Building a foundation for partnershipdarion Thu, 12/17/2020 - 13:14

Many of us that have come through the public education system know very little about the nine federally recognized Tribal nations who have existed since time immemorial in this place we now call Oregon. It’s no coincidence: The invisibility of Native people is intentional and systematized. We’ve also been fed a steady diet of biased stereotypes and indoctrinated to colonialism, which allows us to overlook how the control and exploitation of Indigenous lands impact how we relate to one another and the natural world.

Unlearning these biases and dismantling colonial systems are critical if we are to move forward in building a just, multicultural, democratic state where all people can thrive.

Meyer and other organizations will never have the formal, government-to-government relationship that federal and state jurisdictions are required to forge with Tribal nations. For us to have a productive, voluntary relationship with Native communities, then, we need first to challenge ourselves to build a solid foundation for partnership. One that seeks authentic and deliberate relationship-building, cross-cultural learning, and an understanding of Tribal history, governance and current Tribal community priorities. Only then can we be ready for productive partnership.

Meyer staff and trustees have taken this challenge to heart. We worked to develop a base understanding of Native American sovereignty, to understand that Tribes are the original stewards of the land and waters and how rich traditional knowledge can inform our collective practices. We’ve invested time to meet with each of the Native nations in our state and listen to their unique histories, customs and wisdom as well as their current priorities and how we can partner with them. And we’ve started to decolonize our language and processes. Indigenous staff members at Meyer shape the culture of the organization, provide leadership around relationship-building with Tribes and remind us of the areas where more learning is needed.

One important partner in Meyer’s journey is the Institute for Tribal Governance (ITG) at Portland State University, which has helped us acquire knowledge of history as well as current Indigenous world views, Tribal politics and tribal community priorities. After two program directors (Jill and Theresa) participated in the yearlong Professional Certificate in Tribal Relations program at the ITG, we came away enthusiastic that other organizations could benefit from cross-cultural learning and intentional relationship-building.

In early December, Meyer is experimenting with ITG to bring a Tribal Relations workshop to a group of Meyer grantees in the Housing Opportunities and Healthy Environment portfolios whose work connects with Tribes or serves Indigenous people. Over two half-day sessions, the group will receive a condensed version of Tribal history and sovereignty. It is not nearly enough time for deep understanding, but it will serve as a springboard for more learning and create connections for nonprofits to figure out together how to build a strong foundation and show up as better partners with Tribes.

If the experiment is successful, we can help folks begin to move away from transaction-focused relationships and form relationships based on Indigenous understandings of reciprocity and kinship with humans, other organisms and living systems. Together, we must learn from and honor our past, include all voices at the table in our present, and build the foundation for a thriving and inclusive future.

— Theresa

Interested in learning more about building a foundation for partnership and decolonizing your workplace? Here are some resources for more learning:

Meyer staff in front of the Chachalu Museum in Grand Ronde.

Meyer staff in front of the Chachalu Museum in Grand Ronde.

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ICYMI: Good Companydarion Wed, 08/26/2020 - 09:46

Last week the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Council on Foundations recognized Meyer Memorial Trust and a broad partnership working to address homelessness as a recipient of the 2020 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships.

Meyer was honored alongside six other foundations: Sheller Family Foundation, The Homeless Assistance Fund Inc., Quicken Loans Community Fund, The Rockefeller Foundation, Bernard Project (SBP Long-Term Home Rebuilding) and MUFG Union Bank Foundation.

The Secretary’s Award recognizes cross-sector partnerships that have been crucial to transforming communities and improving the quality of life for low- and moderate-income residents across the country. Benefits include increased economic development, health, safety, education, housing access, disaster resilience, inclusivity and access to cultural opportunities.

Meyer was recognized for its partnership with Worksystems, Inc. on the Economic Opportunity Program (EOP), a network linking employment and housing services for formerly homeless families in Portland, providing low-income residents community-based career coaching and support. Many trusted community-based organizations were critical to the effort.

The innovative EOP collaborative weaves together state, federal and local resources and demonstrates how to align and strengthen local providers while expanding services to food stamp recipients. Other partners included local employment program funders such as the Joint Office of Homeless Services (the local Continuum of Care agency) and Prosper Portland (the local economic development agency), state grant administrators (the Oregon Department of Human Services which administers the SNAP 50/50 reimbursement), federal partners within HUD (Portland Field Office) and USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

“We want to commend our award winners for their efforts to show the importance of government and philanthropy partnership,” said Secretary Ben Carson. “Today’s announcements of these awards honor the collaborative and unites us all together so that more Americans have the opportunity to be successful.”

