Vancouver Opens New Housing For Homeless Youth, Teens Aging Out Of Foster Care

By:  Molly Solomon
Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting

On Monday, Vancouver and Washington state officials gathered alongside community members to celebrate the grand opening of Caples Terrace, a new public housing project offering affordable units to young adults who have aged out of foster care or fallen into homelessness.

Christina LaCelle, 20, could barely contain her excitement. She and her 3-month-old daughter Vivianne were just weeks away from moving into their very first apartment at the new complex.

“I could cry I’m so excited and really grateful for all of this,” LaCelle said.

LaCelle spent most of her childhood bouncing between different foster homes in Washington. Earlier this year, she found herself in a bad situation: pregnant and on the brink of homelessness. With the help of her former foster family in Battle Ground, she moved back to Clark County. She is set to move into Caples Terrace next month.

“It’s all about my daughter now,” LaCelle said. “I want her to be safe and in a good place and grow up in a way that I didn’t.”

The 28-unit rent-subsidized building is a first for the Vancouver Housing Authority, in that it targets a specific population. The housing caters to young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 who are aging out of foster care or experiencing homelessness, plus their families.

“How are they going to make it when they don’t have a safety net?” asked Roy Johnson, executive director of the Vancouver Housing Authority, the agency behind the project. “So that’s what we wanted to look at providing.”

“Stable housing is the linchpin for a healthy life,” said Joan Caley, vice-chair of the housing authority board. “You can’t provide employment services for someone who’s living in a tent.”

The three-story complex offers studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, and includes a rec room, laundry, and a rooftop deck. Residents in all units will pay 35% of their income as rent. Johnson expects the complex will be full within a couple of months.

More than half of the funding for the $8.2-million development came from low-income housing tax credits, Johnson said. The rest was awarded from Vancouver’s affordable housing fund and profits the housing authority made from selling older units.

Politicians who applauded Monday’s Caples Terrace ribbon-cutting included U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. She said the project is an example of affordable housing opportunities that can come out of expanding the federal housing tax credit.

“Literally, this is a supply issue,” Cantwell said. “And when you don’t have the supply, the demand for housing drives up the price to even greater levels.”

In June, Cantwell and fellow Washington Democrat, U.S. Rep. Suzane DelBene, introduced bipartisan legislation that would increase funding for low-income housing tax credits by 50%. Cantwell said that could boost Washington’s affordable housing stock by 10,000 additional units over the next decade.

“As we know here in Vancouver and Portland, this is a crisis,” Cantwell said.