Stocking Up

[Photo: The Upshur House]
The Upshur House

Affordable housing seems always to be in short supply. In a May report by HUD to Congress on "worst case housing needs," for example, HUD found that, during the boom years from 2001 to 2007, some 5.9 million American families with very low-incomes not receiving government housing assistance "paid more than half their monthly incomes for rent, lived in severely substandard conditions, or both."

"It is a crisis" said Dr. Raphael Bostic, HUD's Assistant Secretary for Policy Development & Research, "that touches families of every type, of every racial and ethnic background, and from every part of the country." The affordable housing stock, in other words, needs not just to be expanded, but preserved.

Like preserving the Upshur House in northwest Portland. Back in the 1980's, its owners signed a 30-year agreement with HUD under which they'd maintain rents affordable to families at 50 percent or less of the area's median income or, in today's dollars, $35,000 for a family of four.

In return, HUD promised to provide rental subsidies that make up the difference between the agreed-upon rents and the contribution made by the tenants themselves - 30 percent of their gross monthly income. Simply put, it produced 30 units of affordable rental housing.

Time flies, of course, and after 30 years as the contract was set to expire and the owner wanted to sell, potentially to new, private owners who, because of ever-increasing housing demands in the Portland market, might decide to charge market-rate rents. That "opting out" would have meant displacement of current tenants and the loss of those 30 units of affordable housing.

That's when Northwest Housing Alternatives, a nonprofit organization based in Milwaukie, stepped up and offered to buy Upshr House, one of 11 affordable rental properties in the city that the Portland Housing Bureau, reports The Journal, believes are "at risk of reverting to market-rate rents by 2013" leaving 300 families without a place to live.

All told, Northwest Housing Alternatives would spend some $7.5 million to buy and renovate Upshur House. Fortunately, it got help from lots of friends and partners. The Network for Oregon Affordable Housing did the financing. The Portland City Council okayed a $460,000 HUD Section 108 loan. Enterprise Community Partners secured $3.4 million in low-income housing tax credits. Oregon Housing & Community Services provided $2.2 million from HUD in Tax Credit Assistance Program funds under the Recovery Act. And, finally, Northwest Housing Alternatives signed an agreement with HUD to maintain Upshur House's participation in the rental assistance program for another 20 years.

"Behind every number" in the worst case housing study recent released by HUD, said Assistant Secretary Bostic, " is the story of a person or a family struggling to maintain affordable housing." Thanks to the win-win-win partnership o Northwest Housing Alternatives, 30 affordable housing units won't be lost, 30 families won't be displaced and 30 such sad tales will not be told. Upshur House is "going to continue to be affordable housing for as long as there's any useful life in it," Jonathan Trutt, Northwest Housing Alternatives' housing director, told Justin Carinci of The Daily Journal of Commerce.

Photo Credit: The Daily Journal of Commerce.


Content Archived: January 25, 2017