Gov. Jay Inslee’s eyes scan over the photographs, assorted knickknacks and military medals accessorizing the 300-square foot unit that veteran James Walls has called home for the last year and a half.
“This is my little home,” Walls, 77, said to those walking through his door. “Welcome.”
Inslee called Fruit Valley Terrace “a perfect model” for affordable housing during a tour of the 21-unit tiny home community in Vancouver on Friday.
The tiny homes were built in fall 2021 for people like Walls transitioning out of homelessness.
“You can’t just chase homeless people from one corner to another. That’s not a solution,” Inslee said. “What solves the problem is housing.”
The affordable homes development was developed by Community Roots Collaborative and Wolf Industries Inc., a modular homebuilder located in Battle Ground. The state invested $2.5 million in the project, with local funds providing about $800,000, Inslee said.
“In some sense, it takes a village to create a village,” Inslee said while standing inside one of the tiny homes. He praised the units for being inexpensive while allowing people to have the facilities of a house.
Dan Whiteley, president of the Community Roots Collaborative board, said the tiny houses cost $146,000 each. The low costs come from building the homes in a factory, he said.
“What we see here is the most affordable permanent house built in 2021 in the state,” he said.
Hector Hinojosa, founder of Community Roots Collaborative and board member, said the goal was to build homes at the lowest cost possible while having the least amount of barriers for people to move in.
The homes are for people who earn less than 30 percent of the area median income, or less than $22,400 a year for one person in Clark County, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Walls experienced homelessness for about five years before moving into Fruit Valley Terrace.
“As soon as I moved in, everything changed from a downward slope to an upward slope,” said Walls.
The Vietnam veteran said that the tiny home community’s affordable price tag is a stepping stone for people who have experienced housing instability.
Mirroring a statewide trend, Clark County lacks affordable housing. According to a recent report, there are 22 affordable homes per 100 low-income households.
Last year, more than 9,000 people experienced homelessness in the county. Council for the Homeless, which presented the data said that high housing and rental costs are main drivers.
“Even if I had found an apartment that I could have afforded, I’d be working full-time, and the only thing I’d be doing is paying rent,” said Walls. “But now with affordable housing, I’m a contributing member of the community. I have a job, do my shopping, I stay productive. Whereas before I was just living point to point, day to day — there’s no pride in that.”
“With safe, secure and affordable housing like this — my life has been turned around.”
A wide variety of affordable housing types are needed across Washington, Inslee said.
Inslee nodded at the recent legislative session where housing legislation was a top agenda item for lawmakers. During the session, lawmakers ushered in legislation allowing more middle housing options, and loosening zoning restrictions.
“There’s going to need to be more in the next cycles or legislation. We’re going to need to continue to build on those investments,” Inslee said.
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