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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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About the Project

The City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is currently managing a grant called Opportunities for Affordable Housing in Faith Communities, funded through the Metro Planning and Community Development grant program. This multi-faceted project will:

  • Identify faith communities in Portland that are interested in offering their available land for development of affordable housing.
  • Provide design and finance consultation for up to five faith-owned properties to prepare them for future affordable housing development projects.
  • Determine barriers to development and how those can be addressed and/or streamlined.

Anticipated Results
The goals for this project are to:

  1. Create and capture momentum for affordable housing development by faith organizations through focused attention on a few sites, which may serve as models for future projects as more congregations pursue them.
  2. Bring together members of faith communities and development-related professionals, religious leaders and community members to learn about the process, understand the steps involved, and tap into support for bringing projects from vision to reality.
  3. Identify barriers to development with the goal of streamlining the process.
  4. Determine financing mechanisms for congregations to pursue development of affordable housing.
  5. Create a guide for faith organizations to follow as they pursue future development projects.

Portsmouth Union church demolished a portion of their building and bell tower to create 10,000 square feet of land for future affordable housing

Portsmouth Union Church demolished a portion of their building and bell tower to create 10,000 square feet of land for future affordable housing

Portsmouth Union Church rendering

Rendering of the 20-unit one- and two-bedroom apartment building to be developed by Portsmouth Union Church

The Opportunities for Affordable Housing in Faith Communities grant is an 18-month project, which will be completed in Fall 2019. There may be future grant opportunities for work with faith communities resulting from the initial design and finance consultation work made possible by this grant.

Anticipated outcomes of this grant project include identification of faith organizations ready to move on future development projects; creation of a how-to development guide for faith institutions; broader partnerships among financial institutions connecting to these projects; and streamlined City code and process for affordable housing development in faith communities.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability has contracted with several community partners to assist with different components of the scope of work:

Other partners include Housing Development Corporation (HDC), Leaven Community, Catholic Charities, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI), Heritage Bank, and Rose CDC. A Stakeholder Advisory Committee (SAC)  includes these partners and City staff from Development Services, Environmental Services, Housing, Planning and Sustainability, Prosper Portland and the Joint Office of Homeless Services, as well as Metro.

Map of faith-based organizations in the City of Portland

Over the past few decades, church attendance has been decreasing for many congregations across the country. This has prompted conversations within different faith communities about how to refocus their mission of social change. The housing affordability crisis in many cities around the country has brought faith institutions into the work of creating affordable housing in their communities.

Several congregations in Portland are already involved in developing affordable housing. In 2010, Rivergate Community Church on N Lombard Street sold part of its property at a significant discount to Habitat for Humanity, which used the land to build 12 new affordable homes. Portsmouth Union Church is currently in the process of developing underutilized land on their site for affordable rental housing.

In April 2017, Living Cully (along with five faith communities) organized a conference at Warner Pacific College to discuss how faith communities could address the enormous housing need. More than 50 participants attended the event, and many more congregations expressed interest.

With these efforts underway, there is increasing momentum in the community to push the collective work forward faster to meet Portland’s housing needs. The City pursued a grant to fund work with faith communities to identify and create opportunities for affordable housing on faith-owned land. Metro recognized this need and funded the project, which formally started in April 2018 with City Council’s acceptance of the grant.