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Through its Community Planning and Development Grant Program, Metro Council recently awarded 16 grants totaling over $4.7 million, including $250,000 for the N/NE Community Development Project, part of the PCRI-led Pathway 1000 Initiative. The grant for N/NE Community Development Project will aid in planning, identification of underdeveloped properties and other strategies to mitigate, prevent and reverse residential and small business displacement in North and Northeast Portland.
For the grant-funded project, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI) will lead a partnership including the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Portland Housing Bureau, Portland State University’s Center for Public Interest Design and PSU Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. Awards were announced at a Council meeting held at Harrison Park School in East Portland on September 24.
“Most importantly, and for the first time since this grant program was established, projects were selected using new criteria that addressed equity considerations,” said Metro Councilor Sam Chase in his email newsletter. “To me, ensuring we grow in a way that enhances the quality of life for everyone is critically important.”
The N/NE Community Development project is intended to help reverse negative impacts of past policies and public investment. The project will produce strategic and implementation plans for how to develop at least 1,000 new, affordable homes and commercial space in close-in North and Northeast Portland during the next ten years. This ambitious goal was framed by the Pathway 1000 Initiative envisioned by PCRI. The project is intended to mitigate, prevent and reverse the residential and minority-owned small business displacement that has occurred in North and Northeast Portland during the last 10 years, the impacts of which have been borne most heavily by the African-American community, which is the focus of the initiative.
“This is great news!” said PCRI Executive Director Maxine Fitzpatrick. “It provides PCRI and the City of Portland with valuable resources to strategically plan for at least 1,000 new affordable homes, reversing decades of involuntary displacement in North and Northeast Portland and ensuring these new homes are thoughtfully integrated into existing neighborhoods.”
With intentional community involvement, the project aims to develop a deep understanding of the housing needs and preferences of previously-displaced North and Northeast Portland residents as well as those at risk of being displaced. The grant will also help define criteria by which potential development sites are evaluated and proposed for development. In turn, this understanding can influence public investment strategy as well as the types of developments undertaken by PCRI and other housing providers.
Similarly, the grant funding will help design commercial opportunities, contracting, small business and workforce-related strategies that engage the target population of African-American and other low income residents who have been historically and consistently underrepresented in economic opportunities such as the development proposed in the Pathway 1000 Initiative.
Metro established the Community Planning and Development Grant program in 2006 to help local communities do the hard work of thinking forward: planning for development, investment and collaboration that help create great places all over the region. The community planning and development grant program is one of the Metro Council’s best tools to help communities achieve their visions, reflecting the council’s belief in investing to support communities, create housing and jobs opportunities and improve people’s lives throughout the region. Funded by a regional construction excise tax, these grants are critical planning resources that help communities revitalize existing neighborhoods and plan for the development of new urban areas. For more information, visit oregonmetro.gov.
PCRI, the Portland African American Leadership Forum and Living Cully will share the history of displacement and strategies to mitigate current and future displacement at the Oregon Opportunity Network Peer Support Conference on September 21, and Neighborhood Partnerships re:Conference on October 30, 2015.
PCRI, the Portland African American Leadership Forum (PAALF) and Living Cully are leading the charge to mitigate prior displacement and prevent future displacement in Portland, America’s most rapidly gentrifying city. PCRI Executive Director Maxine Fitzpatrick, PAALF’s Cat Goughnour and Living Cully Coordinator Tony DeFalco will share innovative strategies, dedicated community engagement activities and passionate advocacy the organizations and their leaders are doing to effect community change. By presenting at the conferences, Ms. Fitzpatrick and the other leaders hope to catalyze an anti-displacement model for cities across the nation that are struggling to combat the negative consequences of gentrification.
At each conference, attendees will gain an understanding of the causes of involuntary displacement, including opportunities to prevent displacement that failed or were missed. The sessions will also detail how communities that suffered from disinvestment, most often low-income renters and communities of color, were left out of and left behind when investment occurred, resulting in their displacement and continued economic inequity. Through the lessons learned by Ms. Fitzpatrick, Ms. Goughnour and Mr. DeFalco, attendees will learn how historically disadvantaged communities can advocate for, participate in and benefit from investment when it happens in their community. The sessions will also include successful strategies that individuals, communities, and public agencies can use to prevent displacement in gentrifying neighborhoods and mitigate—or even reverse it—in neighborhoods which have already been gentrified.
