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Community Action Team acquires senior apartments in Scappoose

Purchase will allow low-income residents to keep discounted housing

Low-income seniors in two apartment complexes in the county will still be able to stay in their homes, thanks to the Community Action Team and state and federal agencies.

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - Residents converse in front of their homes at the Victorian Senior Apartment complex in Scappoose. The complex is one of two in Scappoose that was recently purchased by the Community Action Team.CAT, with substantial help from Oregon Housing and Community Services, as well as U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program, purchased The Victorian senior apartment complex and Olive Court apartments in Scappoose.

The purchase means the units will continue to be rented at a subsidy to the low-income tenants.

“What we are trying to accomplish at Victorian and Olive Court is to preserve the rental assistance that’s in place,” Jim Tierney, executive director of CAT, said Tuesday.

The single-family housing developments are two of a few affordable housing developments in Columbia County. CAT operates three other housing projects in Columbia County under a tax credit program that provides rental assistance.

The agency was able to purchase the housing developments with the help of Oregon Housing and Community Services.

“They gave us several million dollars to acquire the project, to do $1.5 million worth of repairs on it and to rent it out,” Tierney said.

There are 21 units between Olive Court and the Victorian senior apartments.

Tierney said the purchase doesn’t mean a guaranteed subsidy forever, but he’s confident that federal and state assistance will be renewed for the foreseeable future.

“There is no promise. On the other hand, we’ve been doing this under the same program, renewing it year after year, or every five years, since the 1960s,” he explained. “It’s a longstanding commitment.”

At Victorian and Olive Court, tenants pay 30 percent of their monthly income. It’s different from Section 8 housing, which also provides rental units below market rate rent.

Both programs are highly competitive in areas with surging rental prices, like Portland, but they’re also sorely needed in outlying areas, like Columbia County.

Tierney estimates the wait for a unit through the Section 8 program is about two-and-a-half years. Two tenants at Victorian said they waited nearly as long for a spot to open up in their complex.

Joan Long has lived at the cottage-style apartments in Scappoose since November 2015. She moved to the area from another subsidized housing complex in Gresham.

Long said she put her application in two years prior to being approved for a unit in Scappoose.

“I came out here because my daughter lives in St. Helens,” Long said. “It was good to get here because [in Gresham], it was all under one roof.”

She recalled a lack of privacy and said neighbors were often catty to each other. She also said living in a multi-story complex in an urban area was stressful at times.

“I was going to the hospital with vertigo,” Long recalled. “I haven’t had any problems since I’ve been here.”

A neighbor of Long’s said she moved into her unit after her mother moved out. She remembers waiting about two years for a spot to become available for her mother.

“I think what’s happened ... is our policymakers have begun to recognize that the economy has not kept up,” Tierney said. “People that don’t have the skillsets or who are elderly are simply not going to be able to keep up with the cost curve.”

The properties will undergo renovations that will temporarily displace residents for a few weeks, but they will be given hotel vouchers or per diem reimbursement.