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On Monday, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced plans for two key sites along NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., including a vacant City-owned parcel that has been designated for a new affordable housing development.
Commissioner Saltzman, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB), announced that a team comprised of Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI), Gerding Edlen, Colas Construction, and Carleton Hart Architecture, has been selected to develop the mixed-use project on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, between Cook and Ivy streets.
The selection process served to identify a project team that could best meet goals outlined in PHB’s N/NE Neighborhood Housing Strategy – a $20 million affordable housing initiative to combat ongoing displacement in Portland’s historically African
“We needed to ensure that whoever took on this project had deep ties to this community,
understood the specific barriers to housing this community faces, that they would draw their workforce from this community, and that they would engage minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the process,” Commissioner Saltzman said. “PCRI, together with Gerding-Edlen, Carleton Hart Architecture, and Colas Construction, will bring a deep and personal knowledge of the North/Northeast Portland community to this project.”
Earlier this year, PHB dedicated $4.5 million plus the property toward the project. The specifics are still in development, but the project promises to deliver at least 45 family-sized rental units, affordable to households earning up to 60% of the area median income (currently $39,720 for a family of three). The finished project will be leased according to a new affordable housing preference policy being developed by PHB that will give priority to households with historic ties to the N/NE Portland community – those currently at risk of displacement as well as those who have been displaced in the past.
In addition, it will offer ground-floor commercial space intended to support neighborhood business.
“This is an important opportunity to provide access to affordable family rental housing in a neighborhood that has experienced displacement and gentrification in the past several decades,” said PCRI Executive Director Maxine Fitzpatrick. “PCRI was formed as, and continues to be, a solution to involuntary displacement. This project will help ensure everyone can experience the stability, safety and dignity that a home provides.”
Kurt Creager begins work as PHB's new director on August 10. He sat down recently with the Mercury to discuss Portland's housing challenges and opportunities.
MERCURY: Portland's got a reputation as the last affordable big city on the West Coast. Now that's slipping away. What's your take on the housing dynamic here?
KURT CREAGER: Portland is relatively affordable compared to its neighbors Seattle or San Francisco. Anyone coming from either of those two jurisdictions would be delighted with the range of options. But for Portlanders native to the area, it's quite sobering. In relative terms, it's still affordable. However, if you look at the median incomes of Portland residents, it's quite expensive. Income growth hasn't been that strong.
What do you see as our biggest challenge?
It's going to be the increased production of affordable housing. [City Commissioner] Dan Saltzman has made it clear that status quo is not an acceptable option. He'd like to see a wider spectrum of tools. The effort to recalibrate the zoning code to be more effective is very helpful, but it won't be a panacea. Policy's great, but unless you can produce, the policy is just an abstraction.
One big knock on the Portland Housing Bureau is that it's failed to meet its housing goals. How will you ensure that doesn't happen?
We in the public sector have to under-promise and over-deliver. And as a general practice, local government needs to be held to account for its commitments. That means that you need to be transparent and monitor progress, even if it is shorter than you might have hoped, so you can take corrective action.
There are differing ideas for how housing money should best be spent. Some officials want to focus on the lowest incomes. Commissioner Saltzman has said he wants to also provide "workforce" housing.
The interest in serving a full spectrum of needs is quite important. Dan Saltzman has made it clear he wants to serve workforce needs and not just those with extremely low income. That would obviously have to be balanced with not turning our backs on the needs of the homeless or people with special needs, but serving a broader spectrum—so it's a value-added kind of effort.
There was a recent failed attempt to kill Oregon's preemption on inclusionary zoning, which allows governments to mandate affordable units in new developments. That disappointed a lot of people. Does it make your job a lot harder?
I'm interested in the job partly because I think you're on the threshold of doing something significant, and I'd like to help you go there. [Inclusionary zoning] hasn't been a partisan issue here in Virginia. Developers understand the business proposition. They're willing to go there. I think it will likely happen [in Oregon]. There seems to be quite a lot of interest in it. I think it will be resurrected.
You've been in Virginia less than a year, and now you're leaving. What would you say to people concerned you might give Portland the same treatment?
I'm making a long-term commitment to Portland. It's a place I have treasured over the years and I think I can make a positive difference in the community. I have no interest in using this as a stepping-stone to anything else.
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John English is a singer, performer, single father, veteran -- and one of the many success stories to come out of our community's work to end veteran homelessness. Learn more about John's journey and how Portlanders are stepping forward to be part of the solution.
Dressed in classic Hollywood black and white, John English is the picture of perfection. The tribute artist, who performs with the same style, grace and ease as ol’ blue eyes himself, has earned performances throughout the Northwest. At lounges, music venues, weddings, special events, even Portland International Airport. The 60-year-old performer, father and veteran makes it look easy but behind his success is a hard-fought battle. After a series of unfortunate events last year, English and his son were homeless.
Today, the family has a spacious two bedroom apartment in Southwest Portland. They were able to find temporary housing and eventually a permanent home with access to vouchers, funding and help from the many community partners dedicated to a Home for Everyone. For English, the final piece of the puzzle was a benevolent landlord and property manager willing to give him a shot at a vacant rental, despite challenges on his rental application.
