City of Corvallis celebrates construction of over 400 units of affordable housing

City of Corvallis celebrates construction of over 400 units of affordable housing

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to include a more thorough description of affordable housing.

The City of Corvallis is celebrating the marked success of the construction of over 400 units of affordable housing in south Corvallis, according to Brigetta Olson, Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager for the City of Corvallis.

Olson said over 400 rentable units of affordable housing are scheduled to be built or already under construction in the City of Corvallis.

Corvallis is the most rent-burdened city in Oregon, according to a 2022 report by the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Rent-burdened families are defined as households spending “more than 30% of their income for housing” and severely rent-burdened families as families spending “more than 50% of household income on rent,” the City of Corvallis Land Development Information Report of 2021 states.

According to Olson, these new rentable unit locations include Rivergreen Apartments at the intersection of SE Rivergreen Avenue and SE Midvale Drive (84 units), Union at Pacific Highway at SE 3rd Street and SW Wake Robin Avenue (174 units), Commonwealth at SW Country Club Drive and SW 53rd Street (100 units) and Corvallis Housing First at 1480 SW 3rd St. (43 units).

Paul Bilotta, community development director at City of Corvallis, said the reason these housing developments have been so successful is due to two strategies in part.

The first is that “The (City) Council proactively rezoned some areas for high density residential development in spite of significant community opposition for some sites.”

Bilotta also added that the city has historically kept virtually no high-density residential land vacant in its zoning processes, and that both the Commonwealth and Union at Pacific Highway locations were specifically rezoned for this purpose.

The second is that “the city used locally generated affordable housing funds to provide leverage for projects so that they could score well for competitive state grants,” Bilotta said.

These locally generated funds, or Construction Excise Taxes, are a means of funding affordable housing, and “may be imposed on improvements to residential real property that result in a new residential structure or additional square footage in an existing residential structure,” according to the Construction Excise Tax Policy summary released by former Oregon governor Kate Brown in 2021.

CET’s were made available through the Oregon legislature beginning in 2016 and were passed in Corvallis as a means of funding affordable housing shortly after, according to the summary. 

Most other major Oregon towns have passed CETs since 2016, indicating statewide approval for affordable housing.

Bilotta said that the CETs were important in acquiring funds from the State because they were used as proof of local support for the projects. For the Rivergreen Apartments specifically, the State imparted $5.6 million for a second phase of the project which was finalized in July and included the addition of 24 more units.

The Oregon State and Federal governments provided the bulk of the funding for each of the projects, according to Bilotta.

“All in all, between federal, state, local and private funds, there is more than $130 million of new affordable housing and permanent supportive housing being constructed (or soon to be in the case of CHF (Corvallis Housing First)) in Corvallis,” Bilotta wrote in an email.

This means roughly half of funds for each of the Rivergreen, Union and Commonwealth projects was successfully acquired from the government, marking a tremendous success for affordable housing in Corvallis, not to mention funding a 9 million dollar project in its entirety.

The remainder of the funds, according to Bilotta, come from private financing in the form of deferred development fees and mortgages.

The Rivergreen Apartments, a $20.2 million project in total, collected $12.8 million of government funds. 

The Union at Pacific Highway complex, an almost $50.5 million project, collected roughly $22 million from government funds. The Commonwealth project collected $19.7 million of its total $32 million needed to complete the project from the government.

The Corvallis Housing First complex, on the other hand, has so far received all its funding from the state, local and federal governments, which is roughly $9 million.

Now, for renters, the question about whether or not affordable housing units will actually be affordable must be answered.

According to Bilotta, the city uses the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Area Median Income to develop measures of affordability. In Corvallis, affordable housing payments are typically restricted to 80% of area median income for home ownership, and 60% of area median income for rentals.

“If a project is able to satisfy a lower level of income, such as 30% AMI, then additional public resources are usually utilized to cover the larger financing gap if we can,” Bilotta said. “We generally are trying to encourage affordable housing developers to build at the lowest AMI level that is feasible since those are the most scarce housing units and the community members who have the most need.”

Moreover, affordability requirements are sometimes tied to state and federal guidelines, because developers will receive funds from the state and local governments in addition to funds provided by the local government.

According to Bilotta, residents of affordable housing developments must demonstrate income eligibility, and do in fact pay below market rents.

Bilotta said the Rivergreen Apartments recently began construction and are still doing sitework, while the Corvallis Housing First location has received full funding and is in its design phase.

While a specific timeline has not been made available, tentative predictions from Union at Pacific Highway’s website say the Union apartments will be ready for rental by fall 2024. 

The Commonwealth is well under construction, and will be the first of the four complexes to move people in.

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  • J

    JeniOct 17, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    Great. But how much rent will be “affordable”? If they charge more than $500 a month for a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, it’ll be too much. This suggestion of 30% of your (monthly gross pay) income towards rent computation, is too high. But. If your monthly rent equals to what 1 weeks “take home pay” is, you’ll stay above water and can afford to pay bills, buy food and afford health care.