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Grants improve local workers’ housing

April 23, 2011

Most people know that finding affordable housing in Hood River is a challenge. Local orchardists who depend on farm labor often must offer housing to secure enough workers for their crops.

Yet, even with some orchard housing opportunities, many workers still struggle to find and afford safe, adequate housing for themselves and their families.

The county's only official farmworker housing project, Wy'east Villas, located on the Heights behind Rosauers, has been a part of the solution since its original construction in the early 1990s.

Because of the shortage of housing in Hood River, notes Columbia Cascade Housing Corp. Executive Director Ruby Mason, there are residents who have been at the county apartments since they first opened.

For many of those longtime residents and those on the waiting lists, good news is on now the horizon. Wy'east Villas apartment complex is about to receive a facelift.

The Oregon State Housing Council approved funding for the housing project April 15.

Columbia Cascade Housing Corp. acquired a grant reservation of $500,000 in Trust Fund monies and $440,072 of Housing Preservation Funds for the acquisition and rehabilitation of Wy'east Vista Apartments, which serve farmworker families.

"We are proud to assist the preservation of affordable housing for Oregon's agricultural community," said Oregon Housing and Community Services Acting Director Rick Crager. "With these funds, Oregon proves its commitment to improving farmworker housing quality and availability.

"We get very little turnover," said Mason. "There is no place for people to go, so they stay. The plan is to have more homeownership education opportunities for people to move up and out."

Wy'east is the only dedicated farm labor project in Hood River, with 12 of the 25 units receiving project-based rental assistance.

The Oregon State Housing Council funds will be used to rehabilitate the units and preserve affordability for at least 20 years.

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