While driving down Southwest Denney Road in Beaverton, you might notice a tucked-away neighborhood of homes either newly built or under construction.
The homes are a part of Habitat for Humanity Portland Region's Denney Gardens build site. The organization used the site to announce a merger of Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East and Willamette West Habitat for Humanity.
Steve Messinetti, Habitat for Humanity Portland Region's chief executive officer and president, said the merger was driven by wanting to serve more families.
"More and more, the regions are becoming kind of one region," explained Messinetti. "We've also seen since the recession that we have one housing crisis that's in our region, and certainly trying to meet the needs of that crisis as one is going to make it easier to do so."
The organization will serve Multnomah County, eastern Washington County and north Clackamas County.
Habitat for Humanity is the only nonprofit developer in the Portland region providing homeownership opportunities to families earning as little as $30,000 per year, according to the organization.
Families can apply for a mortgage with Habitat for Humanity that is structured based on income. Once approved, the family's mortgage payments will not be more than 30% of their income.
"Our commitment is that they've got an affordable home payment, so they can have enough leftover for savings and so forth," Messinetti said. "Regardless of where they fall in our income criteria, they have to make a certain amount to qualify, and then they can't make over a certain amount. Whatever they quality for, we bridge the rest of that with a second mortgage that just sits there. There's no payments on it (and) it's zero interest. They just it if they were to sell their house and eventually that second mortgage is forgiven."
Harun Olol, a Habitat for Humanity homebuyer, is purchasing his first home, currently under construction at Denney Gardens. With three young sons, the whole family cannot contain their excitement about one day moving into the neighborhood.
"We come by every other weekend and each time we see it looking different," said Amal Kassim, Olol's wife.
For her, she says Habitat for Humanity simply made the most sense financially and for their overall lifestyle. Kassim describes the process to obtain a mortgage with the nonprofit as smooth and painless.
"Whenever we needed something, it was answered," she said. "Whenever we needed to provide something, it was like literally taking a baby's hand and doing it."
While Kassim learned more about the financial process of owning a home, Olol said it was a learning experience to know more about building one, putting in what Habitat for Humanity likes to call "sweat equity" on the house where he and his family will soon live.
"Now I know all about windows and drywall," he added with a chuckle. "I'm so excited about that."
Currently, the family lives in an apartment, and their new address off Denney Road will be the first time Olol and Kassim's children will have a house to live in.
Once Denney Gardens is complete, it will have 16 homes and more than 70 people living on site.
Habitat for Humanity hopes its affordable housing options can also help people now more than ever before due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We've seen the population of working and lower-income families being the most hit by the pandemic," Messinetti said. "The 500 families that Habitat has helped over the past 40 years in our community, we've seen be stable through this, where they've had a stable house payment — a low enough house payment where they've been able to have some nest egg saved up for a time like this."
Habitat for Humanity plans to expand to more cities on the Westside throughout 2021.
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