PCRI was one of the local partners recognized by Multnomah County on Tuesday, September 8, as the city and county began a 100-day push for their “Home for Every Veteran” initiative, aimed at ending veteran homelessness before the end of the year.
“While we have rent assistance and other tools to help get vets back into housing — what we don’t have are the apartments,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury at a news conference.
PCRI was recognized as one of a handful of community partners who have been instrumental in opening doors and removing barriers for veterans seeking housing. Since January 2015, PCRI has housed six residents referred by the Veterans Administration’s Portland Community Resource and Referral Center. Debi Christensen, PCRI’s Senior Portfolio Manager, was one of the PCRI staff members at the event and accepted the award from Kafoury.
At the news conference, Kafoury noted unprecedented demand, skyrocketing rents, and near-zero vacancy rates as barriers making it even harder than normal for veterans and other renters to find stable housing.
Kafoury, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, Commissioner Dan Saltzman, and local Veterans Administration officials each spoke at the event. The common message from the leaders to private and nonprofit landlords was: if you have a vacant unit, please consider a veteran.
The speakers noted that with federal and local resources focused on ending veteran homelessness, “a veteran who comes with unprecedented resources behind him or her to help them be good tenants.”
The local officials who spoke at the event also asked that anyone knows a landlord with available housing visit www.ahomeforeveryvet.net where additional information is available.
To date, the “Home for Every Veteran” initiative has connected 430 veterans to permanent housing, but according to estimates, there are still about 290 Portland veterans without housing.
The goal of ending veteran homelessness is to achieve “functional zero.” The county acknowledges that there will still be veterans who experience homelessness after their goal is achieved, but add that systems are now in place to ensure veteran homelessness is brief, rare and non-reoccurring.
The media event preceded an event on September 11 called Veteran Stand Down. That event, at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, helps veterans connect to services including housing, clothing, employment, medical programs and other critical services.
PCRI is proud to announce the newest member of our Board of Directors, Rev. Dr. T. Allen Bethel.
Dr. Bethel is the senior pastor of Maranatha Church of God, where he has served since July 1994. He is also involved in many civic activities, including serving on the boards of TriMet, the Oregon League of Minority Voters, Warner Pacific College, the Oregon Trail Chapter of the American Red Cross, North Portland Bible College and the Albina Ministerial Alliance.
Dr. Bethel has extensive experience with public involvement and with organizations and businesses in the Portland region and elsewhere. Through his work in the community, he is focused on diverse community involvement and representation in large and smaller public projects.
He earned a bachelor of theology degree from Kansas City College and Bible School, graduating cum laude with further study from the Nazarene Theological Seminary. Dr. Bethel also has a master’s in religious education from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and an honorary doctorate from the Southern California School of Ministry.
Amy’s teamwork and outstanding leadership earned her the employee of the month honor, in particular for her work to establish our newest program which assists residents with credit building. Her enthusiasm and caring service makes Amy an asset to PCRI and the community we serve.
We extend our gratitude and appreciation to Amy for her outstanding service since she began working with PCRI in January 2014 as our Financial Education Specialist.
Residents, Vendors, Contractors, Visitors, Staff, Partnering Agencies and others are encouraged to nominate a PCRI employee who they feel should be recognized for their efforts to make PCRI the best it can be (click here for a nomination form, which can be submitted via email). The success and growth of the organization depends on employees’ dedication to the betterment of the community we serve.
PCRI, REACH and others came together recently to complete critical home repairs for four low-income seniors in NE Portland neighborhoods. PCRI staff and other volunteers joined REACH Community Development for Community Building Day on Saturday, August 15.
Ms. Johnson, a client of PCRI’s Senior Homeownership Retention Program, was one of the seniors whose home was cared for by the Community Building volunteers, including Retention Program Coordinator Lisa Williams (pictured at left). With fresh exterior paint and other improvements, Ms. Johnson’s house not only looks good, but will also ensure she can remain safe and stable in her home for years to come.
“It was so great to be working in community to help Ms. Johnson out,” said PCRI staff member Kirk Rea, one of the volunteers. “Her family, friends, plus folks from different agencies showed up, and we had youth to elders working and laughing together. The positivity and service I saw us all activate, just by painting a home, gives me hope that we can keep rolling back the barriers and hardships of our most vulnerable people.”
In addition to painting, volunteers installed two wheel chair ramps and completed plumbing repairs for the seniors who were selected for Community Building Day improvements.
