Low-income apartments moving ahead at Badger Mountain South

Building permits and financing are in place for the first apartments at Badger Mountain South in Richland.

The complex will include 276 units for low-income tenants at 2555 Bella Coola Lane, south of the Country Mercantile on Ava Way, near Trowbridge Boulevard.

The city of Richland has issued grading and building permits to Nor Am Investments, which is listed as the owner of the project. The general contractor is Inland Construction, a Spokane-based company, which also built the Badger Mountain Ranch apartments near the Westcliffe neighborhood in south Richland.

The apartment complex will be called Copper Mountain and is valued at $43.7 million. It is described as a multi-family housing facility, with all 276 units designated for tenants with incomes up to 60 percent of the area’s median income, as published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, guidelines.

HUD lists the annual median income for a family in the Richland-Kennewick area at $72,800, which means families would have to earn $43,680 or less annually to qualify for housing in the new complex.

Twenty percent of the units, or 55 in all, will be set aside for people with disabilities.

To qualify for a home at Copper Mountain, tenants would need their income verified in advance. “Affordable housing is extremely important to every community in this region and across the nation,” said Kerwin Jensen, community development director for the city of Richland. “The more we have, the better it is for all residents.”

The project sought financing from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission. After a public hearing in September, the financing closed in November.

“This new development will provide much-needed affordable apartments for working families and seniors in the Tri-Cities, which, like other areas in the state, is facing a shortage of rental housing,” said Karen Miller, chairwoman of the Housing Finance Commission. “We’re pleased to be part of the solution through this financing.”

The estimated tax credit equity on the project is valued at $15.7 million, with tax-exempt bonds of $24.5 million and taxable bonds of $7 million.

The commission has the owner registered as Copper Mountain Apartments, a limited liability corporation formed in September 2018 and registered at the same Spokane address as Inland Construction. The registered agent on the project is Scott Morris, who is Inland Construction’s general counsel.

According to a notice for the public hearing held in Seattle, proceeds of the notes will support a portion of the financing for the acquisition of land and the expected $33.8 million cost of the complex. Representatives from Inland Construction declined to comment on the project or provide a timeline on construction plans.

The Housing Finance Commission distributes federal housing tax credits, which allow developers to raise capital by selling the credits to investors. The commission said it has created or preserved affordable homes for more than 334,000 people across the state in the past 32 years, including providing the financing for more than 30 properties across Benton and Franklin counties. This includes 2,840 rental units that were created or preserved, and an additional 427 units through the nonprofit bond program.

Grading already is underway at the site in Badger Mountain South, a growing part within Richland’s boundaries, east of Dallas Road and north of Interstate 82.

The city recently revised its road impact fees that are tacked onto home building permits to accommodate additional growth at Badger Mountain South. The traffic impact district, including Badger Mountain South, pays the highest fees in the city to offset the increasing population and number of homes actively under construction from multiple builders and their effect on city roads.

“Building and development of residential housing is a very important part of the Tri-Cities community. It provides jobs and drives the economy,” Jensen said.

Up until now, all residential properties at the site have been single-family homes. “Badger Mountain South is intended to be high-density, residential, with high numbers of homes and apartments,” Jensen said. “This (Copper Mountain) project complies with the vision of the developer, whether it’s market housing or affordable.”

The Country Mercantile is the only commercial development currently in Badger Mountain South, but at least one sign announces future development planned for the area from Kadlec Regional Medical Center.

Located on the outskirts of Richland, and near the border of West Richland, Jensen believes Badger Mountain South neighbors looking for more retail options nearby should be encouraged by the apartment project.

“From a commercial and retail standpoint, the residential rooftops need to come first before anyone will invest in commercial activity. There’s a threshold that needs to be met before developing retail,” he said.

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