Portland Habitat for Humanity welcomes 40 neighbors to Cully
A new crop of permanently affordable housing has taken root in Portland's Cully neighborhood — and these units aren't rentals.
The metro area chapter of Habitat for Humanity officially unveiled 10 new family-sized townhomes at 6360 N.E. Simpson St. during a ceremony welcoming the neighborhood's roughly 40 new residents on Wednesday, July 28.
"Cully is a great neighborhood. But it's also a neighborhood where families with low income, and especially seniors, are most at risk of being displaced," said Steve Messinetti, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, Portland Region. "Our goal is to give Cully residents the opportunity to stay as the neighborhood improves, unlike what's happened in many other neighborhoods in our city."
To that end, Habitat for Humanity offers the townhomes to select families for mortgages in the low $200,000s — far less than the market rate for the primarily three- or four-bedroom units. The nonprofit then takes out a second mortgage to pay off the rest of the construction cost, which went a bit screwy as lumber, drywall and metal prices all spiked recently.
In a typical year, the homebuyers chip in to build their future abodes, but Habitat switched to contractors as the novel coronavirus erupted shortly after the project's groundbreaking. Residents returned to the job site for the last few months.
The families must earn at least $30,000 a year, though the average is closer to $40,000, and mortgage payments are capped at 30% of income. The home deed is recorded with a covenant limiting how quickly the unit's sale price can grow, ensuring future affordability.
"Our goal is that they get a good share of the equity that gets built, but that also it remains affordable for future generations," said Messinetti.
Habitat for Humanity has 100 homes under construction across Portland, Beaverton and Hillsboro. In a month's time, Jamie Hippe will move into one of them.
The half-acre community in Cully features parking, energy efficient designs and a large greenspace, as well as small individual backyards. The 39-year-old has been renting in Kenton but is excited to start exploring her new neighborhood.
"I never really considered that I would buy anything in Portland," said Hippe, who provides home services to adults with disabilities. "When I started this, it just made something possible for me that I wasn't expecting."
Hippe said she connected with Habitat for Humanity after learning about the city's North/Northeast Preference Policy that seeks to ameliorate the harmful impacts of historic redlining and home demolition in the area.
"I'm really thankful that I got to be a part of this experience. It was really special, the times when I was doing construction with my actual neighbors," she said. "I feel more pride in our community."
How to help
Portland Habitat for Humanity has launched a new $25 million fundraising campaign that hopes to triple the organization's impact by building and repairing 500 homes a year. Visit habitatportlandregion.org for more information.
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