Affordable Housing for Individuals, Families, and People With Developmental Disabilities
A photo of Willakenzie Crossing. Credit: Richard Herman
Willakenzie Crossing in Eugene, Oregon, is a model for developing high-quality, environmentally responsible housing that is affordable and accommodates developmentally disabled adults. The development demonstrates the value of context-responsive design that respectsboth its neighborhood and its residents.
Metropolitan Affordable Housing Corporation (Metro) developed the project, which consists of 56 units of affordable housing for individuals, seniors, and families who make between 30 and 51 percent of area median income. The development features 8 studio units, 16 one-bedroom, 26 two-bedroom, and 6 three-bedroom units in 8 buildings. Rents range from $264 for a studio to $693 for a three-bedroom apartment.
Sixteen units — studios and one-bedroom apartments — are designated for adults with developmental disabilities such as autism. Supporting Access to Independent Living Housing, a nonprofit group that promotes affordable housing for developmentally disabled adults, manages services for residents in these units, such as help with cooking meals. The group does not provide 24-hour assistance; residents must demonstrate that they can live independently.
The development, adjacent to a public park and near a grocery store, includes such shared amenities as a community garden, a playground, and the Catherine Bogart Community Center. Residents can use the community center for birthday parties or other social events, says Richard Herman, Metro’s executive director. Herman says that the community center is also the locus of the development’s residential services, including the distribution of excess food from food banks, nutrition classes, and continuing education. The center also serves the larger community, hosting a summer lunch program for neighborhood children who qualify for free or reduced-price meals during the school year.
Land Banking With the City of Eugene
The development is located on property once owned by the Eugene School District. Herman explains that, as more and more families left the city due to a shortage of affordable housing, declining enrollment left the school district with surplus property. The city used Community Development Block Grant program funds to buy the land, which it then dedicated for use as affordable housing through the city’s land banking program.
Metro was selected to develop the property after a competitive proposal process. Funding for the $9.5 million development comes from HOME funds, which were used as an incentive during the competitive proposal process; low-income housing tax credits; and the Oregon Affordable Housing Tax Credit program. The Network for Oregon Affordable Housing provided permanent financing. Herman added that the city of Eugene offered property tax waivers for 20 years, as well as development fee waivers.
Environmental Features and Respect of the Local Environment
The development is built to meet the highest possible energy-efficiency rating under the Earth Advantage Platinum certification program for new residential buildings. According to Herman, the development met this standard by featuring Energy Star® appliances, flooring made from renewable materials, high-performance windows, low-flow toilets, and efficient lighting. The buildings that house developmentally disabled residents feature solar hot water heaters, which reduce utility costs. This feature is especially important because these residents typically live on limited incomes. In addition, the community center is certified as Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), thanks to its solar panels, high-performance windows, lighting, indoor environmental quality, and materials used during construction.
Finally, Willakenzie Crossing both reflects and relates to its surroundings. Tall windows and high-pitched roofs, designed to cohere with the architectural character of the neighborhood, reflect the style of the historic grange adjacent to the property. Initially, local residents expressed concerns about the potential residents of the development as well as the project’s impact on the grange. In response, the developer repaved a community parking lot used during construction,enhanced the landscaping in the areas that border local properties, and worked with the city to obtain a grant to update the grange. Ultimately, the neighborhood association endorsed Willakenzie Crossing, and its president spoke at the development’s grand opening to welcome the new residents.