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Affordable worker housing slated for Orenco

Although the regional economy is improving, the need for affordable housing is greater than ever before, according to Dan Valliere, the CEO of REACH, a community development corporation based in Portland.by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Dan Valliere is CEO of REACH, an affordable housing organization based in the Grays Landing building, which it developed in South Waterfront.

“In some ways, the improving economy is making the housing situation even worse for people and families who don’t have much money. More jobs are being created, but rents are going up,” Valliere said.

To help meet the growing demand, REACH will begin construction of two new affordable housing projects next year. One is in Hillsboro and the other is in Portland. The Hillsboro one will be REACH’s first new project outside Portland, and Valliere expects other projects in different parts of the region to follow that.

“There is a lot of need in Hillsboro and the rest of the region, and we want to help respond to that. We are now meeting with leaders in different communities to assess their needs and see how we can help,” Valliere said.by: COURTESY CARLETON HART ARCHITECTS - REACH will begin construction of the second phase of Glisan Commons in March.

REACH is also scheduled to begin construction on the first phase of Orchards at Orenco in April 2014. It will be the first development targeting low-income working households in Hillsboro’s large and growing Orenco Station neighborhood. The initial project will be a 57-unit apartment designed to reduce heating and cooling requirements while also creating excellent indoor air quality.

The first phase is expected to cost $14 million and take a year to complete. Two more buildings with a total of 160 units will follow.

“Hillsboro’s economy is growing, but the housing isn’t keeping up, creating the need for more affordable housing for the new workers,” said Valliere, who began working at REACH in May. Before that, he worked at Chicago Commons, a neighborhood improvement organization in Chicago.

The Portland project is the second phase of Glisan Commons, an affordable apartment complex in the Gateway area. The 60-unit development there will offer affordable housing and social services to seniors and people with disabilities.

The project will cost around $15 million and take a year to complete.

The first phase of Glisan Commons, a 67-unit apartment, is currently being built by Human Solutions at Northeast 99th Avenue and Glisan Street, a non-profit organization, for low-income people and families. REACH will manage both phases when they are complete.

It is unusual for a nonprofit housing organization or community development corporation to have more than one project under way at a time. The financing for such projects is complex and sometimes takes years to put together.

But REACH has already shown it can handle multiple projects at once. It began providing affordable housing in inner southeast Portland more than 20 years ago and quickly began building projects in other parts of the city. The organization recently acquired the 51-unit Bronaugh Apartments in downtown Portland to preserve its tax exempt status as housing for low-income seniors. Before that, REACH built Gray’s Landing, a $50 million housing project for homeless veterans and other low income people.

And in May, REACH merged with Affordable Community Environments in Vancouver, taking ownership of its 198 units of affordable housing in Washington. The merger won an award for its collaborative approach.

REACH’s portfolio currently includes 1,658 units, including single-family homes, apartment buildings, and mixed use developments.

The Orchards at Orenco and the Glisan Commons projects show how difficult it can be to build affordable housing. Although the need grew throughout the Great Recession as more and more workers lost their jobs and defaulted on their mortgages, raising the necessary capital is a long and arduous process. Because such projects don’t generate large profits, multiple sources of financing must be obtained for each one. They usually include public as well as private sources, along with state and federal tax credits that can be sold to investors.

The Orchards at Orenco will be built near the MAX station that gives the neighborhood it name. That will allow workers to reach their jobs without having to own a car. But REACH also wanted to move beyond providing affordable housing to promoting affordable living. With that in mind, the first phase apartment will be constructed to passive house standards, a method of construction widely used in colder European countries. It will achieve a nearly 90 percent reduction in heating requirements and a 60 to 70 percent reduction in overall energy use.

Funding for the project comes from multiple sources, including: Enterprise Community Partners; the Community Housing Fund; Energy Trust of Oregon; the Meyer Memorial Trust; Oregon Housing and Community Services; NeighborWorks America; and Washington County.

When completed, the apartments will be targeted to working families earning 30 to 60 percent of area median family Income as defined by the federal government, or $15,000 to $30,000 for a single-person household.

REACH first started offering services in Hillsboro when it acquired The Maples, an existing affordable housing project that needed renovations. The Orchard at Orenco is the organization’s first new project there, however.




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