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The 54-unit apartment complex is located in Cedar Mill, directly across the street from Cedar Mill Public Library.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Those responsible for bringing the Saltzman Road Apartments project to fruition include, from left, Cat Vielma, Red Stone Equity; Matt Mylet, vice president, commercial team lead for Beneficial State Bank; Ben Pray, owner and financing director for Home First Development; and The Rev. Paul Richards-Kuan, Christ United Methodist Church. Local leaders, neighbors and partners gathered Thursday afternoon, Sept. 29, to break ground on a low-income housing development in the Cedar Mill area.

The Saltzman Road Apartments are believed to be the first affordable housing project for senior citizens in the Portland area with a specific focus on serving the LGBTQ community.

The 54-unit, four-story complex will rise on the northwest corner of Northwest Saltzman Road and Dogwood Street, directly across the street from the Cedar Mill Community Library.

While the complex is intended to be LGBTQ-friendly, with what Metro describes on its website as "explicit anti-discriminatory policies for people who identify as LGBTQIA+," apartments could be rented to any senior who earns at or below 30% to 60% of the area median income. In addition, 28 of the units will be reserved for very-low-income individuals.

The project is funded by the Housing Authority of Washington County and Metro's affordable housing bond in a partnership with Home First Development Partners, who are developing the site on property donated by Cedar Mill's Christ United Methodist Church.

Also involved with the project is SAGE Metro Portland, part of Portland's Friendly House, an organization that will provide a variety of services for LGBTQ seniors who end up residing in those apartments.

During Thursday's event, which was held in the parking lot of the church, Will Harris of Home First Development said Friendly House and SAGE will play an important role for the complex.(Image is Clickable Link) PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - An architectural rendering shows what the completed project will look like.

"After we put this building into service, it will be their expertise that draws the strength of the community to ensure the long-term success and the sustainability and mission of this project and they're very instrumental in shaping the initial vision of what we're doing here today," said Harris.

Harris also praised Christ United Methodist Church of Cedar Mill for their time, effort and vision in showing the critical role that communities of faith can play in addressing the affordable housing crisis in the county and across the state. The church donated the two parcels of land the apartments will be built on.

The Rev. Paul Richards-Kuan said his church's goal is to include everyone.

Richards-Kuan noted that LGBTQ seniors often feel the need to "go back into the closet" when they move into a retirement community.

"We thought it was really important that there was a place where folks could find safe, affordable housing, and that they were celebrated for who they were," Richards-Kuan explained. "We felt (while) the church was out building community — we build that sense of home for people, you know — why not build literal homes for people?"PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Excavation is already underway for Saltzman Road Apartments, will serve low-income seniors, including those who identify as LGBTQ.

He added, "It is our mission and who we are as a congregation."

Also on hand for the event were Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington and County Commissioners Nafisa Fai and Pam Treece.

Harrington called the project "fantastic." She said the commissioners are deeply committed to making sure Washington County provides better service to those who have been left behind in the past.

"We know for a long time throughout our history that our LGBTQ community members have been impacted by housing discrimination across our country and here in Oregon and disproportionately experience homelessness, and because of all your efforts … we're addressing that very important need," Harrington said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

Harrington added that the Saltzman Road Apartments represent "an opportunity for all of us to interrupt the cycle of housing discrimination."

She said the apartments will serve community members living on a limited fixed income and those working low-wage jobs.

The project will serve as a beacon in the community, Harrington added. She said the housing complex has been engineered to withstand at least 50 years of use.

Treece, whose district includes Cedar Mill, praised the project as well.PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Washington County Commissioners Pam Treece, foreground, and Chair Kathryn Harrington, look at the milestones timeline for the Saltzman Road Apartments posted on the side of a truck during groundbreaking ceremonies Thursday.

"This is my home. This is where I live. This is my community and I can't tell you how proud I am, and it starts … with the voters," Treece said. "Thank you for voting for the affordable housing bond. It has allowed us to do great things," she said.

Nancy Alexander Harris of Aetna, the sponsor of the event, praised those involved for "creating more than an address."

She said, "We're actually helping to build a home and shape a healthy community."

Cat Vielma of Red Stone Equity, syndicator of tax credits for the project, said she was proud of the part her company will play in helping the project, noting that 27 of the company's 96 staff members played some part in helping bring the project to fruition.

"I will also add a personal note: As a lesbian woman, seeing this kind of development, and seeing our older folks being honored, really speaks powerfully, and I also want to make a special note (about) the fact that I work across about a third of the country," said Vielma. "This is one of the best ecosystems to create this kind of housing. It is very tough to build this kind of housing, and you've got an amazing city, county and state agencies that are really all going together to go far." PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Washington County Commissioners, Chair Kathryn Harrington, left, and Pam Treece, visit with The Rev. Paul Richards-Kuan of Christ United Methodist Church during the Saltzman Road Apartments groundbreaking.

For Mya Chamberlin, executive director of Friendly House, which supervises the SAGE Metro Portland program, the Saltzman Road Apartments have been a long time coming.

"Affordable housing for older LGBTQ adults has been part of our focus for the last 20 years, and finding the right people to make that vision come true is a dream come true," said Chamberlin.

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