Innovative Housing, Inc. Newsletter
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IHI Needs
Are you looking for a rewarding opportunity to engage with your community and help combat food insecurity?

IHI partners with Oregon Food Bank to provide free, nutritious produce and pantry staples to over 250 people each month. We need volunteers to help us distribute this food from 8-11am on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at our family site in Troutdale. If you are interested, please contact  Ana at 
alopez@ innovativehousinginc.c om  
or (503) 226-4368 x 1. 

Spring 2019

From IHI's Executive Director
Sarah J. Stevenson

People are messy. We spill things, break things, and make noise. We lose our tempers, cause upset, and hurt each other. We have bad habits and make mistakes. As a result, life also gets messy.

That's why, when people congratulate us on the completion of a new project, I say "thank you - now the hard part begins."  Award-winning design and quality construction are important, but at the end of the day, our focus is on filling new buildings with people who will make them homes. People who might not have easy access to the paperwork it takes to complete our income certifications. People who may have credit issues, criminal histories, or past evictions that make it hard to get through the screening process.  And people who might need support from resident services when behavior or financial challenges would otherwise jeopardize their hard-won housing. Housing people is harder than building spaces for them to live. 

This is where IHI's mission comes into play.  We know that people sometimes need help, and we believe that everyone deserves a second (or third) chance.  We believe that kids should have a stable place to grow, learn, and dream.  We believe that hard-working parents deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing where their families will sleep at night and that they will wake up safe in the morning.  We believe that seniors should have housing security and people with chronic illnesses and mental health issues are entitled to the dignity that comes from managing these challenges in private spaces. These core values are why IHI has always used relaxed screening criteria, why we have never required social security numbers, and why we implemented a universal appeals process that gives every housing applicant the right to appeal a denial and receive an individualized assessment of their circumstances.  Any of this sound familiar?  IHI, along with many of our nonprofit peers, have long been implementing the screening criteria that Commissioner Eudaly would like all of Portland's landlords to use.  In fact, our systems and processes go beyond what City Council is considering requiring City-wide.  We are well-positioned to inform policies like the one currently pending; it would be wise for our policy makers to remember that we have decades of experience and expertise in housing operations that could be a valuable resource in their efforts to increase housing access. 

New buildings stay shiny and clean for a few days.  Then people move in and the physical spaces become less polished, noisier, and infinitely harder to manage. But people, for all of our faults, also bring hopes and dreams, talent and creativity, beauty and inspiration.  When residents move in, they fill our properties with life and vibrancy. They turn buildings into homes. 

We are all messy and we all make mistakes; that's just part of who we are.   At IHI we look beyond messy situations and see individuals who need a safe place to live. We do our best to remove barriers and increase access, and we provide wraparound services to support our residents' housing stability after they move in. Our hope is that the homes we build, and the support we provide, create opportunities for people to thrive and succeed at whatever path they choose- a path that starts at home.
The Merwyn Moves Ahead!

On April 5
th the State awarded $2,879,964 of Local Innovation and Fast Track (LIFT) funds to restore the historic Merwyn Hotel and create 40 new units of affordable and workforce housing in the heart of Astoria. IHI will pair these funds with equity generated by federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits to develop studio and one-bedroom apartments affordable to households earning 30% and 60% of area median income. IHI will use federal Historic Tax Credits to build four unrestricted units for residents who may not qualify for restricted rents but still do not earn enough to afford market rent in this coastal town.

IHI is working closely with the City and the broader Astoria community, both of which have demonstrated strong support for IHI's efforts to bring this historic 
building back to life. Located in the heart of downtown Astoria, adjacent to both City Hall and the public library, the Merwyn has been vacant for many years. Fortunately, the roof is intact, which means the interior is in good enough condition that IHI can restore many historic elements, including original hardwood floors, vertical grain fir windows, historic corridors, and the historic lobby. The new project will incorporate community space, a manager's office, lobby gathering space, bike storage, and a laundry room.

IHI is working on some innovative collaborations to help connect with people who need affordable housing, including Astoria's Latino community, and to provide job skills training and opportunities as part of this project. The Lower Columbia Hispanic Council and Clatsop Community Action Agency will help IHI conduct outreach to future residents and provide support to residents once they move into the Merwyn. The City of Astoria, the Economic Development Center, and the Oregon Employment Department will offer residents job shadow and job fair opportunities, along with job readiness training. IHI also plans to partner with Clatsop Community College's historic preservation program and the Tongue Point Job Corps Center for a portion of the restoration work during construction. 

IHI is very excited to help restore this historic treasure and bring affordable housing opportunities to the hard-working community of Astoria!
Each year, as part of IHI's Teen Mentor Program, staff take high school-age residents to visit local colleges. Our goal is to help them learn more about the college matriculation process and what different institutions can offer. Most of our residents will be the first in their families to attend college and we want to help them explore and understand all of their options. 

This winter we took teens from two of our properties to the University of Oregon. Students enjoyed a tour of the campus, including visits to dorm rooms. Two speakers from the multicultural center spoke about the admission process and the types of support students can get from the University and their high schools. U of O also invited our teens back to sit down and plan their application process and their future schedules. It was a great experience!
Designing His Life
IHI loves the indoor playroom floor at Vibrant!.  So do our new resident children (see below)! Our favorite part is that it was designed by a resident teenager as part of his IHI job shadow experience in 2016. Still an IHI resident, Jose is currently pursuing his degree at Portland State University.
As a young teen, Jose spent his job shadow day working with Salazar Architect and LRS Architects while they were designing Vibrant!. They had the great idea to use the indoor playroom floor as his design project and he did such a fantastic job that we used it. We are very proud to be a part of Jose's professional journey and can't wait to see where it takes him!
Thanks to Our Coats for Kids Donors!
Once again, our donors stepped up and made sure that no child living in IHI housing went without a winter coat this year.
IHI distributed over 250 coats at seven family sites.
Thank you for your generosity! 

A Vibrant! Affair

Innovative Housing Inc.