“The recipients of this year’s Secretary's Award are stellar examples of the transformational power of strong public-philanthropic partnerships to improve the quality of life for generations of families,” said Kathleen Enright, president and CEO of the Council on Foundations. "The foundations and corporate philanthropies honored today provide insights and ideas for how to effectively respond to our nation’s most pressing challenges.”

Since the Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships was established in 2012, winners in the Northwest and Alaska include the Rasmuson Foundation, Home Partnership Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Raikes Foundation and Seattle Foundation.

Housing has long been one of Meyer’s highest priorities because we recognize that all people need a home that is stable, safe and affordable. The Housing Opportunities portfolio’s core goals address housing development and preservation, housing support services and sector strengthening. We are proud to support a strong network of nonprofit partners across the state that are addressing the needs of Oregonians and advancing Meyer’s vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon.

You can learn more about Worksystems and the Economic Opportunity Program here.

Read more about the recipients of the 2020 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships here.

Fred G. Meyer, founder of Meyer Memorial Trust. Image source:

Fred G. Meyer, founder of Meyer Memorial Trust. Image source:

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Accepting Applications: Housing Opportunities 2020 Justice-Involved RFP

Locally, nationally and around the world communities are demanding policing and prison reforms. Simply put: Our current justice systems are not working to provide community safety.

As we at Meyer begin to look toward the future of what is needed for community safety and justice for all, we know that we cannot forget about the individuals and families that have been harmed by incarceration or jail. The long-term negative impacts of trauma, family and community separation, extended periods of supervision and regulatory conditions, community stigma, limited income, and reduced housing options increase the chances of recidivism and reincarceration. Poverty coupled with historical and institutional discrimination have led to the over incarceration of Black and Brown communities, and mass incarceration and policies that were designed to be tough on crime have perpetuated cycles of poverty and incarceration that continue to leave devastating effects on our communities.

Philanthropy must rise to its responsibility and disrupt this system of injustice.

In Oregon, tens of thousands of people have criminal records and the Oregon Health Authority estimates that about 26,000 people are released from jails and 5,500 people from federal and state prisons back into the community every year. Data show that people of color are more likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system and people who have experienced incarceration or jail are more likely to experience higher rates of poverty, homelessness, addiction and mental health needs. There is growing recognition that successful reintegration into society for individuals involved in the criminal justice system benefits those individuals, their families and the broader community. Research from Prison Policy Initiative shows that housing can be a powerful pathway for individuals involved in the criminal justice system to transition out of the cycle of incarceration and back into the community or workforce and reduces the likelihood of an individual returning to jail or prison.

Supporting people who have been justice-involved to secure housing is one of the many ways that philanthropy can disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty.

In pursuit of Meyer’s vision of a flourishing and equitable Oregon, the Housing Opportunities portfolio released a Request for Proposals (RFP) on June 22 inviting applications from nonprofits, government agencies and organizations with existing re-entry programs.

The focus of the RFP is to fund interventions and supports that address housing stability gaps for people returning from state and federal prisons, local jails and juvenile facilities and those with past justice involvement and their families. This RFP will especially focus on funding work that addresses gaps in renter access due to past and present discriminatory systems and practices and efforts that advance marginalized populations in building a better life for themselves on a foundation of stable housing.

This funding opportunity will increase access to and retention of private market units for individuals living on low incomes who are also justice-involved by supporting effective strategies that engage private market landlords and management companies as partners in addressing affordable housing needs across Oregon communities.

Two funding information sessions will be available for this Request for Proposals:

  • Friday, June 26, at 11 a.m. PST
  • Wednesday, July 8, at 11 a.m. PST

During the video conference, we will provide participants with an informative overview of the new funding opportunity, offer ideas about what successful applications might look like for housing-focused organizations and much more.

You can find more details about the RFP here.

I look forward to connecting with you during the information sessions.


Applications for the 2020 Justice-Involved Request for Proposals are due by 5pm on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

RFP details

  1. Use of funds
  2. Information sessions

Meyer Memorial Trust invites proposals that will increase access to quality private market housing units for individuals living on low-incomes who are also justice-involved. Up to $150,000, over two years, in new funding is available.

