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News / Business / Clark County Business

Vancouver boosts low-income housing projects with $2.4M

City adds units to the much-needed supply in market

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: September 13, 2023, 5:03pm
3 Photos
A motorist drives past Allegro Pointe on Northeast 65th Avenue in Vancouver. Vancouver Housing Authority hopes to purchase Allegro Pointe in November for mixed-income housing, including up to 23 units of low-income housing.
A motorist drives past Allegro Pointe on Northeast 65th Avenue in Vancouver. Vancouver Housing Authority hopes to purchase Allegro Pointe in November for mixed-income housing, including up to 23 units of low-income housing. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Three housing projects for very low-income tenants will receive a total of $2.4 million in funding from the city of Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund.

The city has agreed to fund a total of 33 units between the projects, which will be for people earning 50 percent area median income ($39,500 for a single person in Clark County) or below.

With the state projecting Clark County needing more than 50,000 more units of low-income housing by 2044 to keep up with the need, the projects — developed by both new and old players in the affordable housing market — will add much-needed supply to the lower end of the market.

Crestwood Corner

The owner of a business that used to operate in the Fircrest neighborhood will receive $265,000 to turn his former office location — a single family home — into four units for tenants with very low incomes called Crestwood Corner.

The Low Vision Store, which sells technology for people who are visually impaired, operated at that location for 18 years, according to it’s owner, Ken Twergo. Although his online store is still up, he’s “pretty much retired,” he said, and is ready for another project.

With the building’s close proximity to grocery stores, including Trader Joe’s and Fred Meyer, as well as a bus line, Twergo is targeting senior tenants.

“The folks in my generation, we’ve come through one of the roughest times … because of first the recession, and then the virus and now the inflation. And a lot of older people have been really hurt by these three things, and a lot of retirements got wiped out,” Twergo said.

He hopes to provide stable housing for people in this situation by renovating the office, which used to be the home of an older couple before he bought it for The Low Vision Store, he said.

It’s unusual for the city to work with a private individual on an affordable housing project. Vancouver’s tracker of its Affordable Housing Fund investments shows that the city most often works with larger and more experienced agencies, such as the Vancouver Housing Authority, Share and Community Roots Collaborative.

But Twergo believes his past experience of renovating houses and garages will help him.

“We’re very well-versed in real estate,” Twergo said, referring to himself and his wife. “And so it just seemed obvious to us.”

In the future, Twergo plans on adding five tiny homes in the backyard.

“People get buried in their housing costs — just buried. So there’s a way to live better smaller,” Twergo said.

As of right now, he doesn’t have a timeline yet for when people can move in.

Datepark Residence

Datepark Condominium Inc., an organization that operates low income housing in Clark County, will be awarded $880,000 to fund 12 units in a four-story building with 54 units.

In its application, Datepark requested $4.05 million to make all 54 units to be very low income, according to the city. Although the city did not agree to fund the full amount, the funding ensures a minimum of 12 units will be for tenants with very low incomes.

Datepark was not available for an interview in time for the publication of this article, but a city spokesperson said the project will focus on serving seniors, families and people with disabilities.

According to rezoning request, Datepark plans on tearing down one of its housing complexes with 13 rental units and two houses on four parcels of land and constructing the new complex — Datepark Residence.

“This new complex will stay a second chance housing complex and be financially affordable for all,” the rezoning narrative said. “We hope to help fill the need for low-income housing, and to maximize the amount of community members we can help in having a safe and secure place to call home.”

Located in the Fourth Plain International District, the complex will be close to shopping, health care facilities — including the VA Medical Center, a bus line, cultural centers and community centers.

In the rezoning narrative, Datepark said the property will need maintenance and hopes to make it look more visually appealing.

“We realize that a view of a beautiful building is better than a plain building, an aging building, and we want all our neighbors to be happy with their new view and the changes,” the document said.

Datepark plans to develop the property while maintaining ownership and property management.

“We do not have any plans or intention to sell the complex at any point after this development is complete,” the document said.

Allegro Pointe

Vancouver Housing Authority received the amount it requested — just over $1.25 million — for 17 units in a 49-unit mixed-income development.

Allegro Pointe is a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units originally built by Ginn Group for people earning 80 percent of the area median income. The building is located near a bus line along the Fourth Plain Corridor in the Meadow Homes neighborhood.

Vancouver Housing Authority plans to buy the building in November using the city-awarded funds in addition to funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration Project Based Voucher program.

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The housing authority recently gave back $700,000 to the city after it canceled one of its projects, a renovation of the Fruit Valley Commons public housing project, which could have contributed to the project receiving the amount it requested, Chief Real Estate Officer Victor Caesar said.

“With construction costs, interest rates rising, it just became financially not feasible,” Caesar said.

Although Vancouver Housing Authority received funding for 17 units, it hopes to make 23 units affordable for very low-income families. The rest of the units won’t be income-restricted. Vancouver Housing Authority typically charges below market rate for its mixed-income developments, Caesar said.

Vancouver Housing Authority doesn’t have many mixed-income housing projects because funding sources typically work best for fully subsidized housing. However, this project will come with bank debt, which the revenue from the market-rate rentals will work to fill, Caesar said.

“We’re just trying to diversify our housing portfolio,” Caesar said. “Having a mixed-income development, we don’t have too many of those in our portfolio, so we thought it would be a nice change.”

Community Funded Journalism logo

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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