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The funding came from a $436 million gift to Habitat for Humanity International from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

COURTESY PHOTO - Habitat for Humanity's affordable townhomes in Portland's Cully neighborhood.Habitat for Humanity's Portland Region has received a substantial funding boost from a recent donation.

The local chapter of the affordable housing nonprofit received $8.5 million as part of a $436 million donation to Habitat for Humanity International, officials announced Tuesday, March 22.

The donation was provided by MacKenzie Scott, an American author and philanthropist, who is the former wife of Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos.

The funding comes at a critical time as the region faces an ongoing affordable housing shortage, a crisis that was exacerbated by the pandemic and rising housing costs, officials said in a statement.

"The transformational power of this gift cannot be overstated," said Steve Messinetti, president and chief executive of Habitat for Humanity Portland Region, in a statement. "This donation highlights the urgency to devote substantial resources toward increasing the development of affordable homeownership opportunities."

The median sales price for a single-family home was $511,000 in February 2022, a 16% increase over the prior year, officials noted. Last year, the average first mortgage for 3- and 4-bedroom homes produced by Habitat for Humanity Portland Region was $166,000, they added.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Steve Messinetti, Habitat for Humanity Portland Region's chief executive and president."The timing of this gift aligns well with the development of our new five-year strategic plan," Messinetti continued. "We are exploring strategic investments that will bring to scale our home-building and home repair efforts across our region."

The donation is more than double the amount Habitat for Humanity Portland Region received in grants, pledges, and cash contributions during the last fiscal year, according to the nonprofit's 2021 annual report.

A donation of that size has the capacity to make substantial progress on closing the homeownership gap for communities of color, which was created by systemic racism that blocked them from economic opportunities, officials said.

Habitat for Humanity Portland Region plans to invest in organization-wide diversity, equity, and inclusion advancements, and advocate for policy and systems changes that will decrease barriers to affordable housing for low-income communities.

Thanking Scott, Messinetti said, "I am confident that her generosity will help ignite and inspire our own Portland region to step more boldly into the vision of eliminating the homeownership gap for communities of color."

The nonprofit's international organization plans to invest $25 million of the donation to prioritize advocacy and programmatic efforts designed to dismantle systemic racism in housing, officials said.

Construction is ongoing at five Habitat for Humanity housing sites in the Portland area, according to an update from the nonprofit earlier this month.

The foundations of 40 homes under construction in Southeast Portland's Pleasant Valley neighborhood are expected to be finished this month. Interior and exterior work continue on 31 homes in a development in the Mill Park neighborhood of Southeast Portland. Additionally, the nonprofit is working on electrical work, plumbing, and interior and exterior finishes on 30 homes in North Portland's Kenton neighborhood.

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