County purchases land to construct workforce housing

Plans for Cascade Ave. parcel in development

Hood River County is the new owner of a 2-acre parcel off West Cascade Avenue that the county says it intends to develop as much-needed workforce housing for the community.

The 2.05-acre property is located at 2887 West Cascade Ave. in Hood River, directly behind another affordable housing development, Hood River Crossing, also located on Cascade Avenue. The property was purchased from a private owner, listed as Gerry Briffett, for the sum of $325,500.

County Administrator Dave Meriwether reported the development will be geared towards people who make too much money to meet the income requirements for Hood River Crossing, but don’t make enough money to afford unsubsidized housing in Hood River. Meriwether said many people of all different income levels struggle to find housing in the area, noting that “the range is endless.” He added, though, that workforce housing in particular is a “top priority” for both the city and the county, as well as community groups.

“It’s clearly a need and this is an effort on our part to get involved,” Meriwether said.

So much of a need, in fact, that even before Hood River Crossing opened its doors in 2011, all of the units had already been spoken for. According to a 2011 story in the News, Mid-Columbia Housing Authority initially received 240 applications for the 40-unit development.

Meriwether said the county doesn’t have concrete plans as to the style of the development, the number of units, or specific income requirements, but he noted that whatever was built would likely consist of fewer units than Hood River Crossing and wouldn’t be physically connected to that development. He explained the county “basically picked it up to land bank it” for future housing.

Meriwether added the property, which is currently zoned Residential-1 and Residential-3, may have to be rezoned for the project, but wasn’t sure. Currently, a single-family dwelling exists on the property, with the tenant now paying rent to the county.

The funds for the sale came from a transfer from the public works fund to the general fund in the form of a 10-year, 0.54-percent interest interfund loan. According to county documents, the county plans to sell the land to a developer “when the housing project package is assembled, at which time the County will recover the cost of this property and extinguish this loan.”

Meriwether said the county will be working with Mid-Columbia Housing Authority on the project, but added that a private developer who would ultimately own the property has not been selected.

No specific timeline for construction of the project has been decided on either, although Meriwether said the county “would like to have it developed within the next three years.”

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