Applicants will be notified of their award status in late November, with funding available in early to mid-December.

Grant funds can be used for a variety of purposes to support the proposed project’s goals, including the following examples:

  • Project management or consulting services dedicated to furthering the project.
  • Hiring staff to support the project.
  • Approaches and strategies that will reduce screening barriers for individuals living on low-incomes who are also justice-involved such as reasonable accommodations or appeals, utility debt relief, rental applications, etc.
  • Evaluation and assessment.
  • Development of educational material, toolkits, manual of project.
  • Other uses as approved by Meyer.

Meyer staff will present an overview of the RFP and answer questions during two online information sessions on Friday, June 26, at 11am PST and Wednesday, July 8, at 11am PST. To attend, please visit the event registration page to receive details for joining the session. Attendance is encouraged but not mandatory.

To register for the session, please visit: Attendance is encouraged but not mandatory.

Apply soon!
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A conversation on housing and employment systems darion Fri, 09/27/2019 - 14:05

Housing stability is inextricably linked with other systems of care – health care, criminal justice, child welfare and education, to name a few. We were intrigued to see a proposal in 2017 from a collaborative working at the intersection of affordable housing and workforce development. Worksystems, Inc. was leading a collaborative effort to link employment and housing services for formerly homeless families in Portland, giving low-income residents community-based career coaching and supports to achieve family-supporting employment.

We saw the project as an opportunity for systems to coordinate in intentional, equity-informed ways that could produce better outcomes for both employment and housing stability. Now, over a year into the work, we are following up with Stacey Triplett, community programs manager at Worksystems, to hear more about the collaborative’s progress.

Theresa: How is Worksystems’ project aligning with the homeless services system?

Stacey: The Worksystems’ Aligned Partners Network (APN) is a flexible set of community-based employment service providers who are experienced in a customer-centered approach. This network approach creates success in making relevant services available in our community for folks experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity.

Today, APN career coaches are a vital part of homeless services, working one on one with customers getting jobs, getting scholarships for occupational training and getting better jobs, all of which serves to stabilize their housing. High-demand, family-wage careers are open to those with a need for housing support if, and only if, they are able to set career goals and layer supports that are needed. Supports are timed to make progress possible; customers both gain skills and access employment opportunities.

The model for systems alignment is a “housing hub” approach where dedicated rent assistance coordinators bring housing market knowledge to customers in need of rapid rehousing or eviction prevention services alongside the work of the employment service providers of the APN. The same customers are shared across systems. The new normal is for career coaches to engage with their customers before, during and after they receive rent assistance in a manner that demonstrates that both housing AND employment stability are goals around which they engage their customers. This was a result of career coaches coordinating closely with and experiencing great support from the housing hub and its specialty knowledge to address short-term rent assistance needs.

Theresa: Can you share an example of a household that has benefitted from your work?

Stacey: Sure. Khalid had a master’s degree in electrical engineering and eight years of experience before he arrived in Portland as a refugee. To be recognized as a professional engineer in this country, his career coach helped with his resume and requesting the recommendations he needed in order to get approval to take the engineer licensing exam. He also had to take an English exam to qualify for the test.

At first, Khalid stayed with friends, and it was very crowded and noisy. He had difficulty studying for the English exam, but with only $300 a month in refugee assistance, landlords would not approve him for a unit. His career coach referred Khalid for rent assistance, and he was able to secure a unit quickly. His new home provides a safe and quiet space to study in order to pass the English exams and the professional engineering exam that he will be required to take in order to regain his certifications.

Once he had his own place, Khalid said, “I was able to focus on getting a job.” He found work as an electrical engineer at a construction firm and is working full time. Khalid has been approved to take the professional engineering exam in October and continues to study for it. His career coach will use support service funds to pay the costs and fees associated with taking the exam. At the same time, Khalid is already giving back to the community by helping others learn English and translating for them.

Theresa: Impressive work by Khalid and the team! How long have you been doing this collaborative work?

