Upgrades and improvements to nearly 500 local affordable housing units, made possible by $32 million funding provided by tax credits, are complete, or nearly complete, at nine Grays Harbor Housing Authority properties in Aberdeen, Hoquiam and Elma.
Grays Harbor Housing Authority Deputy Director Lisa Boone said there are 741 total units in the Housing Authority, housing about 1,173 family members. They include large buildings such as the Aberdeen Manor, Hoquiam Manor and Emerson Manor, as well as many smaller complexes.
Each unit was assessed for needs. The 2-year improvement projects involved about 70 percent of the Housing Authority’s units.
The need for affordable housing continues to climb, not just locally, but nationally. The total annual federal subsidy to the Housing Authority is $3.6 million, said Boone. The waiting list for housing from the Grays Harbor County Housing Authority is currently at 550; the average wait time for an available unit is three years, said Boone.
“This is why preservation of our developments was so important to us,” said Boone. “Closing one development would be detrimental to our community. New construction is great, but very expensive. We would not have been able to provide assistance to as many people, so renovation of aging housing stock was the best decision for our community.”
The units vary in size and configuration from property to property. Boone said tenants pay 30% of their adjusted monthly income for Housing Authority units, and the average rent is $225 a month.
Targeting specific improvements
In all, 498 separate affordable housing units were involved by this project, said Boone. Grays Harbor Housing Authority Director Jerry Raines thanked the tenants, who for up to two weeks at a time could not be in their units while interior work was being done, and a lot of their possessions had to be relocated to make room for flooring, new kitchens and other improvements. “They were champions,” he said.
To spread the money as far as it would go, the Housing Authority literally went to visit each unit individually, all 498 of them, to determine which unit needed what the most, said Raines. Some of these properties hadn’t seen any major updates since they were built in the 1960s and ’70s.
The improvements focused on energy efficiency, said Raines. For example, ceiling to floor single pane windows in the common room at Hoquiam Manor were replaced, as were all the windows. A new heating system was installed — paying for the old one “was like throwing dollar bills in a coffee can,” said Raines. The buildings got upgraded entryway and hallway lighting, all more efficient LED, and set to fade and brighten as traffic demands.
Security at the manors was improved, with the addition of security cameras which can be monitored directly from Housing Authority office desktops. They’ve already come in handy, said Raines, and are meant to deter vandalism, transients trespassing and overall protect the safety of residents.
Some simple modifications make a world of difference to some residents. For instance, the old mailboxes in the entryway to Aberdeen Manor. Originally, they were set too high for the significant numbers of residents restricted to wheelchairs. They are now low enough where each can get his or her own mail, and not rely on a friendly neighbor to help check the mail.
To help with maintenance costs – the Grays Harbor Housing Authority only gets about $400,000 annually to cover maintenance at all its properties – Raines said materials were carefully chosen for their durability, and the same flooring, carpeting, and paint schemes were used.
All the buildings within the scope of the project were shored up seismically. At Hoquiam Manor, next to City Hall, evenly spaced metal octagonal studs hold the brickwork in place, especially around breezeways, said Raines, to keep a quake-hit structure from shedding bricks onto people outside. A similar process was used at Emerson Manor, but with studs that aren’t visible to keep the historic look of the building intact.
Properties and improvements
• Aberdeen Manor, 5050 N. F St. in Aberdeen: A lot of interior upgrades. New elevators, new flooring, new appliances and counter tops, an updated common room and kitchen with new furniture.
• Broadway Manor, 101 W. Second St., Aberdeen: Mostly landscape improvements and interior updates.
• Hoquiam Manor, 525 Eighth St., Hoquiam: Aside from the seismic updates above, a lot of landscape improvements and common area interior updates.
• Emerson Manor, 703 Simpson Ave., Hoquiam: Exterior brick and masonry work and siesmic improvements. Individual units upgraded, while preserving the historical integrity of the nearly 100-year-old structure.
• Harbor Manor, 411 Tenth St., Hoquiam: While the rest of the buildings didn’t change in appearance much, other than looking a lot cleaner, Harbor Manor has a brand new look. The old stucco siding was torn away and replaced with HardiePlank — fiber-cement siding. “It really changed the building appearance,” said Boone.
• Emerson Court, located at 301 W. Karr, Hoquiam: Numerous exterior improvements including new windows and siding, with minor interior improvements.
• Elma Manor, 1313 W. Martin St., Elma: Interior and exterior improvements.
• Riverside III, 1113 Arthur St., Aberdeen: Landscape improvements and some minor interior improvements.
• Skyview Manor, 1109 Skyview Lane, Aberdeen: Interior and exterior improvements.
The process to make improvements on the properties through private investment and tax credit programs started in earnest in 2014, said Boone. The Housing Authority hired a consultant to apply for tax credits and put out a request for proposals with potential investors.
Once all that was put in place, construction began in June and July of 2018. Walsh Construction set up shop in Aberdeen, and with the urging of the Housing Authority used as much local labor and resources as possible.