120-unit affordable apartment complex Willow Creek Crossing opens
Residents have already moved in at the Willow Creek Crossing apartment complex, which opened earlier this month, adding 120 units of affordable housing in Hillsboro.
On Wednesday, Feb. 19, elected officials and staff from several local government agencies that collaborated to develop the apartments toured units during a grand opening at the complex, located at 18565 S.W. Baseline Road on the corner of Southwest 185th Avenue.
As people across the region struggle to find adequate affordable housing, officials said, the Willow Creek development represents a needed step toward providing housing with access to public amenities to low-income individuals and families.
Willow Creek Crossing is a six-story complex with 38 studios, 71 one-bedroom apartments and 11 two-bedroom units. It serves tenants at 60% or less of Washington County's median income. Rents run approximately 27% less than the area's market rate for similar units.
The apartments are located near Portland Community College's Willow Creek campus and a MAX light rail station. The units have large, double-paned windows that look out over the surrounding area.
With the sun shining in through the windows on more than 50 people in the lobby of Willow Creek Crossing, Komi Kalevor, executive director of the Housing Authority of Washington County, said the agency started working with DBG Properties, the developer of the apartments, nearly four years ago.
The Washington County Board of Commissioners voted to transfer the land where the apartments now sit from county ownership to the Housing Authority, Kalevor said.
"We fell in love with this site," Kalevor said. It was picked strategically because of its proximity to TriMet MAX and bus lines, as well as commercial activity, he explained.
Multiple local and state government agencies and organizations ended up contributing to the $33.1 million project.
The city of Hillsboro contributed $300,000, Metro contributed $500,000 from its Transit-Oriented Development Program, the Meyer Memorial Trust contributed $250,000, and the Oregon Housing and Community Services' Local Innovation and Fast Track Housing Program contributed $4.5 million.
The project also received $12.8 million in support from the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which was administered by OHCS.
Walter "Skip" Grodahl, chief executive officer of DBD Properties, said when he was first approached about the development, officials proposed about half as many units.
"My quick reaction was, 'I think we should go bigger,'" Grodahl said. "I think if we're going to have a site like this, let's push it and try to get more density because a site like this doesn't come very often."
Kathryn Harrington, chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, said she's glad Grodahl and agency officials ended up expanding the size of the development. She said the developer of The Rise Central affordable housing apartments in Beaverton constructed a four-story complex, but "they wished they had built to six."
"We have a tough road ahead of us to solve the challenge that we have for affordability here in Washington County, but construction projects like this really show that we can do this together," Harrington said.
Juan Carlos González, who represents western Washington County on the Metro Council, said Willow Creek Crossing was exactly the type of development Metro wanted to support with its Transit-Oriented Development Program because of its proximity to the Willow Creek Transit Center and the complex's ability to serve families.
"Over the life of this building, we'll have hundreds of families who will be able to call this place home and access the great jobs (and) the great things Washington County has to offer," González said.
He said with the passage of Metro's nearly $653 million affordable housing bond in 2018, he expects to see more developments like Willow Creek Crossing soon.
Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway said the city plans to add more affordable housing units to the more than 300 units it has constructed in recent years.
About 45% of Hillsboro residents are considered "cost-burdened," meaning they spend more than one-third of their monthly income on rent, according to the city's website.
The city expects to receive up to more than $40 million from Metro's affordable housing bond, which will produce nearly 300 more affordable housing units.
"Imagine that you've been somebody who has been struggling to find stable, affordable housing, and this is where you get to move into," Callaway said. "I can't even begin to imagine the optimism, the confidence and the sense of hope that this project is giving people."
Forest Grove City Councilor Val Valfre, who served as director of the Housing Authority of Washington County — he initiated the Willow Creek Crossing development, before retiring from the position in 2018 — said stable affordable housing allows diverse, prosperous communities to develop and flourish.
"I've seen the positive outcomes of affordable housing in the lives of the most vulnerable families and children," Valfre said.
Although officials broadly praised the development Wednesday, not all community members welcomed Willow Creek Crossing.
Some area residents fought the development for months, saying the project would add cars to an already congested part of town. Nearly 500 people signed an online petition to stop the development in fall 2018.
Developers say the complex was designed to allow people to live there without owning a car.
For 120 units, the complex includes 100 parking spaces, fewer than the number typically required for a development of that size, because of its proximity to public transit.
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