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More affordable housing on the horizon

REACH will start projects in Portland, Hillsboro in 2014


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Dan Valliere is CEO of REACH, an affordable housing organization based in the Grays Landing building, which it developed in South Waterfront.Although the regional economy is improving, the need for affordable housing is greater than ever before, according to Dan Valliere, the chief executive officer of REACH, a community development corporation based in Portland.

“In some ways, the improving economy is making the housing situation even worse for people and families who don’t have much money. More jobs are being created, but rents are going up,” Valliere says.

To help meet the growing demand, REACH will begin construction of two new affordable housing projects next year. One is in Portland and the other is in Hillsboro, which will be REACH’s first new project outside Portland. Valliere expects other projects in different parts of the region to follow that.

“There is a lot of need in Hillsboro and the rest of the region, and we want to help respond to that. We are now meeting with leaders in different communities to assess their needs and see how we can help,” Valliere says.

The Portland project is the second phase of Glisan Commons, an affordable apartment complex in the Gateway area, where work will begin in March. The 60-unit development will offer affordable housing and social services to seniors and people with disabilities.

The project will cost around $15 million and take a year to complete.

The first phase of Glisan Commons, a 67-unit apartment, is being built by Human Solutions at Northeast 99th Avenue and Glisan Street, a nonprofit organization, for low-income people and families. REACH will manage both phases when they are complete.

REACH also is scheduled to begin construction on the first phase of Orchards at Orenco the next month. It will be the first development targeting low-income working households in Hillsboro’s large and growing Orenco Station neighborhood. The initial project will be a 57-unit apartment designed to reduce heating and cooling requirements while also creating excellent indoor air quality.

The first phase is expected to cost $14 million and also take a year to complete. Two more buildings will follow, totaling 160 units.

“Hillsboro’s economy is growing, but the housing isn’t keeping up, creating the need for more affordable housing for the new workers,” says Valliere, who began working at REACH in May. Before that, he worked at Chicago Commons, a neighborhood improvement organization in Chicago.

Financing hard to come by

It is unusual for a nonprofit housing organization or community development corporation to have more than one project underway at a time. The financing for such projects is complex and sometimes takes years to put together.

But REACH already has shown it can handle multiple projects at once. It began providing affordable housing in inner Southeast Portland more than 20 years ago and quickly began building projects in other parts of the city. The organization recently acquired the 51-unit Bronaugh Apartments in downtown Portland to preserve its tax-exempt status as housing for low-income seniors. Before that, REACH built Gray’s Landing, a $50 million housing project for homeless veterans and other low-income people in South Waterfront, and moved its offices there.

And in May, REACH merged with Affordable Community Environments in Vancouver, taking ownership of its 198 units of affordable housing in Washington. The merger won an award from the Nonprofit Network of Southwest Washington for its collaborative approach.

REACH has built and preserved affordable housing for low-income individuals and families in the Portland metropolitan region for 30 years. Its portfolio currently includes 1,658 units, including single-family homes, apartment buildings, and mixed-use developments.

The Glisan Commons and Orchards at Orenco projects show how difficult it can be to build affordable housing. Although the need grew throughout the Great Recession as more and more workers lost their jobs and defaulted on their mortgages, raising the necessary capital is a long and arduous process. Because such projects don’t generate large profits, multiple sources of financing must be obtained for each one. They usually include both public and private sources, along with state and federal tax credits that can be sold to investors.

by: COURTESY CARLETON HART ARCHITECTS - REACH will begin construction of the second phase of Glisan Commons in March.

Project allows aging in place’

The second phase of Glisan Commons will include a 60-unit residential building for senior citizens, bringing the total number of units in both phases to 127. it will be built less than 1,000 feet from a MAX station and several TriMet bus connections. Amenities include generous outdoor space and designs to allow seniors to “age in place.” Green features include construction to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold standards, including water conservation measures and a community garden.

Funding partners include the Portland Housing Bureau; Bank of America; the Network for Oregon Affordable Housing; Oregon Housing and Community Services; NeighborWorks America; Enterprise Community Partners; and the City of Portland Green Streets. In addition, the developer is deferring $275,000 of its fee.

When completed, the apartments will be rented to seniors earning approximately 30 to 50 percent of the area’s median family income as determined by the federal government, or between $15,000 and $30,000 for a single-person household. The commercial space will be owned and operated by Ride Connection, a transportation service catering to seniors and people with disabilities.

Affordable, near transit priorities

The Orchards at Orenco will be built near the MAX station that gives the neighborhood its name. That will allow workers to reach their jobs without having to own a car. But REACH also wanted to move beyond providing affordable housing to promoting affordable living.

With that in mind, the first-phase apartments will be constructed to Passive House standards, a method of construction widely used in colder European countries. It will achieve a nearly 90 percent reduction in heating requirements and a 60 to 70 percent reduction in overall energy use.

Funding for the project comes from multiple sources, including Enterprise Community Partners; the Community Housing Fund; the Energy Trust of Oregon; the Meyer Memorial Trust; Oregon Housing and Community Services; NeighborWorks America; and Washington County.

When completed, the apartments will be targeted to working families earning 30 to 60 percent of the area’s median family income as defined by the federal government.

REACH first started offering services in Hillsboro when it acquired The Maples, an existing affordable housing project that needed renovations. The Orchard at Orenco is the organization’s first new project there, however.

Gray’s Landing was named after the late developer and philanthropist John Gray. It had long been promised by the City Council but languished until REACH got involved. Funding sources included the Oregon Housing and Community Services; the Portland Housing Bureau; U.S. Bank; Enterprise Community Partners; the Department of Housing and Urban Development; NeighborWorks America; and the Bureau of Environmental Services.

The Bronaugh Apartments was acquired with funds from the Network for Oregon Affordable Housing.