Perfectly Complex

[Photo: Alexander-Seavey affordable housing project in Corvallis]
Alexander-Seavey affordable housing project in Corvallis
Photo by Bob Loewen

CORVALLIS - "Wow, this is perfect." So said Tanzie Lee, 13, the first time she visited her family's new home at the brand-new, $10.8 million Alexander-Seavey affordable housing project in Corvallis, Oregon. She was even more excited the day she and her family moved in, one of 49 families that will call one of its two- to three-unit apartments home.

"We have a little bit more to work on," she told Joce DeWitt of The Gazette. But that didn't douse her enthusiasm. At an August open house for the public, she gave tours to anyone and everyone who might be interested in their new apartment. "No closet door or kitchen cabinet unopened," DeWitt reported, as she showed people around.

Built by Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services with funding from Oregon Housing and Community Services, the City of Corvallis and HUD, the project's two complexes - the 25-unit Alexander Court in South Corvallis and the 24-unit Seavey Meadows in Northeast - will provide affordable rentals to families at or below 50 percent of the area median income. And, in collaboration Center Against Rape and Domestic Violence, 10 of the units will be set aside for victims of abuse and their families.

The two complexes, says The Gazette, provide answers to the city's "lack of affordable, safe and eco-friendly housing." It's a big problem in Corvallis, especially because the city's home to the growing main campus of Oregon State University and its 24,000 students. A recent survey of advertised rental vacancies in the area commissioned by Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services found, reported The Gazette, found "257 openings from an inventory of about 11,000 rental units, a vacancy rate of 2.3 percent." That is, in a word, tight. Very tight.

And the tighter a rental market, the higher the rents. No surprise, then, that the survey found rents in Corvallis are, on average, $129 a month higher than in nearby Philomath, $210 more than up Interstate 5 in Albany.

But "the fact that" the Alexander-Seavey "houses are offered at a fraction of the market rate is simply the icing on the cake," said Corvallis Mayor .Julie Manning. "These new homes mean that 49 families will find it easier to manage their housing expenses while they go to school, receive job training, raise their children and further establish their lives in our community."

"Affordable housing," Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services' Jim Moorefield told The Gazette during the open house, "is the most complex work I've done in my life." "It's not easy work," added a colleague. Yep, we'd agree. It's tough work, especially in a tough economy.

So, why does Moorefield persist? You'd probably have to ask him. But it might have something to do with people like Tanzie Lee. After all, as hard as today has been, a "wow, this is perfect" often is sufficient incentive to wake up and want to do it again tomorrow. And 49 families in Corvallis are likely to add "thank goodness he does."


Content Archived: April 4, 2014