Commerce grants fund infrastructure at two VHA projects

Recent grants from the Washington State Department of Commerce will help cover infrastructure costs at two Vancouver Housing Authority multifamily projects, including its first build in Battle Ground since 2007. 

Fourth Plain Community Commons in central Vancouver, where construction is underway, received $345,900, and Weaver Creek Commons in Battle Ground received $1,335,605 through the Connecting Housing to Infrastructure program (CHIP). 

Joshua Ollinger, VHA’s development project manager, said the agency looked to expand affordable housing in Battle Ground, a growing city and the third largest in Clark County. VHA last completed a project in Battle Ground about 15 years ago; Mill Creek Apartments and Mill Creek Senior Estates are located near Fred Meyer. 

After being approached by a landowner, the agency purchased 4.37 acres along Weaver Creek and three blocks from Main Street. Ollinger said it’s ideal for an infill development due to its proximity to economic and educational opportunities. The 80-unit project will have a mix of studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments.

“We have a lot of local support for this project,” Ollinger said in a news release, noting Battle Ground Public Schools Superintendent Denny Waters and Mayor Adrian Cortes penned letters of support.

The City of Battle Ground completed a housing needs assessment in June 2021, which found many people who work in Battle Ground cannot afford to live there. About one-third of the population is cost-burdened by housing. Almost 80% of housing units in Battle Ground are single-family homes. 

The total cost of Weaver Creek Commons is about $31 million. VHA aims to start construction in spring or summer 2023 and open the apartment building in 2024.

In addition to the CHIP grant, the housing authority has $865,000 in Clark County Home Funds and VHA will utilize 2022 and 2023 Clark County sales tax money committed to VHA by the county. The sales tax funds are set aside specifically to help fund affordable housing. Eventually, VHA plans to reapply for a state Housing Trust Fund grant, low-income housing tax credits and bond financing.

CHIP grants cover fees municipalities would otherwise charge developers to connect to existing water, sewer and stormwater systems. Ollinger said the Weaver Creek Commons grant will cover those fees as well as the actual connections.

Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.