Stacey: This has been a journey of over five years. Meyer Memorial Trust supported work that brought all the relevant organizations together in these efforts. Human Solutions, as the housing hub, learned to share customers with IRCO, SE Works, Oregon Tradeswomen, Constructing Hope, Central City Concern and Human Solution’s own employment department. In more recent years, the network has grown to include Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center, Latino Network, the Urban League of Portland and Black Parent Initiative. Our project also prioritized production of data on how efforts that career coaches and rent assistance coordinators make on behalf of their shared customers increase their success by orders of magnitude compared to prior disconnected approaches. Specifically, in 2017 we measured greater income increases (almost double the rate of increase) for customers in the shared approach compared to those who were not. And they were also 53% more likely to leave the program employed.

Theresa: What special role do the collaborative partners play in the project?

Stacey: They are the absolute champions of this effort. All the day-to-day changes to accommodate this new model have been made in a very consensus-oriented manner with good participation and communication amongst and between career coaches and rent assistance coordinators.

Theresa: What kind of challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

Stacey: We’ve found that systems alignment challenges can best be overcome with frequent and clear communications. With our system alignment work with the housing system, understanding each other’s performance metrics can be difficult, but the deeper we dig the more that we understand the intricacies of each other’s work with participants and how our decisions impact participant lives and performance outcomes for both systems.

Theresa: What do you hope happens going forward?

Stacey: I hope how career coaches and rent assistance coordinators work together will be sustained by the benefits that both colleagues create for customers’ outcomes. It took time for each area to learn one another’s strengths, procedures and how to best stabilize customers experiencing housing instability while pursuing employment goals. Now there’s a natural alliance where housing and employment are “everyone’s business.”

There are many ways the network has embraced the customer-centered teaming that happens when career coaches appreciate the intricacies of operating the housing hub and rent assistance coordinators take cues from training timeframes and employment activities to make sure customers can achieve their goals.

Theresa: Are you able to share the results of your work to a broader audience?

Stacey: There has been interest in this work by many national bodies. Currently, Portland is featured in the 2018 Systems Work Better Together: Strengthening Public Workforce & Homeless Service Systems Collaboration report by the Heartland Alliance. Also, this work has been featured to inspire states outside Oregon to consider utilizing public resources such as are utilized here to fund “SNAP to Skills” efforts that the USDA supports nationwide. An Oregon Housing and Community Services webinar was held with participation from housing professionals, workforce development staff and local funders around the country.

Theresa: Congratulations! Anything else you would like us to know?

Stacey: This goal of systems aligning for customer benefit is that everyone comes to see the connections as the most logical, natural and smooth way of working and doubts that it was ever any other way.

Theresa: That’s a great ending thought. Thank you so much, Stacey, for sharing the progress on this collaborative work to align systems.

Economic Opportunity Rent Assistance Program participants share experiences of using the EOP program at the A Home for Everyone coordinating board meeting in April 2019.

Economic Opportunity Rent Assistance Program participants share experiences of using the EOP program at the A Home for Everyone coordinating board meeting in April 2019.

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Oregon’s housing advocates aim highdarion Fri, 09/27/2019 - 13:43

When it comes to affordable housing issues, the legislative session that just wrapped up in Salem was one of the most momentous ever. Advocates won major victories around additional state funding, tenant protections, preservation, attention to manufactured housing and more flexible zoning that will help create more housing choice in desirable neighborhoods across the state. So much important work happened we can barely keep track of it, but our friends at the Oregon Housing Alliance have put together a handy summary here.

It may have been tempting in the past for philanthropic funders to shy away from advocacy, worrying that involvement in “political” work could compromise their moral authority or broader influence in the community somehow. More and more, we all realize that that kind of hesitation marks a huge missed opportunity. Meyer’s housing work has become increasingly engaged in the past few years with supporting advocacy, simply because that’s the path to real impact on the housing issues facing Oregonians. If we want to make a real difference in affordable housing (or the other core issues that define Meyer’s agenda and mission), we need to help build a broader constituency and inform public discussions and decisions that shape how cities, counties and the state address those issues. A Meyer grant may be important to the success of a particular housing project or service program supporting housing, but addressing the issues we care about at scale requires shifting public investments and public policy.

We can’t take credit for the big wins in Salem (or in city halls and county offices around the state), but we’re proud to support grassroots advocates, nonprofit leaders, policy experts and journalists who are building momentum, mobilizing people and crafting effective messaging around affordable housing.

