Shortage of affordable housing a major issue across Washington County, officials say.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Construction of a new affordable housing unit in Hillsboro is underway at 185th Avenye and Baseline.Hillsboro's newest apartment complex broke ground Wednesday, promising more than 100 new units of affordable housing near the Beaverton border.

Crews broke ground on Willow Creek Crossing apartments on Wednesday, Sept. 5. When finished, the apartment complex at 18535 S.W. Baseline Road will offer rents 27 percent lower than the market rate for similar-sized units, county officials said.

Standing on the dirt-covered construction site on Wednesday morning, outgoing chairman of the Washington County Board of Commissioners Andy Duyck said the project will serve a vital need for the community.

"It may not look like much today, but this site will soon be home to 120 units of affordable housing in our fast-growing county," Duyck said.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway addresses a crowd at the groundbreaking of the Willow Creek Crossing apartments on 185th Avenue and Baseline Street.The apartments will be home to as many as 400 people. A mix of studio and one- and two-bedroom units, Willow Creek Crossing will be reserved for people who make 60 percent of the area's median income — about $48,840 annually for a family of four.

Apartments for low-income families are in short supply in Washington County. Officials estimate the county will need between 14,000 and 23,000 units of affordable housing by 2020.

"With one out of four households in Washington County earning less than $35,000 a year, the current supply of regulated affordable housing falls far short of the need," Duyck said. "This one project will not solve the issue for us, but once again the strength of our partnerships is on full display with this well-planned effort to move the needle in the right direction."

In the last two years, Washington County has built more than 300 units of affordable housing at a handful of apartment complexes, including Pomeroy Place, named after Hillsboro veteran Betty Pomeroy. Another five affordable housing complexes are planned for the county in the next few years, mostly in the Hillsboro area, Duyck said.

Hillsboro and Washington County are prospering through a strong economy, said Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway, boasting the lowest unemployment rates in years.

"But not everyone shares in this success," he said. "We have senior citizens living on fixed incomes, disabled persons living on limited incomes. We have hardworking residents and single moms earning minimum wage, who are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. "While there is dignity in working hard, where is the dignity of working two or three jobs, 40 hours or more and still struggling to make ends meet?"

Bienestar, a Hillsboro nonprofit that offers affordable housing to low-income families, said the project was badly needed in the area.

"(The project) will provide housing to low-income community members, including many community members of color that increasingly cannot afford rents in Hillsboro or other parts of our county," Nathan Teske, Bienestar's executive director, wrote to Hillsboro city officials last year. "We believe that the completion of this project is vital to ensure that Hillsboro and other areas in our county have a sufficient stock of affordable housing."

But not everyone was happy to see the development come to the area. A petition opposing the project drew more than 200 signatures from area residents and workers.

Neighbors fought the development for months, saying the project would only add cars to an already-congested part of town near 185th Avenue. The complex also includes fewer than usual parking spaces, due to its proximity to a nearby TriMet MAX stop. When finished, the site will be home to only 100 parking spaces for the 120 apartments on site.

Developers said TriMet bus lines and MAX trains will give people the ability to live in Washington County without owning a car.

The $33.1 million project is funded by local and state sources, including the city of Hillsboro, the regional government Metro and the Meyer Memorial Trust, which collectively donated about $1.5 million. Another $4.5 million is paid for by the Oregon Housing and Community Services LIFT Rental Housing Program and $12.8 million in equity from the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program administered by Oregon Housing and Community Services.

By Geoff Pursinger
Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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