A 106-unit low-cost housing complex is about to open in the surging Buckman neighborhood of Southeast Portland.
Adjacent to venerable St. Francis Church — home of the oldest Catholic parish on Portland’s east side — the St. Francis Park Apartments will be blessed at 2 p.m. Wednesday, May 17. Nearby blocks are being readied for market rate apartments as Portland’s housing costs continue to soar.
“Housing is something the parish has been concerned about a long time,” says Valerie Chapman, pastoral administrator of St. Francis Parish, which owned the park on which the project is built.
“It was hard to give up the park,” Chapman says. “But it was clear one has to make choices.”
Caritas Housing, a program of Catholic Charities of Oregon, is managing the property, which includes 20 units for formerly homeless women and five for victims of domestic violence.
Several parishioners will live in the new apartments. Chapman hopes more will move in in the future.
The parish shaped the project, says Trell Anderson, director of community development and housing for Catholic Charities: “It grew out of their compassion.”
When representatives from the parish, Catholic Charities and other partners met, they agreed the property must uphold human dignity, be kind to the environment, and promote social justice and equity.
Most of the units will be rented to people earning less than 60 percent of the median family income — $29,160 annually for a single person, or $41,640 for a family of four.
Across the street from the new apartments, a building has been torn down for more market-rate units. There is little if any low-cost housing in the area.
Chapman says a mix of income levels is likely to make the neighborhood more vibrant and even more stable.
“Affordable housing can help a community maintain a stable population by making it easier to retain people who already live and work there,” says the website of Affirmed Housing, a longtime California developer. “Affordable housing, as a tool of economic development, can often help to lower crime rates.”
Home Forward, the city’s housing authority, was a partner in the development. The city gave $6 million.
The project is environmentally sustainable, with a community garden. It’s the first residential building in the area to receive a stamp of approval from an organization that controls runoff that can harm fish.
Between the apartments and St. Francis Church will be the Francis and Clare commons, a site with a walking labyrinth, a water feature, native plants and a famed Portland Loo public bathroom. Chapman fought hard for the washroom as a gift to the common good. Metro gave a grant for the park, but so far, city officials have balked at taking on maintenance of the outdoor bathroom facility, even though they maintain all the others.
The project faced more challenges. Construction costs surged, so a 36-space parking structure had to be scrapped, a disappointment to neighbors. City officials asked for expensive changes.
There are 18 other Caritas housing properties in Oregon, and authorities have given the green light to develop another — in the southern Oregon town of Rogue River. Also coming is Kenton Village, a grouping of tiny homes in North Portland with a central area for showers and cooking.