The Lowdown on Affordable Housing: Clark County

Clark County Independent Living Skills Program supporting foster youth and alumni as they age out of care
Clark County Independent Living Skills Program supporting foster youth and alumni as they age out of care

Written by Debbi Cawthon, Director of Shelter Services at the YWCA Clark County

In the kickoff meeting with all the partnering Firesteel YWCAs earlier this year, we decided that we wanted to discuss affordable housing in our different communities. In this first blog post of the series, we hear from YWCA Clark County in Vancouver, WA. Their Director of Shelter Services, Debbi, took the time to answer these questions and share her knowledge. Thanks Debbi!

How affordable is affordable housing in your community? Is there enough of it?

[It is] very hard to find affordable housing, most rent is over the recommended level. A person working full time making $12/hour should be paying no more than $624 for rent and utilities and the recommended maximum monthly expense for rent only is $424/month, according to – which could be really hard to find, but not impossible if the renter has an open mind. Housing with % of income for rent usually have very long waiting lists.

Are there any particular dynamics in your city that contribute to the lack of affordable housing?

I think currently the biggest barrier to finding housing is the lack of employment. Our participants are having a really hard time finding employment. Most of the lower rental prices are in areas that our participants do not want to live in or raise children due to crime, drug usage, or out of school district that the children are currently residing in.

What kind of affordable housing programs are present in your city? Who is eligible?

There are some transitional housing options available to participants but there are income, application, interview process involved. One of the programs (Aspire) goes in and out of having funding available to place people and it is about a 90 day process to get housing with them. We currently have the following units that are associated with transitional housing connected to our program:

  • 5 apartments on a voucher system, must have a sustainable income, apply for assistance through VHA, then apply for approval through the apartment complex, must be referred by advocate – open to singles and families
  • 6 bedrooms (kaufman house), must have a sustainable income, apply for & interview with housing organization, must pass drug test open to singles and families
  • 10 single room occupancy units, must have a sustainable income, apply for, open to single adults only

Thank you Debbi, for sharing with us and for all the work you do to help provide affordable housing!

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