St. Helens is getting ready to grow. A 238-unit affordable housing complex is moving forward in the city.
Northwest Oregon Housing Authority, which administers federal housing choice vouchers and manages rental properties in Columbia, Clatsop and Tillamook counties, purchased property for the complex at the end of March.
The 16-acre site off Gable Road and Highway 30 was purchased for $2.75 million.
When completed, the complex will contain 31 three-bedroom townhouses, 81 senior housing units and 126 units in buildings around a central lawn. The project will also include a 4,500 square foot community building.
The currently undeveloped property is across Gable Road from Walmart, behind the Starbucks. All units will be affordable for families at or below 60% of the area median income. In St. Helens, the area median income was $48,311 between 2014 and 2018, the most recent years for which census data is available. That means that the residences will be affordable for families making less than $29,000 each year.
A conditional use permit for the project was approved by the St. Helens Planning Commission in September 2019. Community Development Partners is leading development of the project. To purchase the land, NOHA applied for and received a $1.6 million loan from a state land acquisition loan program.
Construction is expected to begin in June 2021 and be completed by December 2022.
NOHA also owns and manages the Gable Creek apartments on Gable Road near St. Helens High School. The 32-unit Gable Creek complex is close to the new development, which Johnston said would make property management easier.
Johnston said NOHA has signed memorandums of understanding with local social service providers such as Columbia Community Mental Health and Community Action Team with the goal of having those groups provide services on-site.
Resident services will be led by EngAGE, which offers programming in art, wellness and other subjects, with an emphasis on building connections between residents young and old.
EngAGE expanded to the northwest in 2016 with a 103-unit residence in Portland, which is also owned by Community Development Partners.
Johnston said he was interested in the Bridge Meadows development in Portland, where former foster children, their adoptive parents and seniors live side-by-side and work together. The elderly population, he said, was able to have more social interactions that helped remedy the common issue of loneliness for seniors, while children and families were able to receive assistance and mentorship from the seniors.
A 2017 study found that there was a need for 1,900 more housing units in Columbia County affordable to households making less than $25,000 annually. The shortage of affordable housing has been caused in part by the lack of multifamily housing, as the study found 87% of housing within the county was single-family detached homes.
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