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Affordable housing building with 203 units opens near South Waterfront with a money-saving virtual flourish.

COURTESY: BRIDGE HOUSING/VIMEO - Stakeholders on a video conference cheer the opening of the Vera affordable housing project named for the former Portland mayor Vera Katz.

Portland's latest affordable housing project, The Vera, had its ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday.

Nestled by the I-5 freeway ramp at the north end of South Waterfront, The Vera has 203 affordable apartments and includes 70 units with Project-based Section 8 vouchers and 10 for homeless veterans under the Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing program.

In a media release, developer Bridge Housing touted the RiverPlace neighborhood as transit-oriented and noted that ninety of the 203 homes serve households earning 0% to 30% of the Median Family Income (MFI). A family of four in that category could earn less than $27,000 a year while living just a few blocks from top OHSU scientists and tech entrepreneurs.

The balance of apartments serves families earning up to 60% of MFI.

Instead of pastries under a tent and stakeholders in Business attire queuing up at the lectern to claim credit, Bridge's virtual ribbon-cutting was an online video.

The property was named in honor of the late Vera Katz, the first woman to serve as Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives and a three-term Mayor of Portland. Her son, Jesse Katz, also took part in the virtual ribbon-cutting.

Speakers were cut into sound bites, and recorded their remarks from their home office nooks and front rooms.

"In the era of COVID-19, we were looking for a safe and creative way to honor this milestone and highlight the importance of home and community," said Cynthia A. Parker, Bridge President and CEO. Joining Parker in the video were Mayor Ted Wheeler, new resident Freddy Dyer, and a full complement of public- and private-sector partners.

Dyer, holding his dog Chewy, said having moved to Portland from the coast and lived on the streets, he felt at home for the first time.

Andy Nelson of Impact NW explained that residents would have access to services that could lift them out of poverty, such as emergency funds for missed utility or rent payments, financial literacy classes, and help finding work.

Speaking from inside a high-rise office, Jesse Katz said that he was sad that his mother didn't live to see the building. However, he was glad that it was more than a symbolic monument and would improve people's lives.

A back-lit Margaret Salazar of Oregon Housing and Community Services said that in a time of crisis, we have understood that home is everything, and Kimberly Branam of Prosper Portland said a home is "a privilege that every human being should enjoy."

Financing for The Vera was provided by the Portland Housing Bureau, Oregon Housing and Community Services, Prosper Portland, Home Forward, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Equity Fund, Inc., KeyBank Community Development Lending, Barings Multifamily Capital, and Meyer Memorial Trust. The architect was Ankrom Moisan Architects and the general contractor was Hoffman Construction.


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