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'It just feels so joyous': New Vancouver affordable housing complex fills quickly

A new affordable housing complex in Vancouver is the latest in the metro area to open up. And the 69 units near PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center filled quickly.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A new affordable housing complex in Vancouver is quickly taking in residents who have otherwise struggled to find a place to live. It's called Columbia Heights, developed through a partnership between Mercy Housing Northwest and PeaceHealth.

Half of the 69 units at Columbia Heights are for those who make 30% of the area median income, the other half for those who make 50%. These are apartments for low-income singles, couples and families.

“They're great units. Just because they're low income doesn't mean they don't need to be awesome — so they're spacious, the three bedrooms are amazing, they're huge,” said Mercy Housing area director Veronica Madrid.

The leasing office opened in May, before construction was complete, and the units went quickly.

The complex features a community center and a big playground. That's important for Alona Shkoda, who has two children, ages 2 and 4.

Credit: KGW

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“They like to run and to play and it is impossible to keep them at home, and this place is a rest for mama,” Shkoda said with a laugh.

Shkoda and her family fled the war in Ukraine in May, and came here. They lived with relatives first, but needed a place of their own that they could afford. Columbia Heights fit the bill.

“Yes it's perfect, we are very happy to have our home,” said Shkoda. 

Affordable housing is at a premium — there isn't enough for everyone. Tens of thousands more units are needed to fill the gap in the Portland metro area.

Jana Nickerson was homeless for a year and a half, living in her car at times, before getting the help she needed to get a place to live. She moved in here three weeks ago, the first time ever she has had her very own apartment.

Credit: KGW

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“It's like you're flowing in air, and when it finally does it just feels so joyous and happy and blessed and just ... it's amazing,” said Nickerson.

It's a good feeling for those getting in, but the need remains for those who must wait for an affordable place to live.

“I pray that every person who needs a home will have a home like we have,” said Shkoda.   

There is no waiting list for Columbia Heights, but you can check to see if anything opens up. And there are other resources available, in both the Portland and Vancouver areas.

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