Vancouver Housing Authority sees uptick in affordable housing construction

The increased construction activity is attributed to a few factors: timing, need, resources and the reintroduction of public housing

With 159 new units of affordable housing under construction and another 106 units set to start construction later this year, Vancouver Housing Authority is experiencing one of its busiest years yet.

Photo by Mike Schultz
Photo by Mike Schultz

“We’ve definitely upped the amount of projects,” said VHA Development Director Victor Caesar.

Noteworthy projects in the pipeline include:

  • Tenny Creek: An assisted living community for people exiting homelessness, the first project of its kind in Washington.
  • Fourth Plain Community Commons: A collaboration with the City of Vancouver that will include workforce housing, a commercial kitchen incubator, community event space and a public plaza.
  • Fruit Valley Tiny Homes: A cluster of four tiny homes in Fruit Valley being built by modular home builder Wolf Industries.
  • Miles Terrace: A joint effort with private housing developer Ginn Group to bring affordable apartments for seniors to downtown Vancouver.

Besides the apartments under construction, 46 units of supportive housing were recently completed at The Elwood, a collaboration with Housing Initiative. Residents, referred by Sea Mar-Community Services Northwest, begin moving in today.

Photo by Mike Schultz
Photo by Mike Schultz

Caesar noted it’s just as important to maintain existing homes as it is to add new ones. VHA will finish renovating 305 units this year and start renovations on another 287 units. Rehabilitating properties keeps much-needed affordable housing safe, livable and attractive.

Development activity of this scale is unusual for a suburban housing authority. Despite its size, Vancouver Housing Authority operates similarly to large housing authorities such as those in Seattle and King County. In many ways, Vancouver is tied to Portland’s economy and housing market.

“I think we get forgotten or left out of the regional affordable housing discussion because we’re on the other side of the river,” Caesar said.

Caesar attributed the increased construction activity to a few factors: timing, need, resources and the reintroduction of public housing.

Most units under construction this year will open in 2022, marking the end of what is typically a three- to five-year process from conception to completion.

The housing authority maintains long wait lists of Clark County residents in need of subsidized housing. Existing VHA properties are quickly leased.

Being able to leverage the City of Vancouver Affordable Housing Fund, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program and other local, state and federal resources helped drive development activity. Caesar said adding staff and restructuring some departments within VHA created a smoother handoff to each step in the building process.

VHA is also reintroducing public housing, a type of federally subsidized housing where tenants contribute no more than 35 percent of their income toward rent.

Information provided by Vancouver Housing Authority.