By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer Published: January 29, 2020
An 1870s-era railway switch station undergoing renovations is nearly ready for tenants, the first piece of a planned development in Fruit Valley aimed at people who have been homeless.
The building will be ready for four people by March, if all goes according to schedule, said Chris Thobaben, a founding member of local housing nonprofit Community Roots Collaborative.
It kicks off the initial phase of a larger project already in the works — one that would see 21 tiny homes transported onto the adjacent property, building an entire neighborhood in miniature on 1.5 acres.
The nonprofit group closed on the property in December. They’re hoping to have people moving into the tiny homes before the summer is out, ideally paying down their 300-square-foot houses in a lease-to-own contract that costs tenants $700 a month.
“We’re hoping to beat back recidivism into those housing crisis situations,” Thobaben said. “Allowing people that are ready to stand on their own to stand on their own, in a community of people who are also trying to do the same.”
Part one is the railhouse. The preliminary remodel, budgeted at $30,000, is just aimed at making the building safe and habitable, including reinforcing the porch, replacing kitchen appliances and clearing out ducts and vents.
The house will have four private bedrooms and shared living space, including a kitchen, bathroom, living room and basement laundry room. Prospective tenants need to have been referred by a partner group or regional addiction recovery programs, such as Kleen Street and Community Services Northwest.
“Right now, we’re getting everything safe and habitable so we can get bodies off the street,” said Justin Crouch, general contractor for JC Remodeling and Construction, working at the site on Monday.
“The goal was to by the end of February have everything livable, and we’re definitely going to meet if not exceed that.”
A more comprehensive remodel is scheduled for the coming months, paid for in part by a $100,000 grant from Vancouver’s Affordable Housing Fund, and will see the roof replaced, the existing paint stripped and replaced, and a renovation performed to transform the basement — originally built to accommodate a horse and buggy — into a laundry room and office space for the nonprofit.