This year, Columbia Pacific CCO took its community benefit investment one step further by making a serious investment in affordable housing. Housing needs are a growing health concern: In Clatsop and Tillamook counties, homelessness rates are significantly higher than the state average. To make the greatest use of funding, Columbia Pacific worked closely with community partners to identify the region’s needs, focusing on where a small amount of funding could have the biggest impact. For example:
- Funding to hire a grant writer or project developer to bring in additional funding sources.
- Being first to contribute to a project that can use our funding to attract other funders.
- Funding capacity building for organizations that need to grow to better serve housing needs.
Considering community conversations and Board priorities, Columbia Pacific created the Regional Housing Impact Fund, which offers funding for a variety of scenarios related to construction, providing housing, and supporting the housing needs of our community.
- In May, the Columbia Pacific Board awarded the first grant — for $400,000 — to Northwest Oregon Housing Authority for construction of a 42-unit affordable housing development in Warrenton. Our funding covered about 2.5% of the overall cost of the project (totaling nearly $16 million) and provided leverage as a first-in gift, allowing the grantee to show our support to other funders as they raised the remainder of the construction funds. The project, Trillium House at Chelsea Gardens, is now fully funded and will begin construction in 2021.
- In July, the Astoria Warming Center was awarded capacity-building funds to hire their first executive director and increase their ability to sustain and grow their mission to provide overnight shelter from extreme weather during the winter months.
- In October, the Columbia Pacific board voted to fund an application from Iron Tribe Network in Columbia County to purchase a building for their transitional housing program for families in the child welfare and family drug court system.
To remain flexible in the fast-paced real estate market, applications for Regional Housing Impact Fund grants can be made on an ongoing basis.
In 2020, the Columbia Pacific Board and Clatsop County Risk Share allocated money to the Regional Housing Impact Fund. The future of the fund will rely on community benefit dollars coming from the state, which will likely decrease because of current budget shortfalls.
We are in conversation with several local partners and expect to see more successful grant applications in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties in the new year. Providing funds for housing is a long-term investment in the health of our communities. We’re committed to that investment, knowing that housing is a top priority for our members and communities. This is demonstrated in our Regional Health Improvement Plan process, which, for the first time, included housing as one of the priority focus areas.