Innovative Housing, Inc. Newsletter
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Summer 2018

From IHI's Executive Director
Sarah J. Stevenson
In late 2015 I wrote a newsletter article noting how incredible it was to watch affordable housing become a mainstream subject. After working for decades in the shadows, it was exciting to see people from all walks of life shift their lens to include affordable housing as an important topic of conversation. This is the backlash article.

Two and a half years later, still in the midst of a housing crisis, I am tired of talking . The housing crisis feels complicated but the solution is simple: we need more affordable housing. Politicians, business people, policy wonks, well-intentioned civilians - I appreciate your engagement and ideas around solving homelessness, but this is not a new problem. The issue feels bigger today because the housing market has changed, forcing more people out of marginally stable housing and onto the streets, but we have long had a shortage of affordable housing. The only way to change that is to create more.

Developing affordable housing is a very specialized field. There are probably fewer than 40 people in Portland who have the expertise and experience to do it, and right now we are spending a lot of time talking about "new" ways to solve the housing crisis. Some of this dialogue is constructive and necessary, but a good deal of our time is being wasted advocating against bad housing policy. Ironically, City leaders who need to hear from experts about how to create, own, and operate affordable housing are not listening. We are the City's housing delivery system, yet we are not even sitting in the same rooms.

Portland's lack of leadership and focus when it comes to housing is debilitating. We have been operating in the absence of a City-wide housing plan for years. We have been without a permanent Director of the Housing Bureau since Mayor Wheeler removed him in late 2017, and we have a housing commissioner (aka Mayor Wheeler) who is clearly overwhelmed by his job and its competing priorities. The result is a leadership vacuum. In the absence of a coordinated housing strategy and implementation plan, many well-intentioned people, including other elected officials, have stepped up to fill the void. This has created what feels like reactionary chaos, resulting in a raft of policy ideas that start and stop more often than my 1994 Toyota.

It is time to get out of the way and let the experts do their jobs. Portland's experienced, competent, mission-driven developers could significantly impact the housing crisis if we had two things: 1) a City-supported housing plan with a clear set of housing priorities (which we should help shape), and 2) access to capital. Development is expensive but costs aren't going to go down-we must stop bemoaning the price tag and start addressing our supply problem. The State has stepped up with fast-tracked GO Bond funds and increased document recording fees dedicated to housing. The state legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to the fall ballot that could vastly increase the impact of local housing bonds like the one Portland passed in 2016. Metro Council has referred a regional bond measure to the ballot this fall that could generate $652 Million for affordable housing. After much rhetoric, even the feds ended up increasing Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits for the first time in over 10 years. With effective leadership, Portland could make huge strides over the next few years.

We can solve our housing crisis, but we have to stop talking and start building. NOW.
Magnolia Phase 2 is a Go!
Innovative Housing is happy to share the great news that 50 new family apartments in Northeast Portland are fully funded! One year ago we announced that the City of Portland had awarded IHI $4M to build Phase 2 of the Magnolia Apartment complex at NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., near Fremont. IHI spent the last year designing the new building, completing predevelopment work, and submitting a multitude of funding applications to round out our project budget. We typically do not move forward on design until we are fully funded, but Innovative Housing's board and staff felt strongly that this was a project that needed to happen, so we pushed ahead without full funding commitments and at our own financial risk.
Rendering provided by LRS Architects

As time passed, the financial scenario got bleaker and bleaker. Tax credit reform had already reduced the value of federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits that we were counting on to cover 30% of the project costs. The building boom in Portland and elsewhere caused double digit construction cost inflation and, to top it all off, interest rates started to rise for the first time in several years. Our budget got caught in the crosshairs of a perfect development storm and it looked like we might have gambled on the wrong project.

