New Powellhurst-Gilbert residential community stands on ‘Proud Ground’

Find out why they named this project “Svaboda Court” – and, how it benefits the community …

Proud Ground personnel – including Executive Director Jesse Beason, Deputy Director Kathy Armstrong, Program Assistant Angela Fujii, and Cross-Cultural Outreach Coordinator Yesika Arévalo – welcome folks to the grand opening of the Svaboda Court project.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
One of the first questions asked by non-Russian speakers, of Proud Ground Deputy Director Kathy Armstrong, when they came to see the latest housing project in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood – is the meaning of the name “Svaboda”.

“There’s a fairly-well-established Russian community here in outer southeast Portland,” Armstrong explained. “Our outreach director asked members of the Russian community to suggest potential names, and ‘Svaboda’ came to the top of the list. It means ‘freedom’, or ‘independence’.”

Potential homebuyers mingle with contractors, and Proud Ground representatives, at the development’s grand opening.

This word is fitting, because the mission of Proud Ground is to help first-time homebuyers gain independence from paying rent, and the freedom to start building their financial future, Armstrong explained.

> Learn more about this organization. To read our article, “150th new homeowner served by ‘Proud Ground’”, CLICK HERE.

Project partners, governmental officials, and real estate agents came by for the official grand opening of the development – located at SE 121st Avenue on SE Pardee Street – on July 25.

“We’re offering 12 cottage-style units,” Armstrong said. “That’s a real-estate term for this style of townhome. They are two and three bedrooms, priced from $105,900 up to $131,900. They’re available to first-time home buyers who qualify – that is, who earn under 80% of Portland’s median household income.”

Their “community land trust” organization purchased the property for the development several years ago, not long after they developed Pardee Commons in outer East Portland, which is almost across the street. “Because of the recession, we have some delays in getting construction financing. We finally secured it last summer, and started building.”

Wanting to create housing with lasting value, Armstrong pointed out that all of the units feature master suites with private bath, and are arranged around shared green space. “Each homeowner is responsible for their own unit, and for the care of the shared space – but it’s not a ‘condo association’ arrangement.”

In addition to being well-designed, and appearing to be well built, they’re also “green” – exceeding State of Oregon High Performance Home standards, and NW Energy Star requirements. The efficient and sustainable features include solar hot water, wood floors, insulation well beyond code, triple-pane windows, state-of-the-art heating, and “Energy Star” appliances.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish and Portland Housing Bureau Director Traci Manning learn about the many features built into these units from Proud Ground’s Jesse Beason.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish smiled as he looked over the new homes.

“One of our three priorities of the Portland Housing Bureau is promoting homeownership,” Fish said “This is part of our strategy to make sure that hard-working families have residence choices throughout the city. So, we are investing in this neighborhood, among others. The idea is, if a prospective homeowner seems to be ‘priced out of the market’ they should be able to have choices throughout the City.

This volunteer grill chef has a “day job” – he’s Dennis Harris, a co-owner of Albina Construction.

“That’s why we’re a proud partner in this development,” Fish concluded.

Fish also praised Proud Ground regarding their choice of contractors. “They’ve doubled their goals set by the City for minority/women owned businesses participating as subcontractors.”

Adding to the stock of good housing also helps the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood, and other mid-County areas, Fish said. “We’re bringing homeowners here and stabilizing families – and thus, stabilizing the neighborhood.”

Armstrong, in turn, thanked the lead lenders: The Portland Housing Bureau, the Portland Development Commission, and Community Frameworks, which is affiliated with HUD.

With a “community land trust” arrangement, Armstrong added, there is an investment made at the outset that reduces the purchase price of a home. Homeowners agree, should they decide to sell the home in the future, to “share the equity” built up over time with the next home buyer, thus keeping intact a stock of affordable housing.

This sign on SE Pardee Street welcomes potential homebuyers to their potential new home at Svaboda Court.

“Prospective homeowners must attend a free one-hour homeownership information class that explains the Proud Ground program,” Armstrong explained. “They’re also required to take an eight hour ‘Housing 101’ class, offered by partners like the Portland Housing Center that helps them learn about budgeting, credit, and how to qualify for a mortgage.

“We like to make sure that our buyers are really ready for home ownership,” Armstrong summed up.

The best way to learn more about Proud Ground is to visit their website. CLICK HERE to open their homepage.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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