A new affordable housing project expected to open in the next few months will prioritize downtown workers.

Managers of the former Waldorf Hotel, also known as the Merwyn, are seeking 15 referrals through the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association. They have set aside units specifically for people who work downtown and who want to preapply for housing, said Leah Cooper, the director of operations with Innovative Housing Inc.

Waldorf

A look inside the former Waldorf Hotel during construction.

The Portland nonprofit owns the building and has spent the past year renovating the long-empty hotel.

After the initial referrals are processed and the applications are reviewed, building managers will consider applications from the public starting Feb. 15, Cooper told attendees at a recent downtown association meeting.

The building contains 40 units, most of which are studio apartments. Income limits apply for nearly all of the units. Monthly rents will range from $284 to $624. The handful of units that are not specifically for lower-income tenants are available at $875 a month for a studio and $925 for a one-bedroom apartment.

Low-income tenants will not lose housing if they secure a better job or receive a raise after they move into an apartment, Cooper said. “No, you will not qualify out,” she said.

The project secured key funding in 2019 and renovation work began later that year. Innovative Housing hoped to complete all work in late 2020. The project faced temporary setbacks after contractors encountered unexpected dry rot, while the coronavirus pandemic caused other delays.

Now, Innovative Housing plans to open the building to tenants in late February or early March.

The effort to turn the former hotel into affordable housing units received strong local and regional support. City leaders continue to prioritize ways to address the area’s lack of affordable and workforce housing.

The former hotel, sandwiched between City Hall and the Astoria Library on Duane Street, had been neglected and vacant for years. Earlier efforts by a group of Astorians saved it from demolition, but no concrete plans about what to do with the property emerged until Sarah Lu Heath, the executive director of the downtown association, began talking with Innovative Housing about possible affordable housing projects.

Katie Frankowicz is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact her at 971-704-1723 or kfrankowicz@dailyastorian.com.