‘Luxury for a price I can afford’

Ninebark resident touts new apartment complex’s ‘easy’ affordable-housing process

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Ninebark, a 246-unit residential community nestled along the Columbia River waterfront in Washougal, includes 24 apartments that have been designated as “affordable,” or available to households that earn 80% or less of area median family income.

Annalise C., who asked that The Post-Record not include her last name in the article for safety and security reasons, moved into one of the affordable units in September, a decision she believes will help her “immeasurably” as she moves forward.

“It feels like I’m getting luxury for a price I can actually afford,” she said. “It’s honestly such a relief. (I can) fully engrain the belief that my cat and I can have a safe place to call home in this world, where it constantly feels like at anything less than a six-figure salary, everything is unsure.”

Killian Pacific, the Portland-based developer of Ninebark, claims that its Voluntary Income Restricted Housing Program is “first-of-its-kind in the region.”

The program ensures residents’ monthly housing expenses won’t exceed more than 30% of their monthly income and follows the same certification process as the Vancouver Housing Authority to ensure units are offered to “those who need (them the) most,” according to a news release.

“Unlike many affordable housing programs that rely on public funds or tax incentives, Ninebark’s program is entirely privately funded,” said Michi Slick, Killian Pacific’s director of development. “Killian Pacific made the decision to offer affordable units without receiving any external financial support or being mandated to do so by inclusionary zoning policies. This demonstrates a voluntary commitment to addressing housing affordability.

“(Also), Ninebark is a market-rate development, meaning it wasn’t specifically designed as affordable housing. It’s the first of its kind in the region to incorporate affordable units within a market-rate project. This approach allows for a more diverse mix of residents, promoting economic inclusivity within a community that includes both market-rate and affordable units.”

The affordable housing “crisis” in the United States “has plagued Americans across the country since the Great Recession, and is only getting worse” due to the work-from-home “boom” and supply chain shortages, according to the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise (, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based business policy think tank.

“(Recent) estimates indicate that the United States needs some four to five million more homes on the market than it has right now,” the nonprofit institute’s website states. “Housing costs have become increasingly untenable for renters and buyers alike; over 40% of renters are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, and housing prices are rising faster than wage growth in 80% of U.S. markets.”

That’s why affordable housing at Ninebark “was a priority from day one” for Killian Pacific, according to Slick.

“The decision to create our Voluntary Income Restricted Housing Program at Ninebark stemmed from a recognition of the challenges our region faces in terms of housing affordability,” she said, adding that Killian Pacific does not receive any tax incentives or financial benefits for the program. “While we are not affordable housing developers, we saw an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution within our area of influence.

“Real estate development projects wield significant influence in the surrounding community through the capital-invested job-creation support for local businesses, and the provision of housing, workspaces, and amenities. This influence carries a profound responsibility for a developer. We recognized the need to be thoughtful and intentional with how these resources are utilized for the greater good.”

Ninebark has achieved more than 50% occupancy — including 100% occupancy of its affordable units — since its full market completion in August. The community’s property management partner, CloudTen Residential, held a grand opening ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 12.

‘Uphill battles’

Annalise, 29, grew up in the Seattle area. After graduating high school, she attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, where she obtained a degree in English literature and worked at a nonprofit organization until she “found (her) way, through a beautiful path full of solo travel, writing, and exploring,” into state and federal work, which she currently performs.

“Prior to living at Ninebark, I found myself looking for affordable options, such as sharing homes with roommates, or even living in a little log cabin in the middle of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest,” she said. “While those experiences were character-building and full of good and bad, at 29, it felt really important to have my own space to call home.”

Annalise said that she encountered “a lot of uphill battles” during her search for affordable housing and income-restricted programs after she moved to the Portland area.

“From the complexes already being at capacity, to not receiving support from leasing offices, to ensuring I could supply all the proper documentation, to jumping through hoops and just never hearing back, (I always encountered an obstacle),” she said. “Additionally, there’s the challenge of finding a space that feels safe, secure and homey. Ninebark has not only given me an affordable place to live, but a place that has all the components of (the) home I hoped for — a running/walking path, gym, community, animal-friendly, etc.”

Before moving to Ninebark, Annalise used 50% to 60% of her income for housing expenses. She knew that wasn’t sustainable long-term.

“I had spent a lengthy period of time Googling ‘Vancouver, WA leasing companies’ or ‘Studios in Clark County,’ on and on, and one day Ninebark popped up,” she said. “I felt this rush of excitement and joy, and also of worry, thinking, ‘How am I going to afford to live there?’ But it was easy to book a rental appointment, and so I took a leap of faith, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that I did.”

At Ninebark, her monthly payment of $1,562 per month, which includes all utilities, fits within her budget and works with her $56,500 annual salary.

“(The move-in process was) incredibly easy and supportive,” Annalise said. “I’ve never felt so welcomed when walking into a leasing office or complex. Tapagna, one of the leasing agents at Ninebark, welcomed me with open arms. She asked what size unit I’d like to see and transparently I said, ‘A studio, but truthfully it’s about $100 outside of my maximum budget.’ Without pressure or expectation, she walked me through the income-restricted program, explaining the documents I’d need to provide, writing down all the information for me and answering every question. I applied that night online, and if I recall correctly, in 24 to 48 hours, I was approved. This was by far and beyond the most caring and simple application process I’ve ever encountered for affordable housing.”

The community features eight residential buildings with a mix of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments; an amenity facility known as the “Riverside Retreat,” designed to hold standup paddleboards, kayaks, and other gear; a grand living room; coworking spaces; a river-facing entertaining kitchen and patio; a fitness center; and access to Eagle View Park, a 1-acre public space that lines the property’s riverside boundary.

Ninebark also offers sustainability features, including a 6,400-square-foot pollinator garden, on-site beehives managed by urban beekeeping company Alvéole, 72 electric vehicle charging stations, and certifications from Salmon-Safe, Fitwel, National Living Future Institute’s Zero Energy, and the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife.

“(Ninebark) feels like a community,” Annalise said. “Its amenities are incredible, (and) its leasing agents and maintenance team are caring and hard-working. … It has given me a safe space to call home, to cook healthy meals and store them in a fridge that I don’t share anyone, to build a network close to home — with a coffee shop down the road to remotely work from, a physical therapist to finally tend to a shoulder injury, and easy access to running paths, I plan to run a 10K in Camas in the spring. I plan to continue growing in my career and serving the public with an awesome work-from-home location and an easy drive to the office on in-person days.”

Annalise said she feels she’s found a home at Ninebark. Now, she’s willing to pass along the lessons that she’s learned to other affordable-housing seekers — and maybe even welcome some of them to Ninebark at some point.

“You are deserving of a home you love, and sometimes it takes more time than you’d like, but there are places out there like Ninebark,” she said. “Quite frankly, come live here. I’d be happy to know you and share space with you. It’s really tough to be a single human on a salary that doesn’t keep up with inflation. You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re not any less than for having a hard time finding a place you can afford to live. I don’t have a roadmap, but I do know that being honest, transparent and asking to hear about the options at hand is always worth it.”

For more information about Ninebark and its leasing options, visit