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News / Clark County News

Officials say new Vancouver low-income senior housing will improve lives

Four-story building with 82 units to be finished by year’s end

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: May 3, 2024, 6:02am
4 Photos
Construction continues Thursday morning at Laurel Manor, a low-income senior apartment building in Vancouver. The four-story, 82-unit building is midway through construction, and officials hope to be ready to open the doors around the end of the year.
Construction continues Thursday morning at Laurel Manor, a low-income senior apartment building in Vancouver. The four-story, 82-unit building is midway through construction, and officials hope to be ready to open the doors around the end of the year. (amanda cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Local housing officials gathered Thursday to celebrate progress on the construction of a new low-income senior living facility in Vancouver’s Bagley Downs neighborhood.

Laurel Manor, 3333 N.E. 66th Ave., is a four-story apartment building with 82 one-bedroom units next door to Columbia River Mental Health Services.

Half the units will be for older adults who make 30 percent or less of the area’s median income — $23,700 for single seniors or $27,000 for a married couple. The other half will be for seniors who make between 30 percent and 50 percent of the median income — $39,500 for single people and $45,000 for couples. Seventeen of the units will be reserved for older adults who are exiting homelessness, said Susan DeRenzo, chairwoman of Columbia Non-profit Housing.

All of the units will qualify for rental subsidies, so none of the residents will pay more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. While all the units are built with accessibility in mind, DeRenzo said a handful will also be outfitted for residents who are visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, or have other ability levels.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child,” DeRenzo said. “I say it takes a village to raise a building.”

Officials broke ground on the project in September, and it’s slated to be finished by the end of the year.

Those involved in the project marveled at the facility that some said they hadn’t seen since the roof was installed. The building had dry wall Thursday, and electrical work was coming along.

Victor Caesar, executive director of Columbia Non-profit Housing, lauded the progress after the project initially struggled to get funding in 2019.

“At that same time, when we found out that we weren’t selected for funding, Columbia River Mental Health … approached us and said, ‘Hey, we want to do something mission-driven with the extra land that we own,’” Caesar said. “And it sort of worked out for the best. Instead of 40 units of senior housing, we doubled that.”

It’s rewarding, Caesar said, to see years of work coming to fruition. He hopes to begin welcoming residents at the beginning of next year.

Representatives on behalf of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Skamania, expressed the elected officials’ support and hailed the difference it will make in people’s lives to have this kind of affordable housing.

Development Manager Josh Ollinger said sustainability was top of mind, in addition to accessibility and affordability.

The facility will feature high-efficiency heat pumps and water heaters and be Vancouver Housing Authority’s first project with solar panels on the roof.

Ollinger pointed to features of a first-floor common room when construction is complete.

“This room will hopefully be full of residents, with a TV up here and puzzles over there and chairs all along the windows here. And sports courts, including the very popular pickleball, will be right over there,” he said, pointing to green space outside the window.

“It’s been a lot of imagination for the past three years. When it finally becomes a reality, it’s better than I imagined,” Ollinger said as he stood in a unit during a tour of the building Thursday. “I think it will make a significant difference for people in this community.”

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