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News / Clark County News

Washougal, Vancouver Housing Authority agree to “rent buy-down” program at Rockwood Terrace

Apartment tenants who earn less than 30 percent of the area’s median income will get financial assistance

By Doug Flanagan, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: November 25, 2023, 6:05am

WASHOUGAL — The Vancouver Housing Authority and the city of Washougal have agreed to create a rental subsidy program for a property in Washougal.

The VHA’s “rent buy-down” program will provide financial assistance to residents at Rockwood Terrace Apartments who earn less than 30 percent of the area’s median income, according to Executive Director Roy Johnson. The city council approved the agreement Nov. 6.

The housing authority developed the program in 2021 and launched it in Vancouver and Battle Ground before entering into talks with Washougal officials, Johnson said.

“It provides some rent subsidy, but it’s not to the level of what a Section 8 voucher would be,” he added. “Because of funding constraints, we wanted to look at ways that we could still assist some households but provide a lower per-household amount just so we could try to help more people, since we knew we couldn’t issue a lot of vouchers right now.”

In 2020, the city of Washougal opted into Washington’s Encouraging Investments in Affordable and Supportive Housing Act, which allows jurisdictions to collect state-shared local taxes to be used for investments in affordable and supportive housing.

Since then, Washougal has received an average $14,454 to invest into the program on an annual basis.

The agreement states city funds will provide approximately 18 percent of the annual cost of the program, and the housing authority will provide the remainder of the funding — $60,000 per year, according to Johnson — through Move to Work funding provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The VHA program will provide eligible Rockwood Terrace residents with $259 per month, most likely starting in January 2024, according to Johnson.

Several Rockwood Terrace residents publicly expressed their frustration about large rent hikes in late 2022, saying they couldn’t afford such increases with their limited incomes.

“(This program) makes sure that they’re not spending such a large percentage of their income toward rent just to stay housed,” Johnson said. “Also, (it helps) to keep them housed. It’s not the full subsidy that normally we would hope to give, but it still may be enough that it helps them stay in their apartments and keep up with their rent. That’s definitely what we want to see, less hardship. This could make the difference.”

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