Lents gets new Native Americans housing

Discover how these high-quality apartments were built so quickly – and who will benefit from this unique project …

Officials and neighbors stream into what is reported to be Portland’s first affordable, modular housing development. It’s located in the Lents neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Usually when apartment buildings are constructed “in a hurry” – the result is yet another low-quality, boxy-looking structure, plunked down in an outer East Portland neighborhood.

But, “Kah San Chako Haws” (“East House” in the Chinook language), which is reported to be the first modular housing development in Portland, is different. So said its developers, at the grand opening ceremony for the complex in SE Holgate Boulevard on February 13.

“We are cutting the ribbon on nine units of affordable housing,” Native American Youth & Family Center (NAYA) Executive Director Matt Morton commented, as guests gathered.

NAYA Executive Director Matt Morton, and Board Member Joe Dulaney, get ready to tour one of nine units that comprise Kah San Chako Haws.

“It offers three 2-bedroom, three 1-bedroom, and three studio apartments. We put this together with a number of our partners, to provide affordable housing for the Native Community here in the mid-County area,” Morton told East Portland News.

The land chosen for it is near SE 97th Avenue on the north side of SE Holgate Boulevard – “because the Lents Neighborhood is one of the largest Native neighborhoods in our City; we like to go where our community lives. It’s also really important that we have housing in neighborhoods that are familiar with our community.”

Kah San Chako Haws units are designed to serve Native American elders, women with children under the age of five, and youths who are transitioning out how the foster care system: “100% of whom are considered to be living in poverty in Multnomah County,” observed Morton.

The $1.7 million apartments weren’t actually built in the Lents Neighborhood – they were “assembled”.  The modular units were manufactured by Blazer Industries in Aumsville, Oregon, near Salem – trucked to Portland, and then pieced together.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish has a light moment with project architect Stuart Emmons joined by NAYA Executive Director Matt Morton.

“It is really high quality construction,” remarked architect Stuart Emmons, of Emmons Design.  It’s got a very durable skin. And, the durable interiors are very attractive. Plus, it’s a LEED Gold certified, energy-efficient modular apartment complex.”

Portland City Commissioner Nick pointed to Emmons as a “person with the vision for taking a modular concept and creating something great.”

Fish said he came to the grand opening because was the City’s “former Housing Commissioner” when the project started last year. “We were so taken by their vision, we funded part of it with Lents Urban Renewal money.”

Taking shelter from the drizzling rain, guests are welcomed to the grand opening ceremony.

Calling it “high quality housing,” Fish continued, “This complex is a ‘plus’ here in this neighborhood, where there some distressed and foreclosed homes.

“I suspect there are not many people in this neighborhood who look at this development and say, ‘We don’t need more affordable housing here’. They embrace it because it is a net plus to the community,” Fish said.

Guests inspect one of the units at “Kah San Chako Haws”.

The Chair of the Lents Neighborhood Association, Nick Christiansen, speaking for himself, told East Portland News “It’s good to see a project get completed that helps people who live in the neighborhood already to find new ways to live together.

“This is a great example of what urban renewal can do,” Christiansen added. “And, it shows what partners can do when they come together in outer East Portland to build a project that really benefits everyone in the community.”

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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