This spring, we released our fourth Request for Proposals specifically to support housing advocacy work, inviting proposals for up to two years, with eligibility broadly defined to include projects that expand the number and diversity of voices engaged in housing advocacy and promote concrete policy and systems changes at both the local and statewide levels. Reflecting the high level of interest and activity around the state, we received 40 proposals — more than any previous housing-focused RFP! We are excited to share the results: 11 new grants totaling $1 million over the next two years:

Better Housing Together $80,000 (Lane County)

For a two year initiative to enlarge and increase the effectiveness of BHT’s growing cross-sector coalition to advocate for stronger pro-affordable housing policies and resources in Eugene, Springfield and the rest of Lane County.

Farmworker Housing Development Corporation $73,448 (Linn, Marion and Polk counties)

To support the Rural Development Housing Advocacy and Communications (RDHAC) initiative over two years, educating community leaders about the need for and contribution of affordable housing in the mid-Willamette Valley, building a stronger and more durable constituency to support more affordable housing development.

Business for a Better Portland $76,750 (Portland Metro)

To activate business voices to support housing diversity, mobilizing and amplifying the voices of progressive business owners around affordable housing issues in and around Portland.

Human Solutions $134,800 (Portland Metro)

For a two year collaborative, in partnership with Northwest Housing Alternatives and REACH CDC, mobilizing and supporting tenants of publicly subsidized affordable housing in East Portland to advocate for themselves and for affordable housing broadly. This work will complement and support a broader statewide effort led by the Housing Alliance to engage affordable housing residents.

Oregon Center for Public Policy $150,000 (Statewide)

To support equitable reform of Oregon’s biggest housing subsidy over two years for policy analysis and education concerning the state’s tax deduction for mortgage interest. OCPP will lead an experienced and savvy coalition of advocates to continue a focused, strategic plan for reform that could redirect unprecedented resources to affordable housing in Oregon.

OPAL $80,000 (Portland Metro)

To advance the movement for housing justice and develop leaders in low-income communities of color in East Portland and East Multnomah County and to expand OPAL’s housing justice work in Clackamas and Washington counties.

Q Housing Project $80,000 (Portland Metro)

To launch a two year initiative engaging the LGBTQ+ community in the Portland Metro area around specific unmet housing needs and development of a clear vision and action plan around LGBTQ+ friendly housing for youth, elders and families.

Street Roots $80,000 (Statewide)

To support Housing: The Next Generation, a news series reporting in-depth statistics and information related to the daunting housing situations confronting younger people in Oregon, utilizing a strong equity lens specifically calling attention to homeless youth, Native American youth, youth aging out of foster care and youth trapped in cycles of generational poverty.

Unite Oregon $85,000 (Washington County)

To support Washington County Equitable Housing Coalition, a partnership including HomePlate Youth Services (HPYS) and Community Housing Fund (CHF), to advance an equitable housing agenda that amplifies and incorporates the voices of immigrants, refugees, communities of color and youth into key housing policy discussions taking place over the next two years in Washington County.

Urban League of Portland $80,000 (Statewide)

To lead a statewide campaign to bring tenant screening policies into compliance with Fair Housing law to enable greater access to rental housing for African Americans and people of color living in Oregon.

Welcome Home Coalition Housing First Public Advocacy (Portland Metro)

$80,000 over two years to inform and influence the region’s push to reduce homelessness and expand the availability of permanent supportive housing (PSH), by centering the experience of people with lived experience in PSH.

We hope you’re as excited about this list as we are! And as impressive as that list is, it doesn’t show ongoing Meyer support for other key partners like the Oregon Housing Alliance, Community Alliance of Tenants, and Housing Oregon.

Hopefully too this reassures anyone who wondered about how the transition that essentially folded Meyer’s Affordable Housing Initiative into the Housing Opportunities portfolio would affect Meyer’s commitment to support systems-level change and grassroots mobilization around housing issues. We see housing advocacy as a high priority and already look forward to the next million dollars worth of grants.


Katrina Holland, executive director of Community Alliance of Tenants, speaks at a 2016 rally for tenants’ rights. Behind her, from left to right, are Jeri Jimenez, D. Pei Wu, Pastor Mark Knutson and Justin Buri.

Katrina Holland, executive director of Community Alliance of Tenants, speaks at a 2016 rally for tenants’ rights. Behind her, from left to right, are Jeri Jimenez, D. Pei Wu, Pastor Mark Knutson and Justin Buri.

