Habitat for Humanity turns more renters into Lents homeowners

You’ll be amazed to see which diverse groups got together to build their newest housing development in outer East Portland …

A diverse group of volunteers gather, as the Lents Landing development built by Habitat for Humanity Portland Metro East is completed.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Folks involved with Habitat for Humanity Portland Metro East love seem love celebrating completing a project as much as they enjoy building it.

And, there was a grand celebration, as the Lents Landing development’s first family was about to move into their home at SE 97th Avenue and SE Woodstock Boulevard, just east of the I-205 Freeway, on January 30.

Habitat for Humanity Portland Metro East’s Executive Director, Steve Messinetti, pauses for a moment before the grand opening ceremony with Margaret VanVliet, Director of the City of Portland Bureau of Housing.

Focus on Lents
“Why this focus on outer Southeast Portland?” we asked the organization’s executive director, Steve Messinetti.

“It’s true, we’ve had success here in Lents – in part, due to its being an Urban Renewal Area,” Messinetti told us. “This provides some tax increment finance dollars for purchasing properties. Over 30 homes will be built here in Lents; it’s an area in which we plan to stay.”

Another reason they’ve focus on Lents is the perceived need for it, Messinetti added. “In this area, there are many renters and a great deal of low income housing. We’re excited to provide some stability – especially for the school system that has struggled with the mobility issue.”

City of Portland Bureau of Housing’s Director, Margaret VanVliet, was also at the grand opening ceremony, and concurred with Messinetti. “An important part of urban renewal is including housing that lower income families can afford to purchase. It helps keep the community stable.”

The Lents Landing community of homes features sturdy, spacious family-sized units – for people willing to work for them.

Diverse organizations make home ownership dreams come true
Messinetti pointed out that, along with the City of Portland and Walsh Construction Company, Lents Landing was sponsored and built by parishioners of Presbyterian churches – and the “Portland Pride Builders”.

“The Portland Pride Builders is a specialty builder that is partnering with Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East,” Messinetti explained. “Portland Pride Build embraces Portland’s diversity by bringing together the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community and their friends to plan and build a healthy and affordable home for a family in need.”

Still no handouts
Part of the Habitat for Humanity plan gives families low monthly payments by providing financing. But, this isn’t a give-away program, Messinetti was quick to add. “ “‘Sweat equity’ is still part of it. Homeowners will all have put in at least 500 hours of labor to help complete their, and others’, homes.”

Fernando Jimenez and his family gather for a photo in front of their new home in Lents Landing.

About to move into their new home was Fernando Jimenez and his family.

Jimenez was all smiles as he told us, “It’s a very good feeling to have a home, because we’ve been moving, many times, from apartment to apartment. The rents keep going up. Now, we are going to have one place to live, with a low payment every month.”

Beyond the financial benefits that his family will accrue, Jimenez said that having a permanent home will be good for them too. “My children are going to know they will be coming home here every day. It feels better; it feels like we are now part of the community.”

Clackamas Town Center’s Romano’s Macaroni Grill team members Tim Pagnotta, Laura Sleyter, and Manager Russell Smith stand ready to serve lunch to hungry volunteers at the Lents Landing celebration.

Swing a hammer; donate funds
People wanting to get involved with Habitat for Humanity can help in a variety of ways, Messinetti smiled. “Every day of the week, volunteers are working, building homes. But, there are many ways to get involved.”

He pointed to the caterers of the event, the Clackamas Town Center’s Romano’s Macaroni Grill store. Its Manager, Russell Smith, said, “Our owner, Barry McGowan, is a proud sponsor of Habitat for Humanity, and has been since our introduction in the Portland market. Whenever there’s a Habitat for Humanity event close to one of our locations, we’re more than willing to lend a hand.”

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity Portland Metro East, see their website: CLICK HERE to visit it!

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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