Caesar said it’s important to note there are no local funding sources included in the renovations of Cougar Creek Apartments or the 160-unit Esther Short Commons.
The agency told the Vancouver City Council on Monday that Esther Short Commons, 555 W. Eighth St., would receive upgrades.
The renovations are entirely financed by low-income housing tax credits, the issuance of bonds paid for by the project’s operations and a Vancouver Housing Authority loan.
“The VHA loan is just the value of the building being put back into the project, which generates additional tax credits but makes the project’s overall budget appear larger than it really is,” Caesar said.
Vancouver Housing Authority is also lowering the income limit for who can live in Cougar Creek Apartments to people making 60 percent of the area’s median income ($47,400 for a single person or $67,680 for a family of four), which will make the mixed-income units even more affordable.
But why doesn’t the Vancouver Housing Authority just buy new buildings when the costs of the renovations are close to or higher than the buildings’ values?
Lamb suspects buying new buildings would be even more expensive.
“The average apartment unit, I think, is selling between $200,000 or $300,000 per unit today,” he said.
On top of that, apartment buildings for sale with that many units are not plentiful in the area, he said.
Caesar believes that if Vancouver Housing Authority sold Cougar Creek Apartments and Esther Short, the community would lose many units of affordable housing, despite the fact that the buildings are required to stay affordable for a certain amount of time.
“What happens a lot across the country is that market-rate, for-profit developers will buy it and then operate until the end of that period,” Caesar said. “And then, at that time, they then convert it to market-rate housing.”
It’s also important to maintain existing housing in the community, he said.
“Just because someone lives in affordable housing doesn’t mean it should be falling into disarray,” he said.
“I think (when) you look at public housing across the country, there’s a reason that they’re getting rid of it because the government didn’t fund maintenance and investments in those.”
“So you have the stories of elevators going out and towers and lead in the water lines,” Caesar said. “It’s because there’s no investment in that.”
The renovations for Cougar Creek Apartments will begin in February or March and renovations for Esther Short Commons will begin around January.
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