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Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Dec. 5, 2023

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Vancouver accepting applications for Affordable Housing Fund

Program addresses homelessness, rental challenges

By , Columbian staff writer

The city of Vancouver is accepting applications for its Affordable Housing Fund, which will award $1.7 million to projects to address housing challenges in the city.

Organizations can use the money in several different ways, including rental assistance, housing shelters, and housing services and aid. In the last five years, the fund has helped to build or preserve 1,064 affordable housing units and provided rental assistance or services to 1,654 residents, according to city data.

“The Affordable Housing Fund is the city’s largest local resource for addressing the need for affordable housing and the prevention of homelessness,” said Samantha Whitley, Vancouver’s housing program manager. “No potential solutions are off the table in our efforts to keep Vancouver affordable and welcoming for people of all incomes.”

Whitley said more than half of renters in the area are cost burdened, and the city is “doing all we can to change that for the better alongside our partners and providers that are also working towards the same goal.”

The city welcomes any “creative, out-of-the-box ideas” and encourages applicants to reach out to city staff to discuss ideas, Whitley said. Applications are due by 5 p.m. July 15. The city will announce awards in September.

Vancouver nonprofit Share has used money from the Affordable Housing Fund to help fund its Women’s Housing and Transition Shelter for several years. In 2020, the fund helped Share extend its hours for the 18-bed shelter.

Amy Reynolds, deputy director of Share, described the Affordable Housing Fund as a vital tool that helps residents struggling with housing in several different ways.

“The funds have been used to both support shelters and rental assistance programs. It is also used to help build housing programs, which is essential for us to be able to address affordable housing in our community,” Reynolds said.

Share has also used some of the funding to operate a consortium rental assistance program — in partnership with organizations including the Council for the Homeless, the city of Vancouver and Clark College — for families making at or below the area median family income.

In the most recent round of funding, the city gave the consortium $3.5 million from the Affordable Housing Fund to be allocated over two years.

Reynolds said the Affordable Housing Fund is used to leverage money from other funding sources, which prompted voters to approve a 10-year extension of the levy that supports it earlier this year. Every dollar spent by the Affordable Housing Fund is matched by about $8 in state or federal funding, making more expensive projects possible.

“These local dollars … leverage other funding for our programs through the county. When you’re building projects, they leverage other funding through the state. It helps bring additional dollars into the community to address this issue,” Reynolds said. “(The fund is) vital for these programs and for us to be able to address the issue of homelessness in our community.”

This year, the city gave $4.3 million to four projects from various organizations, including Share and Council for the Homeless.

Council for the Homeless has used the fund to assist families facing eviction and help homeless individuals find long-term housing. This year, the city gave Council for the Homeless $150,000 for its motel voucher program, in addition to the $3.5 million for the rent-assistance consortium.

“The majority of the funds are focused on preventing households experiencing housing instability from slipping into homelessness,” Sunny Wonder, deputy director of Council for the Homeless, said in an email. “As housing costs continue to increase in our community, we anticipate community members continuing to need access to these services, and we are committed to continuing to offer this service for as long as we are able to.”

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Columbian staff writer