The Community Building Day is an initiative of REACH with the support of Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI) and the Urban League of Portland. Two of the event’s beneficiaries were referred by PCRI and the Urban League. Special thanks to the event underwriters, The Grainger Foundation and Macy’s Community Giving, both of whom sent awesome volunteers! In-kind support was provided by Walsh Construction Co., Miller Paint, Pipeline Plumbing, M & M Contracting Services, LMC, Inc., Greg Clarke Photography and Mike Beeson.
The Community Building Day highlights the extensive free home repair work the Community Builders Program does year round. The Community Builders Program, a program of REACH, is dedicated to helping older adults and people with disabilities age safely in their homes by providing free home repairs. PCRI’s Senior Homeownership Retention program helps area seniors connect with programs such as the Community Builders Program. Through advocacy, referrals and financial support, the program helps seniors retain homeownership and age in place.
On July 1, 2015, PCRI unveiled a new solar power system atop the Maggie Gibson Plaza building in Portland’s Alberta Arts neighborhood. In its first month, the new system generated 1.48 MWh, approximately enough energy to power two typical single-family homes for a month.
The solar system provides power for the building’s common residential and commercial spaces and exterior lighting and is expected to save PCRI over $2,000 per year in energy costs. In addition to generating clean, renewable energy, future cost savings from the system will help PCRI sustain Maggie Gibson Plaza’s affordable rental housing and community-serving commercial retail space, a rarity on desirable NE Alberta Street.
“Low income families are disproportionately impacted by the poor environmental conditions and high utility bills,” said Travis Phillips, PCRI’s Housing Development Manager. “Reducing Maggie Gibson Plaza’s energy costs helps PCRI maintain affordable housing for the residents who live here, but just as importantly, we are proud to improve the environment for current and future residents by generating clean, renewable energy.”
The solar photovoltaic system, installed by Portland firm Synchro Solar, was made possible by a $48,450 funding award from customers of Pacific Power’s Blue SkySM renewable energy program and approximately $10,500 in cash incentives from Energy Trust of Oregon. The project is one of over 75 renewable energy projects made possible with funding support from Pacific Power’s Blue Sky customers in the Northwest. Those curious about the installation can view energy production information on the system’s public site.
Additional energy-saving improvements will also be performed in the residential units at Maggie Gibson Plaza. Residents will benefit from lower utility costs through the installation of new energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, highly-efficient water heaters, appliances and lighting, among other improvements. Completion of improvements inside the residential units is anticipated in fall 2015.
BLUE SKY: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has ranked Blue Sky fifth or better in the nation for the 11th consecutive year in the number of customers buying renewable power. The Blue Sky Block, Usage and Habitat products are Green-e Energy certified. About 55,000 Pacific Power customers currently participate in the Blue Sky program across Oregon, Washington and California. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net/bluesky.
PACIFIC POWER: Pacific Power provides electric service to more than 730,000 customers in Oregon, Washington and California. Our goal is to provide our customers with value for their energy dollar, and safe, reliable electricity. Pacific Power is part of PacifiCorp, one of the lowest-cost electricity producers in the United States, with almost 1.8 million customers in six western states. For more information, visit www.pacificpower.net.
ENERGY TRUST: Energy Trust of Oregon is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping utility customers benefit from saving energy and generating renewable power. Our services, cash incentives and energy solutions have helped participating customers of Portland General Electric, Pacific Power, NW Natural and Cascade Natural Gas save nearly $1.7 billion on energy bills. Our work helps keep energy costs as low as possible, creates jobs and builds a sustainable energy future. Learn more at www.energytrust.org or call 1-866-368-7878.
On July 28, 2015, PCRI staff and community partners joined as Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed HB 3082. The bill helps low-income families maintain housing stability and move toward self-sufficiency as they increase their incomes while living in affordable housing.
HB 3082, created by Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI) and introduced March 23, 2015 by Chief Sponsor Representative Lew Frederick and Regular Sponsor Senator Chip Shields, was approved earlier this year by the Oregon State House and Senate.
“It was an honor to work with PCRI, state legislators, statewide and housing advocates Housing Alliance and OON to get HB 3082 passed,” said Representative Frederick as he introduced the legislation. “It will mean longer term stability for families in need of affordable housing and has no fiscal impact on the state.”
