The state last week determined that Hood River County ranks among those with the greatest need for affordable housing. For county officials, that was bad news – and good news, too.
They would rather the situation didn’t warrant that ranking. But they welcomed it, just the same, because it helps buttress a pending application for state tax credits.
After being denied tax credits last year, officials hope a new application going to Oregon Housing & Community Services on Friday, Feb. 27, will meet with a positive response.
Tax credits are the key to advancing a collaborative effort with Columbia Cascade Housing to develop a 40-unit affordable housing complex on 1.75 acres along the south side of West Cascade Avenue, across from the Les Schwab Tire Center in Hood River.
“The big news was that we were reassigned as a priority No. 1 in terms of housing needs compared to the rest of the state,” says Ruby Mason, executive director of the Mid-Columbia Housing Authority and director of the affiliated nonprofit Columbia Cascade Housing.
Working with Dee Luckenbill of Bend-based affordable housing developer Luckenbill-Drayton & Associates, LLC, Columbia Cascade hopes its new application will be approved for tax credits by the end of May. If it passes that hurdle, it would then have 75 days to provide detailed construction and financing plans to the state, and begin marketing the credits.
“That’s going to be the challenging thing,” Mason says. “People need to be making money to need tax credits, but not a lot of people making money these days.”
She says Luckenbill has experience developing hundreds of affordable housing units in Colorado and Arizona, and has great contacts in the construction and finance sectors.
In terms of how the state views its housing needs, Hood River County’s climb from third-tier to first came through a lot of teamwork, says Dave Meriwether, county administrator.
“I’d like to thank all the members of the County’s Housing Task Force,” Meriwether says. “In particular, I’d like to thank Dallas Fridley, Ruth Chausse, Heidi Ochsner and Joella Dethman for helping pull together the numbers that got us this higher ranking.”
The Task Force also included Sandi Borowy, Dean Guess, Barbara Briggs, Brian Watts, Bob Benton, Rodger Schock, Kim Knox, Lesley Haskell and Jamie Guth.
Fridley, regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department, says nearly a quarter of county families earn less than $30,000 a year. That means they often can’t afford the median rent of $660 a month.
Chausse, a Realtor with Don Nunamaker Realtors, has worked with the county task force on affordable housing. She provided data on the large number of apartments and lower-priced homes that have been converted to vacation rentals or condos in recent years.
Mason’s agency helps people with lower incomes find adequate housing. She says a third of people getting government help with their rent can’t afford to live in Hood River County.
While the state is reviewing the tax credit application, Hood River County will be working with the city of Hood River to renew approval for a revised project plan. The original plan called for 44 units. The new plan calls for 40 units.
Mason says four units were eliminated from the plan, to leave space for a children’s plan area and community garden.
To get the site ready, county crews have removed structures on the land before the county bought it for $713,000 in 2008. In a special meeting Feb. 23, the county board of Commissioners approved and signed a letter of intent to convey the property to Columbia Cascade Housing if its tax credit application is approved.