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Dec. 10, 2023

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Low-income Hazel Dell units to get $38 million upgrade with solar power, air conditioning

Renovation includes kitchens, bathrooms Cougar Creek Apartments, built in 1972

By , Columbian staff reporter
3 Photos
The sign for Cougar Creek Apartments is pictured in Hazel Dell.
The sign for Cougar Creek Apartments is pictured in Hazel Dell. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

One of the Vancouver Housing Authority’s oldest buildings, the mixed-income Cougar Creek Apartments in west Hazel Dell, will undergo an estimated $38 million renovation, a figure that includes the cost of the $10.5 million building, and have its units available only for people making 60 percent of the area median income or less afterward.

The complex, built in 1972 and acquired by the housing authority in 1999, has had repeated troubles with storm water, being on a slope near Cougar Canyon Creek, and needs plumbing repairs, according to Victor Caesar, chief real estate officer at the Vancouver Housing Authority.

Air conditioning and solar power installation, new bathrooms and kitchens, and an exterior coat of paint are also part of the renovation.

Right now, more than half of the units are set aside for people making below 80 percent of the area median income: $63,150 for a single person or $90,200 for a family of four.

But after the renovation, all of the property’s units will be only for people making 60 percent of the area median income ($47,400 for a single person or $67,680 for a family of four) or less.

The change was a requirement of one of the renovation’s funding sources, the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, Caesar said.

“The needs of the project have risen to a level where we couldn’t use just traditional bank financing. So by leveraging low-income housing tax credits, that’s how we solve the gap to fund the full renovation of the project,” Caesar told the Clark County Council.

The Vancouver Housing Authority also plans to issue up to $22 million in bonds for the renovation, of which the County Council approved an acknowledgement on Tuesday — a required step for the housing authority, because the apartments are in unincorporated Clark County.

A majority of residents at Cougar Creek Apartments already have incomes below 60 percent of the area median income and will be able to stay in their homes once the renovation is complete, Caesar said.

Seventeen people have incomes over that threshold and will be displaced, but the housing authority is working with those residents on finding new places to live and paying some relocation expenses.

A few of these residents will move to the housing authority’s Willow Creek Apartments across the street, according to Caesar. Others qualify for housing vouchers.

The renovations will begin in February or March and will last six to eight weeks, during which time residents will have to stay elsewhere.

“We’re pretty much taking the units down to the studs through the renovation,” Caesar said.

The housing authority is finding places for people to stay during the renovation, such as other units or hotels.

Cougar Creek Apartments hasn’t had a major renovation since the 1970s, according to Caesar. In addition to making necessary repairs, the installation of solar panels and air conditioning will reduce electricity bills and keep residents cool during increasingly hot summers.

“When we do a major renovation, it’s just the perfect time to roll that in,” Caesar said.

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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.

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