In May, the clouds parted and the State awarded $2.5M of LIFT funds to Magnolia 2! Oregon's Local Innovation and Fast Track (LIFT) Housing Program is funded through State general obligation bonds. It is a new program piloted by the legislature to test innovative strategies, create a modern model of affordable housing that serves families, and add to the supply of housing in historically underserved communities. Magnolia 2 was almost a perfect fit for this criteria. Our 50 apartments will include one, two, and three-bedrooms, there will be an indoor/outdoor play space for children and, like Magnolia 1, we are committed to using Mag 2 as an anti-displacement tool in an historically African American neighborhood. Because we pushed forward on design and permits ahead of funding, we were in a good position to move quickly, meeting the State's Fast Track criteria. The cherry on top is our innovative Maker Space and partnership with Constructing Hope to offer pre-apprenticeship training that will help young people and other low-income residents learn about and access careers in the construction trades.  

After a year of uncertainty, the stars have aligned. With support from the City and State, we are moving ahead full steam to get these new affordable homes built and ready for families who need them!
Learn more about two ballot measures that will make a difference at www.yesforaffordablehousing.com.
We all know how important affordable, accessible homes are to a community. But what happens when those homes age and start to fall apart? In a market environment, the landlord might raise rents to address capital needs but with rent restricted affordable housing, that isn't an option. Most affordable housing has replacement reserves set aside to cover foreseeable building needs. Unfortunately, not all landlords save for rainy days and when IHI acquired Center Village Apartments, the replacement reserves had already been spent down. In addition, Center Village suffered from construction defects that allowed water to penetrate the exterior of the building, resulting in widespread structural damage.

IHI was aware of these problems when we acquired Center Village in 2015, but we felt these centrally-located, two, three, and four-bedroom family apartments were too valuable to lose so we took them on knowing that we had work ahead of us. We also knew that the longer we waited to fix the defects, the more expensive it would be. We started design and permitting, at our own cost, right away so we'd be ready to start a project as soon as possible. IHI sought funding to rehab and reskin Center Village for two years, to no avail. The structure continued to suffer and last year we had to remove two balconies that were falling off the building due to dry rot.

The situation was becoming desperate. Finally, earlier this year, the State identified a small pot of money for the preservation of existing housing. These funds were very competitive because most public funding is committed to the creation of new housing rather than the preservation of existing units, and many affordable housing providers have aging buildings in need of repair. IHI submitted an application and we were lucky enough to be awarded $2M to save Center Village! With permits in hand, we were ready to start immediately and began the work this month.

Thanks to a critical, but unique, state funding opportunity, IHI is able to preserve Center Village for the 60 families (and 185 people) who live there. In the midst of our housing crisis, we can't afford to lose the affordable homes we've already built.
Nourishing Bodies and Minds
Innovative Housing provides free, healthy lunches and fun, engaging activities to resident children at our family sites each summer. Last year we expanded the program to Albany and this year, thanks to a grant from the Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force, we are expanding to offer summer programming at the Center Village Apartments in NE Portland. From June until August, IHI will be serving free lunches, offering arts, crafts, and physical activities on-site, and coordinating fun and educational field trips. Weekly themes allow for summer learning and active play, both instrumental in successful childhood development.
IHI staff and resident children plant seedlings in community garden boxes.

Summer lunches are a part of Innovative Futures, IHI's comprehensive youth program. It is designed to address all aspects of our resident children's lives, from their immediate needs to their future successes. Innovative Futures incorporates a variety of activities and services including academic support, summer lunches, annual school supply giveaways, Coats for Kids, after-school programming, a youth mentor program, workshops, community events, and fieldtrips. At IHI we understand the importance of building on a strong foundation, and what better foundation than that of an educated mind and a well-nourished body?

For children, an active summer helps them stay healthy, keeps their minds focused on learning, and creates a closer connection to their community. It also sets them up for success at school.
 
Cheers to a great summer!
Positioned for Success
"You can either let your hardships hold you back, or you can let [them] be your motivation to push you forward." Those wise words come from a very young person with a bright future. Elizabeth is a recent high school graduate who will be attending Portland State University this fall. Thanks to her hard work and a collaboration between Innovative Housing and Innovative Changes, Elizabeth will be able to complete her college degree taking on only $2,000 in debt.

