units so residents making less than half of the Portland metro area’s median income can live there. The Portland metro area’s median income is $92,100 for a family of four.
The ground floor of the Fourth Plain Commons — located on the southwest corner of East Fourth Plain Boulevard and Norris Road — will serve as a community gathering space, resource center and culinary training program. The city plans to allocate $300,000 toward developing that common space this year.
The committee also recommended that $975,000 in Affordable Housing Funds go toward a 50-unit apartment complex under development by Ginn Group at 2929 N.E. 65th Ave.; $900,000 for Second Step Housing, a nonprofit that acquires market-rate apartments and converts them into affordable units; $700,000 for the Vancouver Housing Authority to renovate the Fruit Valley Commons, and $320,000 in combined Affordable Housing and HOME funds to build a housing complex for low- and moderate-income residents near the PeaceHealth campus on Fourth Plain Boulevard.
Outside of administration costs, the rest of the HOME funds provided to the city will be used for direct rental assistance programs to help struggling tenants stay in their units.
Three temporary shelter organizations — a men’s shelter at St. Paul Lutheran Church, a women’s shelter run by local nonprofit Share, and a support program for homeless people in addiction recovery — will receive a combined $600,000, according to the recommendations reviewed Monday.
For businesses struggling through COVID-19, a proposed $554,240 will go to a handful of local organizations including the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and Clark College to help them offer training, technical assistance and counseling.
“Many local small businesses are experiencing financial hardship,” Monroe said.
Allocations aren’t final. A public hearing will be held April 5, by which time city officials hope they will know for certain how many federal dollars the city will receive for public housing in the latest COVID-19 relief package, Sheehan said.
A full list of the proposed recipients was included in the city council’s meeting documents, which can be found on Vancouver’s website.
The disbursements will likely go out to applicants no later than July, Sheehan said.