by: JEFF MCDONALD  - U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) delivers prepared remarks at last weeks grand opening ceremony at the fourth phase of the Nuevo Amanecer project in Woodburn. The grand opening of the fourth phase of the Nuevo Amanecer farmworkers’ housing project brought high praise from distinguished visitors to Woodburn.

The $10 million fourth phase of Nuevo Amanecer, which means “new dawn” in Spanish, included 40 two- and three-bedroom units. The development, which is open only for farmworkers and their families, has already been fully leased and has a waiting list for 300 families, according to Farmworker Housing Development Corporation, the project’s developer.

“The housing is simple, but very attractive,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), who attended the event. “The courtyard is designed for children to play and run on hills. This encourages interconnectivity. It’s a very safe space.”

As senator, Merkley is trying to protect the low-income federal housing tax credits, he said. Those credits, which are awarded through the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department and sold by FHDC to banks and other investors, comprised 80 percent of the funding for the $10 million project, according to FHDC.

FHDC needs tax credits or investors to continue building affordable housing in the future.

“The main thing is to preserve what we have,” Merkley said. “Given this was done so well, we want to support it in the future.”

Visitors were impressed with Nuevo Amanecer’s near 100 percent high school graduation and low crime rates in the development.

With funding so tight, the development’s measurable statistics could have an impact on future funding applications, said Margaret Van Vliet, director of the state’s Housing and Community Services Department, who attended the grand opening. by: JEFF MCDONALD  - Children play on the grounds of Nuevo Amanacer, which celebrated the Grand Opening of its fourth phase last week.

“We have to invest in housing where we can see the connection between improving people’s lives and we can see it here,” Van Vliet said. “If the state can invest in housing that brings stability for 40 more families, that’s huge.”

Despite the great demand for farmworker housing, future phases could include more general multifamily housing, said Roberto Jimenez, FHDC’s executive director. FHDC has been eyeing an adjacent two- to three-acre property in Woodburn for phase five of the development, Jimenez said.

“If FHDC is to build a phase five of Nuevo Amanecer, we would probably diversify who the property serves, meaning it might not be solely exclusive to farmworkers and their families but it would most likely still be affordable housing,” Jimenez wrote in an email.

The celebration of Nuevo Amanecer also included local officials. Mayor Kathy Figley praised FHDC, which has maintained clean, safe housing for working people and their children, she said.

“Over the years, I have seen residents become citizens, buy homes and complete their education,” Figley said. “Thank you for this gift to the community.”

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