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Resources from Meyer’s Equity Housing Summit: A follow-up on equitable practicesdarion Thu, 09/19/2019 - 09:52

In August, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio invited grantees that are keenly focused on housing or providing services to people experiencing homelessness to a daylong summit aimed at increasing equitable practices, policies and outcomes within the housing sector.

For nearly half a decade, Meyer has supported the efforts of many housing organizations in the development of their equity lens and work. The Equity Housing Summit was the culmination of those efforts. At Portland State University, Meyer’s Equity Housing Summit — Strategies to Advance the Fields, brought together more than 200 people to learn, connect and share insights and ideas as well as mark an important day for Meyer and the housing sector in Oregon.

During the event, plenary sessions grounded attendees with an equity framework for the day. An inspiring keynote from Meyer President and CEO Michelle J. DePass provided an honest reflection on our foundation’s equity journey and commitment to the work. Our special guest Glenn Harris, president and CEO of Race Forward, facilitated two enlightening plenary sessions focused on the “Racial Equity Imperative” and “Creating Racial Equity” and a breakout session about “Creating a Culture for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”

During the breakouts, more than 40 different housing-focused organizations, from across Oregon, shared insights about the strengths and challenges they face in building equity into their work. With an emphasis on peer learning, the sessions offered a wide variety of presentations, such as Transforming Organizational Culture, Community Voice: Centering Lived Experience, and the History of Housing Discrimination in Oregon.

The summit was inspiring. People walked away with deepened commitments to equity and expanded connections with others in the sector who can strengthen and support their work.

Because equity work is always evolving, we hope that attendees continue to learn, connect and build stronger relationships with each other far beyond the summit. We also invite our partners and community members outside the Housing Opportunities portfolio to have access and learn from the information that was presented at the summit. To that end, we have created a new page on Meyer’s website dedicated to the Equity Housing Summit and sharing those resources. You can explore the new page here.

We hope our efforts keep the conversation going and keep us all learning. As Michelle J. DePass stated at the summit, “We have learned, and we keep learning, that is the only way we can inch forward.”

— co-authored by Lauren Waudé and Elisa Harrigan

2019 equity housing summit
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ICYMI: Housing and Health Care Under One Roofdarion Tue, 06/25/2019 - 08:59

Central City Concern is building a six-story, $52 million development, the Blackburn Center, to increase stock and access to health care integrated housing in Portland.

Affordable Housing Finance recently published an article about the new building that will include a 40,000-square-foot integrated health care clinic and 165 units of respite care, transitional and permanent housing units:

“This is our 40th anniversary as an organization, but this is the first time where everything we do and offer will be available under one roof. That’s really the exciting part here,” says Central City Concern chief housing and strategy officer Sean Hubert. “For us as an organization, it gives us the opportunity to pilot a new way of doing business, and I think it gives us an opportunity to put the client at the center of our work and to align and build the services around the client.”

Click here to learn more about CCC's new campus of integrated housing.

A rendering of Central City Concern's Blackburn Center | Courtesy Ankrom Moisan Architecture

A rendering of Central City Concern's Blackburn Center, courtesy of Ankrom Moisan Architecture

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ICYMI: Will “opportunity zones” help or hurt low-income neighborhoods? The jury is outdarion Mon, 06/03/2019 - 09:24

The Opportunity Zone program — a federal strategy that provides preferential tax treatment to investors, allowing them to sell a good that has increased in value, such as stock or real estate, but delay paying taxes on capital gains if they immediately reinvest in a building or business that is located in a recognized site — has selected the Rockwood neighborhood as a new opportunity zone in Oregon.

Rockwood, between the borders of Portland and Gresham, has historically been a disinvested neighborhood in the Portland area. Zoning the region as an opportunity zone will make it a tempting investment opportunity for private investors and real estate developers.

The Oregonian reports on the selection of Rockwood as an opportunity zone:

Rockwood, just inside Gresham’s borders, stretches from roughly 162nd to 202nd avenues, along East Burnside Street and the MAX Blue Line. A high percentage of residents live below the poverty line, and many are members of racial or ethnic minorities. It’s long suffered under a reputation for high crime, though its crime rate is similar to other neighborhoods considering its population.

“There are a lot of complex reasons why a neighborhood like Rockwood gets overlooked, but the systems have really failed our neighbors, and getting unstuck has been a really complicated problem,” said Brad Ketch, founder of the nonprofit Rockwood Community Development Corp.

