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Greater Portland Bible Church to Sell Acreage for Affordable Housing

[Posted July 30, 2021]

A remnant of Hillsdale’s agricultural past, a five-acre parcel of land currently owned by the Greater Portland Bible Church is slated to become the site of as many as 50 new homes. Construction could begin in about two years, with units completed in about four years.

More than a year ago the Church entered into a contract to sell part of its land to Habitat for Humanity, a housing non-profit that builds and sells homes to low-income families. Since then Habitat has worked with the City of Portland to establish new property lines and rezone for increased density. As part of the process to meet zoning requirements of the new plots, Habitat has already begun removal of some of the parking lot currently on the site.

Habitat’s Portland Region president and CEO Steve Messenetti said he expects that the actual sale will take place by the end of 2021.

The parcel to be developed lies at the NE corner of the Portland Bible Church property. It extends from what is currently a little-used Church parking lot adjacent to the Shadow Hills Apartments east to Capitol Hill Rd. and approximately half-way to Nevada Ct. and falls within the school attendance boundaries of Rieke Elementary, Robert Gray Middle, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett High.

a satellite photo.
The approximate boundaries of the property currently owned by the Greater Portland Bible Church are shown in purple. The parcel Habitat for Humanity is planning to purchase is outlined in green. Representatives of the Church say there are no plans to sell additional property.

Mark Nordlund, a member of the Church who has been very involved with the sale, says the Church contacted Habitat about 2 ½ years ago. “The land is a parking lot that wasn’t really being used. We wanted to partner with someone like Habitat that would be contributing to the community, and low-income housing is a significant need in Portland.”

Plans for development include 50 town-house style units with two, three or four bedrooms, housing up to 200 residents. The new homes will be mostly duplexes. While not required by the City, each unit will have a dedicated parking space as well as additional parking for visitors. Some units will have garages as well.

A new street will be added, as well as a sidewalk and bike path. Current plans call for the sidewalk and bike path to run through the woods at the east end of the property rather than immediately next to Capitol Hill Rd., which Messinetti says poses difficulties for sidewalk construction.

Don Baack, member of the Hillsdale Neighborhood Association and founder of SW Trails PDX, says that while he strongly supports developing housing on this site, he has questions related to pedestrian and bicycle facilities: how will they be incorporated into the existing transportation network? How many street crossings will be necessary to access the new sidewalk and bike path? "We need transportation infrastructure that serves the greater Hillsdale community,” says Baack.

The Church property is also home, since 1999, to a publicly-accessible 14-hole disc golf course as well as to trails through the woods that connect Nevada Ct. with Capitol Hill Rd. The woods are not expected to be impacted by construction of the new housing, but the disc golf course was closed on July 27 as a result of the impending sale and development of the land.

The new development will follow the same model as Habitat’s earlier Hillsdale project in 2015 for seven homes constructed adjacent to the current lot, on land also purchased from the Church. Homes are individually owned and governed by a Homeowner’s Association, or HOA. To qualify for a Habitat home, families must have a household income that is between 35%-65% of the Portland area median income. Median income amounts change, but under calculations currently available on Habitat’s website, a family of four with combined income of between $33,915 and $58,140 could qualify for Habitat homeownership. In addition to financial and work history qualifications, buyers must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents and must contribute 300 hours of “sweat equity”, or hands-on work in the construction of their own home.

Says Habitat’s Messinetti, “Of all 500 families or more that are in Habitat homes, we haven’t had any foreclosures. We always do have some families that fall behind in their payments, if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be working with the right families.” Habitat homeowners, he adds, generally have much lower rates of mortgage default than the national averages.

Habitat does not manage the homes after the sale, but has adopted a “permanent affordability model” in which it retains first right to re-purchase from owners who want to sell or who go into arrears on their mortgage. This model aims to ensure that the home is affordable to the next buyer while allowing homeowners to build equity in their homes.

--Valeurie Friedman


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