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Affordable housing, for those ignored by usual real estate market

The mission is moving east
by: Merry MacKinnon, ROSE Community Development Corporation’s Executive Director, Nick Sauvie, lives in a Woodstock house ten blocks west of his office on Southeast 52nd and Duke. The CDC's efforts are now moving east--as is poverty, Sauvie notes.

The ten-block walk from Nick Sauvie's house on S.E. 42nd Avenue in Woodstock to his job at ROSE Community Development Corporation on 52nd and Duke takes him to a neighborhood the CDC once targeted for revitalization.

As Executive Director of the only community development corporation serving the Woodstock, Brentwood-Darlington, Foster-Powell, Mt. Scott-Arleta, and Lents neighborhoods, Sauvie's got a developer's eye for his territory. However, instead of reaping profits, his work at the nonprofit helps keep housing affordable for low-income residents.

For years, ROSE staff also worked to revitalize Southeast neighborhoods located west of 82nd Avenue. Meanwhile, the real estate market was taking off. So now, instead of strolling through a deteriorating neighborhood as he passes beyond Woodstock into Brentwood-Darlington on his way to work, Sauvie sees few, if any, houses with market values less than $200,000.

Thus, as a result of rising housing costs, poverty is moving east--and so is Rose CDC's focus.

'Poverty as a whole has moved out of Inner East Portland neighborhoods,' Sauvie says. 'We've got a phenomenon where a lot of American cities have had a rebirth, and then you see gentrification of the inner city and displacement of poor to inner-ring suburbs. In Portland's case, that would be Rockwood, Parkrose, and Gresham.'

For the next five years, Rose CDC will focus its revitalization and affordable housing efforts in the Lents Renewal Area east of 82nd Avenue of Roses, where land is cheaper.

The organization has also broken ground on Leander Courts, a 37-unit apartment complex at 4600 S.E. 122nd Avenue, designed for low-income families with children.

'For Leander Court, we needed a good-sized piece of land,' explains Sauvie. 'Real estate is so much more expensive now, than when we started.'

Following a stint at the Southeast Uplift neighborhood coalition organization in the '80s, Sauvie and others formed 'ROSE CDC', which evolved from a community group called Outer Southeast Coalition. ROSE is an acronym standing for 'Revitalizing Outer South East'. At the point when the organization was founded, in the late '80s, affordable housing as an issue took a back seat to the concern that slums were spreading in Southeast Portland.

Hundreds of vacant and abandoned houses, many in Mt. Scott and Brentwood-Darlington, fostered crime and blight recalls Sauvie, who studied economics in college. 'We felt it was dragging the neighborhoods down,' he recalls. 'The desire to revitalize these neighborhoods was what got ROSE CDC started.'

In those days, Inner Southeast Portland real estate was inexpensive. Part of Rose's mission was to increase home ownership, and the first house ROSE purchased for rehab in 1992 cost only $25,000. Over the years, ROSE sold 25 refurbished houses, including one in Woodstock, to the low-income and disabled at below-market prices. The CDC also started building apartment units to rent at below-market rates to low-income people. It now provides rental housing for between 500 and 600 people.

'The average person in Portland can't afford an average home anymore,' Sauvie contends. Nevertheless, he and Rose CDC partners resolve to continue to get low-income people into decent housing.