New project consists of 124 units of affordable housing in east Vancouver
The politicians spoke about the importance of affordable housing in Southwest Washington.
Then it was time for Chrischelle West to talk about the experience of being one of the residents of Columbia Gardens.
A single mother of three — ages 5, 3, and 1 — she is thrilled to be living in a new building, with plenty of space, in a new community, and at a cost she can afford.
“Since I’ve been here, Columbia Gardens has been amazing,” she said. “I couldn’t ask to be anywhere else.”
West, her family, and other residents are the reason Columbia Gardens exists.
The community consists of 124 new long-term affordable housing units for individuals and families earning at or below 50 percent and 60 percent of area median income. The project includes two-, three-, and four-bedroom units to accommodate working families. It was made possible through federal, state, and local programs.
Columbia Gardens, located at 1441 NE 112th Avenue in Vancouver, across the street from the Salvation Army, was developed by Southport Financial Services.
West has been a resident for two months.
“I love it,” she said. “I could see myself staying forever.”
But if she does leave, she added, it will be to move into her own home after getting back on her feet while at Columbia Gardens.
That is why state and local politicians were there Tuesday, to celebrate stories such as the West family, and to promote the idea behind Columbia Gardens. Project leaders, politicians, and residents participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a barbecue.
Alishia Topper, who is also the Clark County Treasurer, was in attendance as the commissioner of the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
“It is such a special occasion for the commission to be on site to see the vision come to fruition on projects that will bring affordable homes into communities across Washington state,” Topper said.
The commission’s mission, Topper said, is to open doors to a better life.
“I just want to say how pleased I am and how happy I am for the families who have found a home here,” Topper said.
Some folks started moving into Columbia Gardens in February. The last building was completed in July.
State Rep. Paul Harris (R-Vancouver) said he also visited Columbia Gardens while it was being built. He appreciates what the site has become today.
“I really believe to belong to our community you need to have roots here. I believe this will give some roots to people who haven’t had the opportunity before,” Harris said.
As a state legislator, he said he wants to work on making it easier for affordable housing projects to be built.
State Rep. Sharon Wylie (D-Vancouver) said she is “grateful to see housing like this built in our community.”
While campaigning, she hears all the time about the priorities in the community.
“What I heard from people was ‘We have to make sure everybody has a roof over their heads,’” Wylie said. “For me, it’s all about making sure that we are the kind of community that I want to live in, where we prepare our children and we care for our older people.”
Ty Stober, Vancouver Mayor Pro Tem, noted that Vancouver is building roughly 1,600 new homes per year and needs to get that number to 2,500 a year. Of those 2,500, he said officials want at least 750 units to be affordable housing.
This project in east Vancouver is a big start.
“The city is very serious about tackling this issue,” Stober said, thanking voters for passing propositions that will lead to more funds for affordable housing.
“Congratulations to everyone involved on the completion of Columbia Gardens,” Stober said. It’s a joy to see, and (I) look forward to many more of these projects in the future.”
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