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Grace Stratton, Bryan Guiney, Ivory Matthews, Carmen Rubio, Patricia Rojas, Damian Hall
Saundra Sorenson
Published: 12 October 2023

Dekum Court sits on a little more than five acres where, thanks to the 2018 Metro Affordable Housing Bond, 147 new units will be added by the project’s completion.

dekum court introPatricia Rojas, Grace Stratton, Damian Hall, Ivory Matthews, Carmen Rubio, Ian Davie (Photo by Saundra Sorenson)
“As stewards of taxpayer dollars, it’s critical to maximize density to benefit as many people as possible,” Ivory Matthews, CEO of Home Forward, said. Her organization partnered with Metro, the city of Portland, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Oregon Housing and Community services to launch the two-phase project.

Matthews explained Dekum Court will introduce 80 two-bedroom, 41 three-bedroom, and seven four-bedroom apartments to the affordable housing market. Of the 187 units that will ultimately be available, 61 will be affordable to households earning 30% or less of the area family income. To be eligible for the remainder of the units, families must have incomes at or below 60% of the area median family income.

“The good news is this development will provide long-term affordability – 99 years to be exact,” Matthews said.

She added, “There’s more to come.

"Affordable home ownership options are also planned along the Western boundary of this 5.3-acre site.”

Bryan Guiney, director of the HUD Oregon field office, pointed to developments like Dekum Court as key in ending homelessness – which in Portland increased more than 20% between 2020 and 2022.

“In spite of the challenges we face, we have one thing that few other vexing social problems have: We know what works,” Guiney said.

“We know that housing works to solve homelessness. We know that supportive housing can solve homelessness for people with some of the most complex needs. We’ve proven this again and again, study after study, in buildings and projects like this right here.” 

dekum court medDekum Court Dekum Court was first constructed in 1972 as a response to Portland’s affordable housing shortage. It is located two blocks from Faubion Elementary School, is within walking distance to the University of Oregon’s Portland campus and is situated near two major buslines.

The community’s newly renovated 40 original units are indistinguishable from their market-rate counterparts elsewhere in the city: Brand new stainless steel appliances, clean neutral tones and large windows, portable air conditioning units, in-unit washer and dryer hookups, complement communal amenities including on-site laundry facilities, computer stations, outdoor play places and a large community room.

Walsh Construction and Lever Architecture, P.C. are overseeing redesign, upgrades and new construction. Home Forward was intentional when selecting partners and project employees, Matthews explained.

“One of the most important community commitments is ensuring that our development work is providing livable, living wage jobs for women and communities of color,” she said. “The median wage for women who were working on Dekum phase one was approximately $30 per hour. People who identify as (from) communities of color performed 58% of the construction labor hours.”

Local government leaders praised Dekum Court as a model of community collaboration and multi-agency involvement.

Thanks to developments like Dekum Court, “We’re on track to meet and exceed our Metro bond goals for Portland,” Portland City Commissioner Carmen Rubio said. “Where we set a goal to create 1,475 new permanently affordable units within Portland’s allocation of the Metro Affordable Housing Bond, we currently have more than 1,500 open or in progress. That’s housing for more than 4,000 Portlanders.”

Guiney praised Rubio’s efforts to increase the affordable housing supply in Portland.

“The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provided 476 emergency housing vouchers directly to Home Forward, and an additional $14 million in home investment grants to the Portland Housing Bureau, under Commissioner Rubio’s leadership,” Guiney said. 

In a competitive special round of funding earlier this year, the Joint Office of Homeless Services partnered with Home Forward to apply and were successful in bringing an additional $8 million for NARA, and that came with an additional 77 housing choice vouchers for Home Forward. 

Finally, as a digital equity champion, Home Forward was awarded $330,000 in March this year through the Affordable Connectivity Outreach Grant program” to bridge the broadband affordability gap.

“We have capacity; it’s about the funding,” Rubio told The Skanner.

“And it’s about making sure we’re optimized at every level of government to get projects like this off the ground, and as quickly as possible.

"I feel like we have the mechanisms, but it’s really about aligning resources, and it’s also about having more resources come down from the federal government, from the state, from private sector partnerships.”

She added, “We also need to do our work within the city to make sure that our systems are catalyzed to support facilitation of development of projects like these. So, for example, we’re tackling the permitting system to make sure it doesn’t take as long to go through the system and navigate through the city to get projects like these off the ground, which can sometimes be a deterrent for housing development to occur…I think that with all of our jurisdictions doing all of that work in our backyard first, all that contributes to creating the foundation and tilling the soil, so that when these things do come up, they’re meeting up with the optimal situation in the city so that we’re ready to go.”

For more information about Dekum Court, visit homeforward.org.

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