Read the full story here.

The Rockwood Rising site, owned by the city of Gresham, was the site of a Fred Meyer that closed in 2003. The city plans a major redevelopment it hopes will spur more development in the neighborhood. Photo credit Elliot Njus at the Oregonian

The Rockwood Rising site, owned by the city of Gresham, was the site of a Fred Meyer that closed in 2003. The city plans a major redevelopment it hopes will spur more development in the neighborhood. | Photo credit Elliot Njus at the Oregonian

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Capitalizing on housing momentumdarion Mon, 04/15/2019 - 13:31

As our portfolio name suggests, it is indeed a time of Housing Opportunities across the state. Sizeable new funding resources, innovative public-private partnerships and passage of statewide tenant protection legislation are evidence of the impressive energy and creativity responding to housing challenges across the state. In this moment of great potential, Meyer’s Housing Opportunities portfolio is pleased to open its doors for our 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity.

This is the fourth Annual Funding Opportunity cycle since restructuring our grantmaking program. We continue to refine and (we hope!) clarify the process. The list below highlights those elements that are the same this year, followed by those that have changed.

What’s the same in the Annual Funding Opportunity?

1. Our overarching housing goals are essentially the same:

• Preserve and increase the number of affordable housing rental units for priority populations

• Support the housing stability and success of priority populations

• Foster stronger, more equitable and more effective affordable housing systems and strategies

We’ve tweaked the goal language here to reflect a focus on priority populations — the people who experience the impacts of historical and current racist and discriminatory housing practices. These impacts are widely felt by people of color, Indigenous communities and Tribes, as well as people with disabilities and other marginalized communities. To achieve our vision that every Oregonian has a stable, safe and affordable place to call home, we strive to focus on those who face the disproportionate impacts of housing discrimination and instability. More on that below.

2. Grant-funded work should connect to and advance the outcomes we’ve identified under the three goal areas. In addition to the nine outcomes offered last year, we have added three more. This chart provides a snapshot of the funding goals, outcomes, funding ranges and grant types to help you assess the best fit. The grant types and ranges are the same as last year. Don’t forget to take a look at the shorter list of what doesn’t fit well within the portfolio.

3. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to ongoing growth through the integration of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) principles into both their external programming or services and internal structures and operations. We seek organizations that share our values and are making progress toward DEI integration.

As part of those DEI values, Meyer believes people experiencing housing challenges are experts on their own situations and key stakeholders in housing solutions. We seek to support work centering the lived experience and expertise of people benefitting from programs and also building the capacity of impacted communities that have faced systemic housing disparities to define and implement their own solutions to housing needs. (This ties to a new outcome around Community Influence.) We are more likely to fund projects that demonstrate meaningful involvement by the people with lived experience in defining the issues and solutions proposed.

4. General operating support grants face a high bar. As noted in our funding guidelines, we have heightened expectations from organizations that are awarded unrestricted operating support. First and foremost, they should be housing organizations (do a majority of their work in affordable housing) and strongly advance the core funding goals in our Housing Opportunities portfolio. Additionally, they should play a unique and/or important role in the field and have wider impact for the sector (e.g., as an intermediary, seen as a field leader in Oregon or nationally); demonstrate leadership for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the context of the communities where they work; and have DEI strategies as a meaningful part of their work plan for the grant period. Reach out if you have questions about whether to apply for this funding type.

5. The Annual Funding Opportunity continues to be a competitive process, with limited funding. In the past two funding cycles, the Housing Opportunities portfolio has funded about half of the proposals we received. This means we’ve had to turn down many solid proposals. We also expect the 2019 Annual Funding Opportunity to have robust demand, due in part to the fact that the Housing Opportunities portfolio will not be offering other Requests for Proposals (RFPs) this year. Moreover, our funding amount for 2019 is smaller ($3.5 million, compared with $3.9 million last year).

What has changed in the Annual Funding Opportunity?

