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Housing authority breaks ground on central Kennewick apartment complex

The first dirt was moved Thursday to make way for a housing project in central Kennewick to house and support 32 Tri-City families who need a hand up to reach self sufficiency.

The Kennewick Housing Authority celebrated the culmination of a decade of work with its groundbreaking Nueva Vista, a 32-unit affordable housing complex.

The $6.2 million Nueva Vista will feature two buildings on 2.25 acres across the street from Winco Foods on Clearwater Avenue. The complex, at 386 N. Union St., also will include a playground and open area.

The Tri-Cities has seen a boom in apartment construction since 2008, but much of the new apartments have not been affordable for low-income families.

Benton and Franklin counties have nearly 18,000 families who are low-income renters, according to the 2015 Washington State Housing Needs Assessment. But the Tri-City area has about 4,200 subsidized housing units for those families.

In all, 70 affordable units will be added to the Tri-Cities this year, including Nueva Vista and a project at Fourth and Pearl streets by the Housing Authority of Pasco and Franklin County.

Nueva Vista will serve families who make 30 percent to 50 percent of the area’s median income. The amount varies depending on family size, but a family of four that lives on $1,671 to $2,788 a month would qualify.

And about 20 percent of the units will be for low-income people with disabilities.

“It’s really taken a village of people to get to this point,” said Lona Hammer, executive director for the housing authority.

Tom Moak, chairman of the agency’s commission, said past and current housing authority board members and staff have persevered to make Nueva Vista a reality.

The project is the first the housing authority has built since the six-unit Mitchell Manor, was finished in 2005. And it’s the largest since Keewaydin Plaza, a seven-story high-rise for the elderly and disabled finished in 1981.

And it’s a critically important project because of its location in central Kennewick near public transit and other services, Moak said.

City Manager Marie Mosley said Nueva Vista will provide Kennewick residents with the safe, affordable, quality housing that the housing authority is known for.

The project also includes a community building where residents will be able to receive supportive services, Hammer said.

Pasco’s Community Action Connections and Domestic Violence Services of Benton & Franklin Counties plan to provide supportive services, she said.

The housing authority also hopes to open a computer lab in the community building at some point, Hammer said. That would allow residents to get on-site help with computer literacy, resume writing, job hunting and other skills that will help them reach self sufficiency.

Contractor W.C. Construction of Richland was ready to begin Thursday. The housing authority already had received the city building permit and site plan approval, Hammer said.

Nueva Vista, previously called the Volland Street project, will have room to expand if there is money available in the future.

The bulk of the project is being paid for using $4.9 million in tax credits, which means private investors contribute funds in exchange for federal tax breaks.

The housing authority also is using a $1.1 million Housing Trust Fund grant, a $50,000 Community Development Block Grant through the city of Kennewick and $314,000 from Benton County for the project.

The housing authority still is fundraising for a playground for the children. To contribute to the playground, contact Terrie Greiner, finance director, at 509-586-8576, ext. 111.