At a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 13 in East Portland, nonprofits developers and local government officials celebrated Woody Guthrie Place, a new four-story apartment building in Lents Town Center.
Woody Guthrie Place will feature one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments and serve individuals and families of mixed incomes.
Some of the apartments will rent at the going rate for the Portland market, while others will be reserved for individuals and families earning incomes that range from 30 to 80 percent of the area’s median income.
What is "affordable housing"?
Affordable housing generally describes housing, whether owned or rented, that's within the financial means of individuals and families.
The federal government considers spending 30 percent of a household's income on rent or mortgage the threshold for affordability.
Affordable housing programs typically set income restrictions to reserve homes for people earning below a certain percent of the area's median income.
The 2017 income limits for Multnomah and Washington counties are:
60% Median Family Income
1 person household: $31,380
2 person: $35,880
3 person: $40,380
4 person: $44,820
30% Median Family Income
1 person household: $15,690
2 person: $17,940
3 person: $20,190
4 person: $22,410
Source: Oregon Housing and Community Services
“It's about a $21 million investment in Lents Town Center,” said Nick Sauvie, executive director of Rose Community Development Center, the nonprofit developer constructing the project. “So the rents for the building are going to be as low as $378 a month.”
Home Forward, the housing authority for Multnomah County, is providing Section 8 housing vouchers for 15 apartments.
“Today marks a true milestone in our collective efforts in this particular community,” said Kimberly Branam, executive director of Prosper Portland, which helped create the Lents Five-Year action plan.
The plan lays out strategies for investing in infrastructure, promoting business development, and preserving affordable housing as well as building more housing. Branam said Woody Guthrie Place is a product of that vision.
“It is the fourth ground breaking of four major projects in the Lents Town Center,” she said as construction sounds in the background competed with her voice. “You can see them all around us.”
Behind the site of Woody Guthrie, construction crews were busy working on the new Asian Health & Service Center. Around the corner, construction is also underway for Oliver Station, another new apartment building with more than 100 units.
It is “a change that the community needed and being delivered in a way that the community wants, [and] where affordable housing and market rate housing can be mixed together,” said Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, who represents this area.
Metro’s Transit-Oriented Development program contributed $350,000 to the project.
Woody Guthrie Place residents will be a couple of short blocks away from the MAX Station at Lents/SE Foster Road and close to three TriMet bus lines, including frequent-service line 14 Hawthorne.
This project ensures “that we have retail services as well as housing in a walkable environment served by transit,” Stacey said. “That's why Metro's Transit Oriented Development program is able to make a contribution in this project that I hope makes a little bit of difference in making it affordable and sustainable.”
Developers expect to complete construction for Woody Guthrie Place by next year in November.
About a mile away the following week on Sept. 22, a groundbreaking kicked off work on 72Foster, a $22 million, 101-unit affordable housing project in a neighborhood that needs it, officials said.
Developed by REACH Community Development, it will offer studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments to people earning less than 60 percent of the area's median income. Of the 101 units, 20 will be reserved for households earning less than 30 percent of the area's median income.
"Those of us that live in Southeast Portland see every day the huge transformation that's happening in our neighborhoods," said Margaret Salazar, director of Oregon Housing and Community Services, the state's housing finance agency. "The development is great, the growth is great … but we also know how acutely that is impacting our neighbors who are feeling an incredible pinch of housing crisis.
"We know how critical it is to have the integration of this kind of housing as part of the social fabric of our neighborhood as we continue to grow," she said.
72Foster will partner with the nonprofit Asian Health & Service Center, whose new clinic and community center is under construction a mile away, across the street from what will be Woody Guthrie Place. The nonprofit addresses the cultural, health, social and housing needs of Portland's Asian communities.
72Foster is open to people from all backgrounds, but AHSC will provide onsite support services to help improve residents' access to health care, cultural activities and language and skill-building classes.
The ground floor of the four-story building will have 8,900 square feet of restaurant and retail space. No tenants have signed on yet, but the project hopes to build off the success of the Portland Mercado across the street and attract diverse businesses.
Lucy Corbett, a housing project manager with REACH, said they are working with Hacienda Community Development Corporation about making space available to some of the incubator's businesses or food carts that are ready to move to a more permanent storefront.
The project will have 35 off-street parking spaces for residents, but TriMet's 14 Hawthorne frequent service bus stops at the site. Metro gave $400,000 to the project as part of its TOD program.
"When we saw this project come up, we were practically cheering because you're doing everything right here," said Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette, who serves as the council's representative on the TOD Steering Committee. "You're next door to the Mercado – I mean this is arguably the best food in Portland – you're going to be right on a frequent transit line and you're going to have the healthcare services right here. This is a great project."
72Foster is scheduled to be complete in January 2019, just months after AHSC's new clinic and community center is set to open.
Officials in Cornelius broke ground Saturday, Sept. 23 on an $18 million mixed-use development, a project officials say will breathe new life into the downtown by combining a new library and community space with affordable senior housing.
In the works for more than a decade, Cornelius Place is a partnership between the city, Bienestar Oregon and BRIDGE Housing.
"It'll hopefully spur the redevelopment of our downtown," city manager Rob Drake said. "Cornelius is one of the older cities in the county and it's been pretty sleepy for a long time. … We have a lot of available space down here that our hope is to densify downtown and have it be a real town center."
The three-story building, at North Adair Street and North 14th Avenue, will feature a 14,000-square-foot library and a 3,000-square-foot YMCA recreation and fitness center on the ground floor and 45 housing units on the top two floors.
All 45 units will be reserved for those who are 55 and older and earning under 60 percent of the area's median income. It will offer studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.
The new library and learning center, nearly five times the size of the current one, will include 40,000 books, more computers and laptops, a 100-person meeting room, study and conference rooms, children's and teen areas, a coffee bar and a 5,000-square-foot public courtyard.
The courtyard will face an alleyway and plans are in the works to set up a weekly farmers market there, Drake said.
He said the library will be a huge upgrade for the community and envisions the space becoming an active hub for residents young and old. The hope is that many of the senior residents will volunteer at the library and Cornelius Elementary School across the street, Drake said.
There will not be any resident parking, but Tri-Met's 57-TV Highway/Forest Grove frequent service bus stops just outside the project.
The city's share of the project is being funded by grants from the Legislature, Washington County, Metro, federal Community Development Block Grant funds, the National Endowment for the Humanities and private money.
Metro is investing $220,000. Its TOD program, which funds projects that help more people live and work near high-quality transit and other amenities, awarded the city a $120,000 grant and its Nature in Neighborhoods capital grant program another $100,000.
Drake said Metro's grants were "really critical" to the project. The Nature in Neighborhoods grant was one of the last major grants the city received and allowed it to include an amphitheater, rain garden, native plants and learning stations in the courtyard.
"There's not a lot of funding available for affordable housing projects outside the city of Portland so the fact that we can come in and help Cornelius Place build this is important," said Patrick McLaughlin, a senior development manager at Metro. "It'll really help drive ridership and help place people where they want to be, where they need to be."
Construction is expected to begin by November and is estimated to take 13 months, Drake said.
"This has taken a lot of glue, imagination and lots of asking to get it to this point," he said. "But it's really been worth it and our community is really going to appreciate it."
Ambar Espinoza contributed to this report.
Metro's Transit-Oriented Development Program helps create vibrant downtowns and centers through public-private partnerships, investments and incentives in development projects near transit.
Through its Equitable Housing Initiative, Metro is committed to working with partners across the region to find opportunities for innovative approaches and policies that result in more people being able to find a home that meets their needs and income levels.