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Seven families receive the keys to new Habitat for Humanity houses in Hillsdale



CONNECTION PHOTO: KELSEY O'HALLORAN - New Habitat for Humanity homeowner Fatiya Abdukarim (right) embraces Amethy Sandstrom, who volunteered to help build homes at the Hillsdale site.Fatiya Abdukarim’s children keep asking her when they’re going to move next.

For as long as the youngsters can remember, rent increases have forced them to pack up their belongings every year and settle in house after house that didn’t suit their needs.

Some of the rentals were too small for Abdukarim and her five children, who range from 1 to 8 years old. Other houses were far from the Islamic School of Portland on Southwest Capitol Highway in the West Portland Park neighborhood, where her children Asad and Hanan Haji attend.

Their most recent residence in Northeast Portland was riddled with mold, she says, and she worried that it would affect her children’s health.

CONNECTION PHOTO: KELSEY O'HALLORAN - Fatiya Abdukarims family (clockwise from left): Aslam Mukhtar, Hadiya Mukhtar, Abdukarim, Hanan Haji, Hafsa Mukhtar and Asad Haji (not pictured).But in August, Abdukarim received the keys to her family’s first true home — a 4-bedroom house at Trillium Court, Hillsdale’s newly completed Habitat for Humanity site. She says her kids are still wrapping their heads around the idea that they won’t have to move from this new house.

“The most important thing is being in the home that my kids (can) call their own,” she says. “I never had a stable home for my kids, so I am so happy for my kids to be here, where they call home.”

Six other families — including 16 children — were also welcomed into the development during a public dedication ceremony and barbecue attended by state Treasurer Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Dan Saltzman and at least 200 volunteers and community members on Aug. 13.

The site is Habitat Portland Metro/East’s first build on the west side of Portland.

Saltzman, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau and the Bureau of Development Services, said the project had particular meaning to him because it was located less than a mile from his own home. While he regularly attends affordable housing dedications on the north and east sides of the city, he says they’re less common in Southwest.

“It’s our intent to make sure that affordable housing is found everywhere in the city,” he says. “We want people to live in good neighborhoods.”

Through a partnership with the housing agency Home Forward, Habitat for Humanity purchased the Hillsdale lot at a discount from Greater Portland Bible Church, which formerly used it for returning missionaries. Volunteers broke ground on the site last fall.

CONNECTION PHOTO: KELSEY O'HALLORAN - During a dedication ceremony and community barbecue on Aug. 13, Habitat for Humanity handed families the keys to their new homes.‘We volunteered; they earned it’

To qualify for a Habitat for Humanity home, families must earn 30 to 60 percent of the Portland area’s median family income, or approximately $20,800-$41,640 for a family of four, according to the organization’s website. Families must also be first-time homebuyers and U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, with satisfactory credit and stable income to repay a mortgage.

Several of the families at Trillium court qualified after applying two or three times.

The new homeowners purchased each home with a no-interest loan and no down payment, unless they chose to make one.

Sasha Davis, director of communications for Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East, says Habitat works with each family to make sure that their mortgage payment is no more than 30 percent of their income, “which is the indicator of having an affordable home,” she says.

The loans are typically for 20 to 30 years, she says. On average, Portland Habitat for Humanity homeowners pay around $670 per month.

Volunteers from local businesses, churches and other groups donated funds and contributed time to the project.

The Madeleine Parish was particularly involved in the building of two houses — one that they dedicated to Pope Francis, and one that integrated several different communities as an “interfaith build.”

“It is the mission of Pope Francis, especially, that everyone have a decent home to live in, so we feel that’s really important,” says Darlene Maurer, a parishioner at The Madeleine and the church’s co-chair of the Habitat project.

CONNECTION PHOTO: KELSEY O'HALLORAN - Inside her new home, Abdukarim celebrates with volunteer Amethy Sandstrom.She says the project drew a wide range of volunteers from the parish, including many families that wanted to help out together. Because Habitat requires volunteers to be 16 or older, the church invited children to sign wooden beams and cover them in messages for the families as a way to get involved with the project. The signed beams were eventually used to build the walls of the houses.

Maurer estimates that between organizing volunteers, running hospitality for workers and helping out with construction on the site, she dedicated at least 100 hours to the project. She says she enjoyed helping put up the walls of the homes, and watching families rejoice during the dedication ceremony.

“It’s a real tangible thing — to be able to work on it, to kind of sweat over it and know that there’s somebody who’s going to end up having their life changed,” Maurer says. “Several generations will probably be better because of having a home.”

One of the elements that makes Habitat projects unique, Maurer says, is that each new homeowner contributes 500 hours of “sweat equity” toward their home, working side-by-side with volunteers.

“They’re not being given a house, which is (sometimes) the misconception by people who are not involved,” she says. “We volunteered, but they earned it.”

Abdukarim, who teaches Head Start full-time in North Portland in addition to caring for her children, says she tried to put in seven or eight hours toward her “sweat equity” every weekend.

“It wasn’t easy,” she says. But she added: “It feels very amazing to own a house.”

On the night of the dedication ceremony, Abdukarim stood on her new front porch and embraced old friends and volunteers she met through Habitat for Humanity.

She ushered guests into her kitchen and served homemade samosas, baked chicken and a cooler full of warm, seasoned rice.

She poured orange juice and popped open small bags of chips for her kids.

And though she had yet to move in her dining table or chairs, the house full of people had already become her home.

Contact Kelsey O’Halloran at 503-636-1281 ext. 101 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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