The bill eases the “benefits cliff” faced by families as their incomes grow beyond 60% of Area Median Income (AMI), the maximum and prior threshold to qualify for affordable housing property tax exemptions if living in non-profit affordable housing.
The so-called “benefits cliff” refers to this sharp drop-off in benefits low-income families face as their income grows by as little as one dollar over a pre-determined threshold, such as the 60% AMI threshold. Easing the “cliff” provides organizations like PCRI additional tools to help residents achieve self-sufficiency and break the cycle of poverty.
Partners pictured with Oregon Governor Kate Brown, seated, are (from left to right) Val Valfre of the Oregon State Housing Council, David Wilcox and Travis Phillips of PCRI, John Miller of OON, Andrea Debnam of PCRI, Oregon State Representative Lew Frederick, Lincoln County Commissioner Bill Hall, and Maxine Fitzpatrick of PCRI.
The bill was supported by Oregon Opportunity Network (OON) and local leaders, including Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
“Families who are working to improve their lives shouldn’t be penalized just as they begin to achieve better futures for their children,” Deborah Kafoury stated in a letter as the bill was presented to the House of Representatives’ Human Services and Housing Committee. “I believe that HB 3082 balances our efforts to provide affordable housing to those most in need with our investments in families who are working to attain self-sufficiency.”
Under Oregon’s prior laws, when a family earned even one dollar over the 60% AMI limit, they were at risk of losing their affordable rental housing. While PCRI works with residents to allow them to maintain their affordable housing as their income grows, HB 3082 allow government to extend the threshold for exemptions to 80% AMI (about $58,000 for a family of four) for existing residents. New renters would still need to earn less than 60% AMI at move-in, but would also be able to benefit from the flexible threshold which allows for increases in income over time.
PCRI received certification in July 2015 as a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved housing counseling agency and concurrently became an affiliate member of HomeFree-USA, a leading HUD-approved homeownership development, foreclosure intervention and financial empowerment organization.
PCRI’s certification by HUD as a housing counseling agency and affiliation with HomeFree-USA lends additional strength to PCRI’s ongoing financial empowerment programs, such as housing counseling, homeownership retention for seniors, homebuyer education and financial literacy. The certification underscores PCRI commitment and success creating lasting stability and providing pathways out of poverty for low- and moderate-income residents and community members.
“We are tremendously excited about joining forces with HomeFree-USA,” said Andrea Debnam, PCRI Resident Services Manager. “When our organizations initially came together, it was evident that we both share a passion for empowering the people we serve. As we strengthen individuals & families by providing valuable resources to improve their lives – we ultimately build healthy, vibrant communities for us all.”
Recognition as a HUD-certified counseling agency also improves PCRI’s access to funding opportunities, which help PCRI increase capacity to support the families we serve and provide support for additional families. Most of PCRI’s financial empowerment programs are free of charge for residents and community members. Utilizing these programs, participants have reduced debt, increased credit scores, become first-time home buyers, and created stability which benefits their families immediately and for future generations.
PCRI, more than ever, is committed to empowering Portland families to achieve stability, self-sufficiency and wealth creation, including the American dream of homeownership.
HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way they do business.
HomeFree-USA is a leading HUD-approved homeownership development, foreclosure intervention and financial empowerment organization. HomeFree-USA and its affiliates improve the financial position and enrich the lives of every-day people through homeownership and credit management.
For more information about PCRI or our financial empowerment programs, visit www.pcrihome.org/programs or call (503) 288-2923.
On May 19th, 22 PCRI residents and clients completed the PCRI Adult Financial Education Class. This is the second financial education class held in partnership with Banner Bank. The evening class held once a week for four weeks covers a range of personal finance topics.
Class participants appreciated getting answers to their banking, credit, and fraud questions from industry professionals. One PCRI resident commented, “I can do more and have more options when I need to pay a bill or get money.”
PCRI and Banner Bank will be partnering again in September 2015 to present another Adult Financial Education Class. All PCRI residents and clients are invited to sign up. If you are interested in learning more about the class, please contact Amy Dang, PCRI Financial Education Specialist, at 503-288-2923 ext. 131 or by email.
Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives Inc.
6329 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Portland, OR 97211
Tel: (503) 288-2923 Fax: (503) 288-2891
PCRI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community development organization providing affordable rental housing to low-income families, primarily in North and Northeast Portland. Since 1992, PCRI's vision has been to provide affordable housing and associated services that achieve family stability, self-sufficiency and wealth creation.