Building Blocks

CCC Ramps up Efforts to Create Affordable Housing

Portland is booming, and becoming increasingly popular with all walks of life—folks are moving here from all over country. And in so many ways, this is great news. But the city’s spiraling growth is also making it harder for people who, for a variety of reasons, lack the means to pay for increasingly costly housing.  But one prominent local organization, Central City Concern (CCC), is working hard to help—and it’s become one of the most effective nonprofits on the West Coast in addressing housing concerns.

Miracles Center, in Northeast Portland

Miracles Center, in Northeast Portland

For most of its history—which dates back to 1979—the focus has been primarily on assisting clients who are dealing with a variety of special challenges, especially addiction. “It’s extremely difficult to fully engage in this recovery if you’re living on the sidewalk and don’t have a roof over your head,” says Susan Wickstrom, CCC’s Director of Communications and Marketing. But, she adds, “now that there’s somewhat of a housing crisis, we’re just doing what we can to provide more affordable housing in general. That means developing new projects with partners and coming up with creative ways to help people find places to live.”

CCC already owns and manages mor than 1,600 units of affordable housing throughout the city, much of it in the vicinity of the Pearl District. “A founding board member liked the idea of taking over former SRO hotels and rehabbing them into recovery housing, so we have several buildings in Old Town,” says Wickstrom. The latest developments, some that opened this year and others that are underway, are mostly in other parts of the metro area.

In July 2016 in nearby Clackamas, CCC—in collaboration with Clackamas County, Oregon Housing & Community Services, and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation— opened Town Center Courtyards, which provides 60 units of bright, well-equipped family-friendly apartments in a part of the metro region that had desperately needed it.  In addition to serving as a safe and supportive place to live, two full-time CCC staffers work on-site to provide guidance and resources related to finding employment and educational opportunities, working on recovery and healthy, and fine-tuning other life skills.

Housing is Health press conference

Housing is Health press conference

Another major accomplishment this past summer was the development, in partnership with the Miracles Club, of Miracles Central Apartments on 2nd Avenue and Wasco Street in Northeast Portland. This 47-unit multicultural community is both alcohol- and drug-free. And in spring 2017, 39-unit Hill Park Apartments is slated to open in Lair Hill; according to CCC, about 20 percent of the units will be reserved for “individuals living with serious mental illness,” and the others are for low-income households.

Looking forward, a prominent example of CCC developing creative partnerships, often with private-sector entities, is the “Housing for Health” initiative, through which CCC has liaisoned with six of Portland’s most prominent healthcare entities to invest $21.5 million in the construction of three Portland housing developments—containing a total of 382 housing units—and a brand-new health-services center. “For healthcare organizations to address one of the social determinants of housing in such a monetary way is fantastic, and somewhat unprecedented,” says Wickstrom. If people don’t have a place to live, they aren’t going to be as healthy.”

Town Center Courtyards interior

Town Center Courtyards interior

There are also ways in which Portland businesses are raising money to help with affordable housing through campaigns that directly fund CCC’s initiatives. Consider the fast-growing Pearl-based vacation-rental property-management company Vacasa, which recently launched its Home for the Holidays campaign, in which the company’s Oregon-based vacation-homeowners are encouraged to donate $100 of what they book during the Thanksgiving holiday period to CCC. Vacasa has pledged to match every donation. Interested in chipping in yourself? Stop by the Vacasa Home for the Holidays GoFundMe page, where anybody can donate.

CCC also takes a number of other novel approaches to accomplishing its objectives, from having created Central City Bed, a line of beds, bedding, and other furniture that’s resistant to bed bugs, to launching Central City Coffee, which we wrote about earlier this year. The sales of CCC’s artisan-roasted beans, which are sold at fine markets all around town, generate funds for the organization, and this roasting operation also provides employment and training opportunities for clients. Of course, you needn’t be tied with a major business to help further CCC’s tremendous efforts to reduce homelessness in Portland. You can take a moment to donate on the CCC site.

For Portanders in need of housing, CCC’s efforts look to greatly brighten the future over the next few years. “We have quite a substantial waiting list,” says Wickstrom. And these plans to greatly increase affordable housing “will make the biggest difference.” –Andrew Collins

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