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News / Business / Clark County Business

East Vancouver gains more affordable housing with opening of Columbia Gardens

Complex has 124 units for families at or below 50 to 60 percent of area median income

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: August 30, 2023, 6:08am
4 Photos
The Columbia Gardens Apartments adds 124 units of affordable housing options for Vancouver residents.
The Columbia Gardens Apartments adds 124 units of affordable housing options for Vancouver residents. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Chrischelle West wouldn’t want to live anywhere but the Columbia Gardens Apartments in east Vancouver.

As a single mother of three, all age 5 and younger, she said it’s difficult finding affordable housing with enough space for her family. But thanks to Vancouver’s newest long-term housing community, she has an affordable place to call home.

“I couldn’t ask to be anywhere else,” West said.

On Tuesday, city and county leaders and housing officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Columbia Gardens Apartments in the Fircrest neighborhood.

The community offers 124 units for residents and families earning at or below 50 percent and 60 percent of area median income. The community includes two-, three- and four-bedroom units.

“I really believe to belong to our community, you need to have roots here. This (apartment community) gives roots to people who hadn’t had the opportunity before,” state Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said.

“Truly, the most important issue facing us right now is affordable housing — getting people off the streets and into safe, affordable housing is a huge issue,” Harris added.

Like other communities in Washington, Clark County is in the throes of an affordable housing crisis. Last year, more than 9,000 people experienced homelessness in Clark County. According to the Council for the Homeless, high rents and a lack of affordable homes were the main drivers.

There are 22 affordable homes per 100 low-income households, according to a 2022 report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Vancouver Mayor Pro Tem Ty Stober said the city recently worked with consulting firm ECONorthwest to conduct a survey of Vancouver’s housing situation.

“We found that right now we are currently producing 1,600 new homes per year in the city of Vancouver,” he said. “But we need to be producing 2,500 new homes per year. … If we can get to 2,500 in 10 years, we can close our gap.”

Stober also praised the new apartment community for having four-bedroom, affordable options.

“We struggle to get larger units and so this is a huge thing … to add that inventory for our families,” he said.

According to a recent Out of Reach report, the average four-bedroom apartment in Clark County costs $2,995 per month. In comparison, an available four-bedroom unit at Columbia Gardens is listed for $1,886, according to its website.

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Amenities for the apartment community include parking, on-site management, on-call emergency maintenance and a playground for children. The affordable homes were developed by provider Southport Financial Services. The units were funded through federal and state programs.

At the ribbon-cutting event, state Rep. Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, said that housing stability and living in a community is vital for young people.

“One of the studies years ago that I read said that it was more important for a child to have stability in terms of relationships and neighborhood schools than to have both parents 100 percent clean and sober all the time,” Wylie said.

She referenced the study, saying that living in a supportive community and having housing helps families and youth going through tough times.

“When we build homes and communities like this, this is what is important — people having connections with each other,” Wylie said. “They have connections and roots, local schools, they have support for each other. That stability means everything.”

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.