Elizabeth's family has lived in IHI housing for 10 years. Her parents immigrated here from Mexico and, fortunately, have secured legal residency in the United States. The second of two children, Elizabeth has participated in many IHI programs over the years, including our Teen Mentor Program and Youth Advocates for Health (YA4-H). IHI's Resident Service Coordinator Marisa helped Elizabeth apply for and join Innovative Changes' Individual Development Account (IDA) Program. That amazing program helped her improve her fiscal resiliency and money management skills, and gave her access to a Credit Building Individual Development Account, or CBIDA, which is a part of the Oregon VIDA matched savings program. That means that for every dollar Elizabeth saved for college, she received matching funds that doubled her savings!

In addition to her savings account, Elizabeth received a Dale Krueger Scholarship, which honors and recognizes outstanding graduates of the Gresham-Barlow, Reynolds, and Centennial High School Districts. The combination of this prestigious scholarship and her matched savings will almost wholly cover the cost of her college education. Elizabeth is self-driven, intelligent, and outspoken, with a strong network of friends and family who support her. At IHI, we count ourselves among those supporters and look forward to seeing what she does with her talents!
Tools for Change
I HI is very excited about the Maker Space we are building in phase 2 of the Magnolia Apartments. This flexible shop space will enable residents to complete small projects, check out and use a variety of tools, and generally be creative, resourceful makers of things. This awesome space will also be home to introductory classes and pre-apprenticeship trainings offered by Constructing Hope to help residents explore construction careers, including specialized youth training.

We've been sharing this news with our friends and supporters. Fortunately for us, Steve Malany from P&C Construction attended IHI's 2018 FriendMaker and heard us talking about the Maker Space and our need for tools to equip it. Steve also happens to be President of the Associated General Contractors Oregon-Columbia Chapter Foundation. The AGC Foundation is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to supporting construction education and training, and promoting the construction industry. Steve saw a great fit for the Foundation to support a training site that will help bring new people into the construction industry and suggested that IHI make a funding request.

Bremik Construction, our general contractor for Magnolia phase 2, submitted an application on behalf of the project and one month later we learned that the AGC Foundation awarded us $4,600 to purchase tools! Combined with the other generous donations made at our FriendMaker, we are well on our way to a fully equipped shop space. Thank you Steve and the AGC Oregon-Columbia Chapter Foundation!
A Vibrant! Topping Out in the Pearl
Thanks to everyone who came to help celebrate the Topping Out of IHI's first tower building on June 14 th ! A Topping Out marks the completion of the top floor of a high rise, and IHI's new family housing in the Pearl is definitely rising to new heights. Thanks to Bremik Construction, Salazar Architects, and LRS Architects, the project is moving along right on schedule and will be ready for new residents in February 2019.

As part of the celebration, IHI unveiled the building's new name - Vibrant! This name was selected to reflect the building's design and intent. When Vibrant! is full of new residents, it will pulsate with life and vibrancy as families create homes for themselves. With its iconic, orange rotated bays Vibrant! will bring new energy to the Pearl's architectural landscape. Vibrant also means resonant - IHI hopes that this new building will elevate and help our residents' voices resonate as they tell their own stories here.
Special guests included second grade students in from Beverly Cleary School, who studied Vibrant! as part of an affordable housing development lesson with IHI's Executive Director. Bremik Construction project manager Damien Koehler took the students on a construction tour of the building.

Vibrant! will be home to 93 families on 12 floors. Most apartments are two and three-bedrooms and 40 of the large apartments will be subsidized and set aside for homeless families. Other rents will range from $350-$775 for a one-bedroom, $422-$932 for a two-bedroom, and $487-$1,022 for a three-bedroom.
Party-goers visited the future 12th story roof deck to soak in the views from the top .
 


Save the Date for National Night Out! 
August 8, 6-8 pm
Please join IHI, residents of the Broadway Vantage Apartments, and 400 of our closest neighbors for IHI's 6 th annual summer block party extravaganza!

This community event will be held at Hancock Park (NE 90th and Hancock) in the Madison South Neighborhood, from 6-8 pm on Wednesday, August 8th . Bring your family, your friends, and your lawn chairs - we will provide the food, drinks, and entertainment. It's a great way to get to know each other, meet our local police and firefighters, and have some fun! See you at the sno-cone stand or on the rock wall . . .
Innovative Housing Inc. 
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