Three Portland nonprofits to share $5 million grant to invest in communities at risk of displacement

By: Jamie Goldberg - Nov 04, 2020
Source: The Oregonian

Three nonprofits will share a $5 million, three-year grant from JPMorgan Chase to address affordability issues and combat gentrification in North and East Portland and along the proposed light-rail line in Southwest Portland.

The newly awarded money is going to Craft3, the Network for Oregon Affordable Housing and the Community Housing Fund. All three organizations are community development financial institutions who focus on personal lending and business development efforts in underserved communities.

JPMorgan Chase received 150 proposals this year for funding through its AdvancingCities Challenge, which is part of its $500 million, five-year economic development initiative. Portland was one of seven cities receiving grants.

The organizations plan to use the money to provide loans to residents and small businesses and invest in affordable housing with an emphasis on supporting people of color most at risk of displacement.

“By bringing our respective organizations together, we’re really trying to intentionally focus on both jobs and affordable housing retention in those areas,” said Bill Van Vliet, executive director of the Network for Oregon Affordable Housing.

Van Vliet said the money will enable the organizations to identify and help developers acquire property for affordable housing. Over the three-year period, he said the organizations hope to seed three major housing projects, supporting the construction and preservation of an estimated 250 affordable housing units.

The grant money will also be used to provide loans to homeowners to build accessory dwelling units for rent and provide assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs to help ensure that property remains locally-owned.

Craft3 CEO Adam Zimmerman said the grant money is significant for the organizations and will give them the flexibility and time to identify and make targeted investments in housing and businesses within specific neighborhoods.

Zimmerman said the organizations will hire a staff member to connect and work with neighborhood groups in North, East and Southwest Portland to identify opportunities where they can make the most meaningful investments.

“We want the communities in these neighborhoods that are at risk of gentrification and rising property values and rents to have an opportunity to stay where they are,” Zimmerman said. “This is especially consequential in areas like the Southwest corridor that are primed for serious infrastructure investment from the new MAX line.”

The future of the new MAX line is in doubt after Tuesday’s election as voters rejected Metro’s proposed payroll tax on employers that was supposed to support the light rail project. The three nonprofits have not yet decided how they will allocate the grant money between North, East and Southwest Portland.

Portland has a long and troubling history of displacing communities of color through large-scale development projects, most notably in the Albina neighborhood where the construction of Interstate 5 and Memorial Coliseum in the 1950s led to the destruction of nearly 1,500 homes and businesses.

The city itself has tried to make amends for those actions over the past decade, promising to make racial equality, diversity and inclusion pillars of its development work.

Van Vliet said the grant will give the three nonprofits the opportunity to help maintain affordability and combat displacement by investing in communities experiencing rapid growth, something that is especially important given Portland’s past failures in preventing gentrification.

“It’s an exciting opportunity and we’re really pleased to bring the resources into the community,” Van Vliet said. “We’re hopeful it is going to make an impactful difference.”