Vancouver Housing Authority is celebrating its 75th year of operation during 2017
The VHA was established in February 1942 to build and manage housing to serve the vast number of workers moving to Vancouver to work in the Kaiser Shipyards and ALCOA aluminum plant. Today, the VHA continues to serve our community by providing affordable housing for low-income individuals and families in Clark County.
The VHA Board of Commissioners meeting on February 23, 2017 marked the agency's actual anniversary, but celebratory events are planned throughout the year. In late spring a video about the history of the VHA will be released. The video is being produced by the Creative Media and Digital Culture class at WSUV. In the summer, a VHA history display will be unveiled at the VHA offices on Main Street. The display will be open to the public.Other events will be announced throughout the year.
The agency looks much different today than it did when it began in 1942, but in each of its phases of change the VHA has undertaken many huge challenges and had many stunning accomplishments as a result.
Those 75 years can be divided into four main eras:
- World War II Shipyard Housing, 1942 – 1955
- Redevelopment of McLoughlin Heights, 1956 – 1962
- Early Public Housing, 1963 – 1992
- Affordable Housing Development, 1993 – Present
While it is convenient to focus on the construction of buildings during these different eras, what has always motivated the VHA has been a deep desire to serve the people of our community and the needs of our times.
World War II Shipyard Housing, 1942 – 1955
The bombing of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war in December 1941 led to the announcement of a shipyard and aluminum smelter in Vancouver to help the war effort. A call went out nationwide for 50,000 workers needed for Vancouver. At the time, Vancouver's population was about 16,000. The Vancouver City Council created the Housing Authority of the City of Vancouver to handle the building and management of homes and communities for the vast number of workers who would soon be coming.
The VHA's Board of Commissioners met for the first time in February 1942. In 18 months, the VHA designed and built 12,343 housing units in six major communities: McLoughlin Heights (the largest war housing development in the U.S.), Fourth Plain Village, Ogden Meadows, Bagley Downs, and Burton Homes. Besides the homes, the VHA also had to create the entire infrastructure for these communities, including fire stations, water, sewer, electricity, five community centers, administration buildings, and a shopping center that was the prototype for modern malls and shopping centers. After the war, the housing was used for returning G.I.s.
Redevelopment of McLoughlin Heights, 1956 – 1962
Much of the housing built for the war effort was intended to be temporary, and much of it was dismantled and sold off in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The land was ready for redevelopment.VHA sold off all the land, except McLoughlin Heights and used that money to redevelop the Heights into the neighborhoods you see there today.
Early Public Housing, 1963 – 1992
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, it became apparent that Vancouver needed affordable housing for low-income families. In 1963, as the last phase of the redevelopment of McLoughlin Heights, the VHA completed Skyline Crest as its first HUD-funded low-rent public housing development. Then came Van Vista Plaza, Columbia House, Cougar Homes, and other public housing properties during a time that federal funding for public housing was plentiful.Moving into the 1980s, these federal funds for building public housing began to dry up. Always creative, the VHA created Columbia Non-Profit Housing to take advantage of other federal funds available to build affordable housing for seniors and special needs persons.It was during the '80s that the VHA began issuing Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
Affordable Housing Development, 1993 – Present
A new era, our current one, began when the VHA began to search for alternative financing to replace the diminished public housing dollars in order to continue to build affordable housing. 1993 saw the purchase of several apartment complexes using bond financing to create the Workforce Housing program. Later, the VHA would begin using tax credits and other creative, yet complex funding arrangements to develop properties such as Esther Short Commons, Anthem Park, Plum Meadows, Camas Ridge, 1st Street Apartments, and Lincoln Place. During this era the VHA was designated by HUD as a Moving to Work (MTW) agency, with the goal of promoting efficiency and innovations in serving subsidized housing residents. Today, in addition to housing, the agency is focused on innovative alliances with community partners, like Bridgeview and other nonprofits and agencies, to provide services to help our residents become self-reliant.