Housing development promises a better life for ‘at risk’ families

Think this is just another low-income crackerbox, being stuffed in outer East Portland? Find out ROSE Development folks say Leander Court is actually a great addition to the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood …

A good-sized crowd of well-wishers gather for the grand opening ceremony at Leander Court in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Amid speeches, a ribbon cutting, and luncheon, ROSE Community Development unveiled its newest low-income housing project – Leander Court.

Before the ceremonies, we talked with ROSE executive director, Nick Sauvie.

“We’re opening 37 family units here at Leander Court apartments. This is a good step for providing families with children to get off to a better start,” Sauvie began.

ROSE Community Development’s executive director, Nick Sauvie, welcomes dignitaries and guests to the grand opening celebration.

“Most of these units have three or four bedrooms. The market isn’t providing housing like the units in this development, particularly at the rents we’re charging. We were 100% leased-up before we finished construction. This is pretty remarkable, and indicative of the demand for family housing.”

Eleven of the units at the development on SE 122nd Avenue, a block south of SE Holgate Boulevard, are dedicated to families at risk of homelessness, Sauvie told us. Two units are especially designed to accommodate on-site child-care.

“When you look around, the units are thoughtfully designed. There is a nice courtyard and play area. This is top-of-the-line in many ways.”

Provides low-income alternative
We ask, “Does outer East Portland really need more ‘low income housing’ built here?”

Sauvie replied, “When you look around the area, you see a lot of is poorly designed, poorly constructed, and poorly managed ‘market-rate’ housing units coming into neighborhoods. It isn’t necessarily inexpensive, but it is the only alternative some families have. We’re providing that alternative.

“We’re trying to create better opportunities for families,” Sauvie continued. “If we can help families pay affordable rents, they can put money away, saving up a down payment for a house. We’ve helped many folks like that in the last five years.”

Built for families
As we tour the development, we learn that the $7.4 million building was designed expressly for the needs of working families with children. The complex includes two on-site day-care facilities, a large outdoor play area, and consists primarily of three- and four-bedroom apartments.

The idea, Sauvie said, is to provide safe and stable homes to those earning less than half of the Median Family Income.

Portland has gone from having “most affording housing” to offering “least affordable housing”, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler says.

County Chair expresses his pride
During the ceremony, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler told the crowd, “In 1990, the City of Portland was considered to be one of the most affordable cities in the United States. My! How things have changed. In 2007, we’re one of the least affordable cities in which to live.

“I’m very proud of the work ROSE has done in the last 15 years to actually make sure we have a sustainable supply of affordable housing in Multnomah County.”

Multnomah County is funding five units, Wheeler says, for the families of women coming out of the jail system. “They deserve to have access to safe and affordable housing. Our Department of Community Justice is very proud to provide services to help those women who are reunited with their children to get back on their feet and become productive and included members of this community.

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard says more housing projects like Leander Court are needed in outer East Portland school districts.

City commissioner grateful
Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard also came to the grand opening event.

“This [project] is important here in the David Douglas School District. The city needs more housing and economic development around schools for working families who cannot afford good housing. I am so grateful for Rose development for all the work they do throughout all of East Portland.”

Snip! Leander Court is open!

Before the group headed into the development’s Community Room to enjoy lunch, ROSE board member, Jim Barrett, asked Sauvie to explain what a “Leander” is.

“A Leander is a lovely rose that produces clusters of small, apricot colored blooms,” Sauvie replied.

Showing off some of her delicious sandwiches provided to the grand opening celebration is Sarah Iannarone, owner Arleta Library Bakery Café across the street from Mt. Scott Community Center.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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