Despite gray skies and soggy ground, housing and community service advocates, construction, business and civic leaders gathered Friday to break ground on one of the largest affordable housing project in Portland’s history.
Portland’s Block 45 (a building soon to be named) will also be the state’s largest apartment building financed with low income housing tax-credits in the past 50 years. It will provide 240 units in the heart of the Lloyd District when it opens in late 2019.
Promoters said the groundbreaking represents “unprecedented resources and will” to provide housing for people and families living on a low income. Specifically, the building on Northeast Grand and Hassalo, will provide a home for households with incomes at or below 60 and 50 percent below the median family income. Units will also be set aside for domestic violence survivors with support services.
“When I was growing up in Northeast Portland,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, ”not far from where we are today, it was not unusual for me to come downstairs for breakfast and find a stranger at our table. My mother knowing that there was no safe place for women to go when they ran away from an abuser, would open up our home as a safe haven.”
“We’re here today for a similar reason,” Kafoury said.
The Chair said it can be hard to have hope when there are so many area families struggling to pay rent, have access to health care and competitive wages.
“It’s moments like this, when we all come together around a shared purpose - making sure that hundreds of people and families will have a safe, affordable place to call home -- that gives us hope,’’ she said.
The $73.7 million project is financed through contributions from city of Portland, state of Oregon, U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bank of America, Zions Bank, Home Forward and Multnomah County’s Home for Everyone.
The cost per unit at $23,333 said Mayor Ted Wheeler, will leverage more than 1,300 percent return on investment. Most notably, through the residents and future residents who will be able to take advantage of range of nearby economic and social services.
“The reality is our town is made up of people who get pushed out to the margin,’’ said Michael Buonocore, Executive Director of Home Forward which is leading the project. “People in poverty and experiencing the nightmare of homelessness.”
Commissioner Loretta Smith, whose district includes the rising complex, recalled the “redlining” policies that persisted for decades until the Fair Housing Act in the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
“Where we stand today was once on a dividing line,” said Commissioner Smith. It was a dividing line imposed by bankers and mortgage lenders.
“Today, as we get ready to break ground on a project that will provide 240 affordable housing units that are in walking distance to transit and services, it is clear we are part of building a new Portland.”