By Joanne Zuhl, Staff writer
Oregon’s network of community development organizations — those developers, nonprofits and agencies that have been the backbone of affordable housing and economic development for low-income, elderly and disabled Oregonians — has taken a thrashing in the past few years.
The recession hit community development corporations, or CDCs, front and back, cutting resources while increasing demand. Despite progress in preserving and creating apartments and homes affordable to people in poverty, they haven’t kept pace with the growing ranks of their clientele.
The Oregon Opportunity Network, or Oregon ON, represents those developers, housing authorities, investors, service providers and community leaders that make affordable housing happen in Oregon. Combined, they have developed more than 16,000 units of housing, including single-family homes, and helped counsel and support more than 10,000 new homebuyers annually, according to Oregon ON.
In May, John Miller took the helm of Oregon ON as its new executive director, having served for nine years as the executive director of HOST Development, a nonprofit community development organization that built homes for low- and moderate-income buyers in Portland.
Although the recession is “technically” over, the wake of the housing collapse and economic uncertainty continues to roil the marketplace and political halls. Street Roots talked with Miller about the state of affordable housing, the message from member developers, and the challenges ahead.
Joanne Zuhl: The big question: What is the pulse of affordable housing in Portland?
John Miller: I think that we have a really strong set of folks who are doing their best to deliver affordable housing with the resources that they have. And that we also have a city that is committed to delivering a reliable supply of affordable housing. But I think that, as always, and this has been the same, recession or no, that there are not enough resources to meet the needs. I started in the affordable-housing industry in 2002, and at that time real estate was going up, and there were still really not enough affordable shelter at all at that point. And I think we’re worse now because the recession has created a huge demand.
And the big issue often is we supply housing but we don’t supply all the services that go along with the housing, and those service dollars are still missing. And just like eight years ago, they’re still not here. Overall, we have more units, which is great, but we also have a much higher demand. Continue reading