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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Vancouver waterfront apartment building will get $3.11M tax break over eight years

Developer will turn more than $700,000 back to city for affordable housing

By Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: February 6, 2024, 2:48pm

The Vancouver City Council awarded a tax exemption that boosts the city’s affordable housing fund to a seven-story apartment building planned for the waterfront.

Vancouver Councilor Ty Stober said the waterfront has grown rapidly.

“I look forward to adding housing here,” he said.

The building will be on land owned by the Port of Vancouver at 440 W. Columbia Way on Block 1 of the waterfront. The ground floor will have commercial space.

The project’s estimated cost is $88 million. It will include 194 market-rate units, including studios, one-bedrooms and two-bedrooms, ranging from $1,550 a month for a studio to $5,000 a month for a two-bedroom town house.

LPC West, the same Portland developer handling the Waterfront Gateway site, will save $3.11 million over eight years in taxes with the multifamily tax exemption and contribute $777,500 to future affordable housing investments in exchange for the exemption.

The housing fund contribution could have been doubled if the project were subject to the city’s current regulations. However, the application was completed before the city council revised the multifamily tax exemption program in July to produce more affordable housing.

The city has offered a multifamily tax exemption since 1997. It gives tax exemptions to developers building multifamily housing in specific high-density areas, like downtown. If developers include affordable units, they get the tax break for additional years.

So far, 50 projects — a total of about 5,500 units — have received the tax exemption. But only 106 of those units are considered affordable — that is, attainable for a family of four making $90,240.

The previous code version required 25 percent of the expected tax exemption go toward a public benefit project, such as public art or plazas. The city council got rid of that option this summer after residents and councilors argued such projects weren’t actually helping the public.

Under the changes, waterfront developers are required to hand over 50 percent of the expected tax break to the city for investment in affordable housing if they don’t want to include affordable units in their project.

Since the update, developers receiving the tax break have committed $6 million to affordable housing, according to city of Vancouver spokesperson Tim Becker. The city won’t receive those funds until the projects are completed.

The waterfront project on the port’s land would technically have to provide only a public benefit project rather than contribute to affordable housing funds. But since the waterfront has been the site of many public benefit projects already, the developer decided to pay the 25 percent into affordable housing, said Bryan Monroe, Vancouver’s associate housing project coordinator.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story had the wrong address for this building in the text and the photo. 

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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.