“We’ve got an unprecedented amount of resources and agencies working to support this effort, including a commitment that no expenses will be left unpaid and a 24-hour response team available to landlords who are willing to work with our homeless veterans,” explained Home for Everyone Initiative Director Marc Jolin. “Our biggest challenge is finding units for veterans.”
A low-vacancy, high-demand rental market is one of the challenges in an effort to house local homeless veterans by 2016. The effort coincides with a federal initiative to end veterans’ homelessness by the end of the year. In Multnomah County, an estimated 690 homeless veterans need housing which translates to two veterans per day. So far, an estimated 300 veterans have been housed but continued support from the rental market community is necessary to fulfill the promise.
“We’re asking landlords to not look at the past but look at where that veteran is headed and what that veteran is bringing and importantly what are the support services that veteran has," says Jolin. "Although a veteran might not look good on paper, they can actually be very successful tenant because if given the opportunity to move in they have the support and resources of the community behind them.”
Please share John English’s story and help house other homeless veterans in our community by giving them a first shot at a vacant rental.
“Permanent housing is not just a dream it’s a reality, you can make that reality by tapping into the resources.” -- John English, Sinatra tribute artist and formerly homeless veteran.
Click here to see more photos from John's story and learn how you can help a homeless veteran in our community.
Bridge Housing Corporation has been selected to develop at least 200 units of affordable housing on SW River Parkway
The Portland Development Commission (PDC) and the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) have selected the team of Bridge Housing Corporation/Williams & Dame for the development of RiverPlace Parcel 3 in the North Macadam Urban Renewal area, a 2.01-acre site at 2095 SW River Parkway.
PDC and PHB issued a Request for Proposals in April 2015 for the redevelopment of the parcel. The RFP required a minimum of 200 units of affordable housing at 0-60 percent median family income. The RFP generated three responses, which were then reviewed by an evaluation committee composed of staff from PDC, PHB, and the City of Portland, as well as local stakeholders and affordable housing community representatives.
The Bridge Housing proposal included 203 units of affordable housing as well as 162 market rate housing units, 238 parking stalls, and 30,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. As many as 90 housing units will be affordable to households earning less than 30 percent of the Median Family Income ($24,250 or below for a family of four), thanks to a commitment from Home Forward to dedicate 80 rent assistance vouchers to the project, including 10 for homeless veterans.
“We are very happy to be moving forward with Bridge to bring such a significant amount of deeply affordable housing to one of our most amenity-rich areas,” said Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees PHB. “We are especially excited about the mix of two- and three-bedroom units proposed by the Bridge team, which will allow more children and families to benefit from the great livability and opportunities of the South Waterfront.”
PDC Executive Director Patrick Quinton said, “To have Bridge Housing Corporation pursue this opportunity, with its long history of affordable housing projects on the West Coast, speaks to the overall strength of the Portland market and South Waterfront in particular. I am confident this project will add to the vibrancy and energy of this area.”
PDC, PHB and the Bridge Housing team will now enter into a due diligence and negotiation phase, with the goal of reaching a purchase and sale agreement on the property. The total project cost is estimated at $93 million, with at least $19 million of that coming from urban renewal funds.
Miracles Central breaks ground in Northeast Portland.
Close to 80 people gathered in Northeast Portland Tuesday afternoon to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Miracles Central Apartment building. The collaboration between the Portland Housing Bureau, Central City Concern, and the Miracles Club will provide affordable housing combined with services for adults who wish to live in an alcohol and drug-free building. The model is based on the Miracles Club Apartments, a similar building on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, specializing in culturally competent recovery support for the African American community.
“The stability that comes with an affordable home is key for people who are committed to recovery and who are working toward a new start,” said Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau. “This project helps us bring affordable housing and critical services back into this community. The City is proud to offer its partnership and support.”
Michael Booker, Interim Executive Director of The Miracles Club said, “With this building, somebody will get a chance to get their first apartment, get a chance to stand on their own two feet, do their recovery and be accountable.”
With an expected completion date of July 2016, the Miracles Central Apartments will consist of 47 units of affordable housing, including 28 apartments affordable to lower-income households earning up to 50% of the area median income ($25,750 for an individual). Central City Concern and Miracles Club will use the building’s ground floor for program-related services, including meetings and counseling. On-site staff will help tenants with life-skills, employment readiness, and eviction prevention, and work closely with tenants to develop action plans that may include steps like workforce development or education.
The Portland Housing Bureau dedicated $7.1 million in capital funding toward plus the land. Other major funders include Oregon Housing & Community Services, National Equity Fund and JP Morgan Chase. Also contributing to the project are Banner Bank, The Collins Foundation, Downtown Development Group, Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, Legacy Health Systems, Mitzvah Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation, Providence Health & Services, UnitedHealthcare, and USI Northwest.
Multicultural Development Group is the project developer with Guardian Real Estate Services LLC leading the project, Carleton Hart Architecture is the lead architect and LMC Construction is the general contractor.