August 21, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

June 2015 Amy DangOn August 13, PCRI honored our most recent employee of the month: Amy Dang.

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.

August 17, 2015 · Featured, Grant Warehouse, PCRI

IMG_0230At an August 17 event, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced the selection of a PCRI-led team to develop the former Grant Warehouse site. The site, located on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, between Cook and Ivy streets, is envisioned with new affordable rental housing and community-serving ground floor commercial retail space.

“Even though this is just one site, it is the beginning,” said Executive Director Maxine Fitzpatrick of the project’s goals to mitigate involuntary displacement.

PCRI and our project team, including co-developer Gerding Edlen, general contractor Colas Construction, and Carleton Hart Architects, were selected following a Request for Qualifications issued by Portland Housing Bureau. The RFQ served to identify the development team which could best meet the goals of Housing Bureau’s N/NE Neighborhood Housing Strategy and develop a project which would involve and benefit the Northeast Portland community as well as its its historically African-American residents.

“This is an important opportunity to provide access to affordable family rental housing in a neighborhood that has experienced displacement and gentrification in the past several decades,” said Ms. Fitzpatrick. “PCRI was formed as, and continues to be, a solution to involuntary displacement. This project will help ensure everyone can experience the stability, safety and dignity that a home provides.”

IMG_0218The announcement about the development team for the Grant Warehouse site was one of two cornerstone projects highlighted at the public event, held at the site of the former Grant Warehouse. Colas Construction and Majestic Realty will develop a new commercial project a short distance away at NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Alberta Street. That project will feature a grocery and other commercial retail space.

“Through their focus on commercial activity and affordable housing, both projects will add to the vitality and diversity of the community, and will serve to underscore our commitment to this vital section of Northeast Portland,” said commissioner Saltzman in an email invitation for the event.

“This is a happy, long awaited day,” said Mayor Charlie Hales.

For continued information about the Grant Warehouse redevelopment and project updates, visit pcrihome.org/grant-warehouse or follow PCRI on Facebook.

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August 17, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

REACH Build Day TeamPCRI, 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 DSC_0020volunteers, 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.

REACH Build A Day 267The 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.

DSC_0030The 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.

August 14, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

Reaching MillionsPCRI, a HomeFree-USA affiliate, invites the housing community to join the “Reaching Millions” National Leadership and Housing Counseling Training Conference, held in Portland, Oregon, September 9-11, 2015. The 11th Annual conference is a unique training and networking event with a pre-conference workshop and reception on Tuesday, September 8.

The conference brings together housing counseling leaders and provides information on successful approaches and strategies that come from more than 20 years’ experience serving families across the country. Conference speakers will share insight and direction, participants will have networking opportunities, and are encouraged to participate in regional roundtables to discuss new opportunities.

Conference details can be found HERE. The conference will be held at the Portland Hilton and Executive Towers, located at 921 SW 6th Avenue in Portland. Special room rates are available for attendees.

HomeFree-USA brings together more than 150 non-profit community-based housing counseling leaders. PCRI and other HomeFree-USA affiliated organizations represent more than 4.5M families nationwide.

Please share and distribute this opportunity with your network and register today!

 

August 12, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and HUD have partnered to alert households of Section 8 scams which aim to cheat people seeking housing. If you are looking for Section 8 housing assistance, here’s something you need to know: don’t submit personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank or credit card accounts over the phone or on websites offering Section 8 vouchers or rental housing.

The Portland office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has heard recent reports of scammers who have made websites that look like registration sites for Section 8 waiting list lotteries and of apartment listings on Craigslist that are scams aimed at holders of Section 8 and other rental assistance vouchers. These websites or links may lead to an online application asking for personal information and can pose posts a danger to apartment seekers.

For rental housing seekers in Multnomah County, HUD recommends searching the Housing Connections website rather than Craigslist. For information on Section 8 “Housing Choice” vouchers, contact Home Forward, the housing authority for Multnomah County.

Here’s the real way things work: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Section 8 program provides funding to local government housing authorities. The local authorities issue housing choice vouchers to help people find housing in privately-owned rental units (including units owned by non-profit providers like PCRI). To get on the waiting list for a voucher, find your local housing authority and call or email them. In Portland, the housing authority is Home Forward. They can provide information about how to sign up for the Section 8 waiting list lottery. Again, there is no fee to register.

HUD cautions housing seekers to be cautious when searching online for the Section 8 voucher waiting list, the top search results often are bogus sites. The sites look very real: their names may say “Section 8,” and they might show an Equal Housing Opportunity logo. They may ask for fees and your personal information, like your Social Security number, but they won’t do anything for you. The scammers will keep your money and disappear. They also may give your personal information to identity thieves.

In another twist, some fake sites (or even real sites like Craigslist with scam links) list Section 8 properties that supposedly are available. They promise you can rent one, if you pay the first month’s rent via wire transfer or a prepaid card. The properties might exist, but the ads are fakes placed by scammers. If you pay, you just lose your money.

People have lost money and personal information to scammers – but they’ve also lost the chance to be in the actual lottery. Most people don’t realize they’ve been scammed until after the waiting list is closed.

Keep these tips in mind to avoid a Section 8 lottery scam:

  • Contact Home Forward to find out how to register for the Section 8 waiting list lottery. You can also find the email and phone number or other housing authorities on the HUD site. Follow their instructions to sign up.
  • Search for apartments using the Housing Connections website (rather than Craigslist).
  • Housing authorities do not charge fees, and they won’t reach out to you by phone or email to suggest that you join a waiting list. A housing authority also will never ask you to wire money or pay with a prepaid card. Those are sure signs of a scam.
  • Treat your Social Security number and other personal information (such as credit card numbers), like cash. Don’t give them out on a website you find through a search.
  • Have you seen this kind of scam? File a complaint with the FTC and HUD’s Office of Inspector General Hotline.

 

 

This information was complied from information provided by Margaret Salazar, Field Office Director, HUD Oregon State Office and by Lisa Lake, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC.

August 7, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

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.

IMG_5327The 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.”

Maggie Gibson Plaza (cropped)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.

August 4, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

EditedFinalOn 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.

July 27, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

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.

New Homeowner 002PCRI’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.

July 8, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

Rent Credit Build Postcard single Mom_Page_1PCRI residents are invited to improve their credit through paying rent online! Beginning Spring 2015, PCRI will accept rent payments through an Automated Clearing House (ACH), making it simple and easy to start building and improving your credit. Residents who have completed similar programs have seen credit scores improve an average of 23 points.

PCRI hosted information sessions in July for residents interested in the program. Residents who were not able to attend the information session are still encouraged to learn more by contacting Amy Dang via email or at 503-288-2923 x131.

For residents who are interested in the convenience of autopay, but are not interested in building credit, PCRI has an alternate payment option. Please contact us for more information.

June 12, 2015 · Featured, PCRI

150519 Arika Bunyoli Grad PicOn 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.”

150519 Terry Orr Reina Hernandez Grad PicIn addition to the valuable financial information, Banner Bank presented all completers of the class $100 cash.

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.

 

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