Our economy continues in fits and starts to recover. Workers struggle to find employment providing a living wage. Families struggle to afford a place to live. Is anyone willing to invest in our local community in such a way that will create jobs and provide a living wage – while at the same time offering affordable housing?
You might be surprised to learn that federal and state government agencies have been working together with local nonprofits on just such a project. The law firm of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt has been fortunate to work with Affordable Community Environments (ACE), a subsidiary of REACH Community Development, in its efforts to acquire and rehabilitate the deteriorating Towne Square Apartment complex in Washougal.
With funding and loans in partnership with Wells Fargo National Bank; the Washington State Housing Finance Commission; Washington State Housing Trust Fund; Washington State Department of Commerce; Washington Community Reinvestment Association; Clark County’s HOME Investment Partnership; NeighborWorks® America; Raymond James Tax Credit Funds; and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division, ACE is now moving forward on the Towne Square project in its mission of developing and nurturing sustainable and affordable housing communities in Southwest Washington that provide residents with stability, support and opportunities for growth.
The Towne Square project will involve rehabilitation of the 40-unit residential complex, which was originally constructed in 1977. Renovations to the complex will include siding, windows, heating and ventilation systems to enhance energy efficiency. The conversion of two individual units to full wheelchair accessibility (with access upgrades to common areas throughout the complex) is slated to address ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) needs. To improve livability for all residents, a community room will be constructed along with a community garden and play areas. Later, on-site resident service programs will also be provided.
Topping the $3 million mark, the Towne Square Apartments renovation contract inked with regional general contractor LMC Construction is on target to fuel 26 subcontractors, including five that are minority- or women-owned businesses and eight Southwest Washington subcontractors. The labor budget of $535,000 is estimated to cover 26,000 labor hours, with about 3,900 of those hours being performed by apprentices enrolled in programs approved by the Washington State Apprenticeship and Training Council or similar apprenticeship programs in Oregon. Besides providing training hours to individual apprentices who gain opportunities to personally advance toward higher paying positions within their fields of work, apprenticeship participation leads to more skilled laborers in our community’s workforce.
Towne Square provides housing for residents ranging from seniors and disabled individuals to young adults and families with children. Some of these residents have lived at Towne Square for 10 to 20 years. Currently, 38 of the 40 units receive rental subsides. With median household annual incomes of approximately $8,500, it is easy to understand the importance of rental assistance. Before ACE and its financing partners stepped in, those rental subsidies were scheduled to expire within three years. For many of these residents, such rental assistance means the difference between living under the very real threat of homelessness and being able to continue living in their current home. With a historically low vacancy rate and current occupancy at 100 percent, Towne Square’s residents are not the only ones in need of housing assistance. There is a long waiting list for affordable housing in our area.
To learn more about REACH, ACE, Towne Square and other projects, or to support their efforts with donations and/or as a volunteer, please go online to reachcdc.org and acecommunities.org.
Don Russo, is a partner at the Vancouver office of regional law firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.