  1. The application process will be open for four weeks instead of five. The application period opens Monday, April 15, this year and will stay open for a month, closing at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, 2019.
  2. In lieu of multiple information sessions around the state, the Housing Opportunities portfolio is offering an on-demand webinar on our website. Potential applicants are encouraged to watch the webinar and review the online resources. Those with specific questions can then email questions [at] to sign up for a 20-minute phone consultation with a member of the housing team. We want to spend more time giving personalized and concentrated feedback to applicants and less time in big, general sessions or travel.
  3. We’re trying a one-step application process this year. We heard from many of you that the initial application in our two-step application was much more intense than a typical “letter of inquiry.” This year, we’re going to try a one-step application that looks fairly similar to the questions asked last year. By combining the inquiry application and the full application, we hope for less duplication of content. By early July, we will notify applicants who are invited to move forward in our process. For selected organizations, due diligence will look pretty similar to our previous process with one exception: We will prioritize in-person site visits for newer organizations or complex projects. Applicants who have had recent site visits may only receive a follow up via phone conference.
  4. Income of people served will be a factor but not the most prominent factor in our analysis. In the past three years, we have asked all housing projects if they intend to serve people living with low-incomes (at or below 60% AMI). This year, the emphasis is on serving the priority populations who have experienced historical and current housing discrimination. Applicants should understand historical and current racist and discriminatory housing practices that have created disparities and focus their work to eliminate those disparities.

Time and again, we have seen that having a “one size fits all” approach to solving housing instability tends to be less successful than projects that use strategies designed with community input, tailored to the needs of a specific group of people. Foremost, we want to know how your project is designed to serve the needs of priority populations. The language of our goals was revised to connect all of the outcomes to the priority populations. More information on the priority populations can be found in our webinar.

Additional resources
Want more information about what we look for? We’ve gathered a set of Applicant Resources, with everything from building a budget to understanding our definition of collaborations and learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion. You are encouraged to review those resources as you prepare your proposal.

Final thoughts
Your work inspires us every day. Your efforts to serve the person in front of you, while keeping an eye on the larger systems-level changes needed to address housing discrimination and disparities. You push for new tools and resources to bring housing stability to more Oregonians and then figure out how to align resources and efforts for maximum impact. We hope to be the thought-partners and funders that you need to bolster your efforts.

Yours in partnership,


Photo caption: The exterior of Carolyn Gardens

The exterior of Carolyn Gardens in Southeast Portland. Photo source: Human Solutions

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Four nonprofits respond to Meyer’s “1 Million Months Challenge”darion Mon, 04/15/2019 - 13:01

Is there a better way to create more affordable housing in Oregon? We intend to find out over the next few years, as four dynamic teams test, improve and iterate on very different innovative ideas.

Last year, Meyer laid down an unusual and ambitious invitation, which we called the “1 Million Months Challenge,” to encourage innovation around affordable housing design, finance and construction. The basic intent was to empower people who think mainstream affordable development isn’t concerned enough with cost, and those who claim there are less costly ways to help people attain housing that’s affordable, but also meets some basic threshold of quality, dignity and comfort (while still attending to long-term costs of operating and maintaining housing).

A Caveat - This is Harder than it Looks!

Full disclosure: After nearly five years of engaging with experts on these issues, we are not entirely certain there’s a path that can deliver dramatic cost reductions. Too often, people who criticize the (admittedly eye-wateringly high) cost of delivering new housing do so without much experience with the thicket of constraints and cross-cutting pressures that define a typical government-subsidized multifamily development. And too often, critics suggest cutting corners without thinking through the tradeoffs of throwing out (for instance) prevailing wage requirements or building to a high standard for energy-efficiency.

As we outlined in our 2015 report, the basic math involved in building high-quality buildings makes it essentially impossible to aim for rents affordable to people earning a modest wage (or far less), and that necessarily means that public funding will be an important part of most affordable development. Factor in a white-hot construction market, expensive land, the string of expectations that follow public dollars, and the risk mitigation requirements of a dozen or more funding partners, and affordable housing seems far from affordable.

Still, that’s not an excuse for complacency, and as the 2015-16 round of grantees pursuing innovative cost efficient strategies demonstrated, there are some important ways to trim costs at the margin in design and construction, as well as some finance and design strategies that haven’t been fully tested that deserve to be further developed.

The 1 Million Months Challenge
As we reflected on what we learned from the 2015-16 RFP focused on innovation, we wanted to open the doors even wider to innovative ideas and approaches and to focus more clearly on the end goal: creating as much access as possible to affordable housing for as little public subsidy as possible. This led us to last year’s 1 Million Months Challenge, a moonshot-style competition, focusing creativity and energy around a specific, lofty goal: Bring us your best ideas for guaranteeing 1 million months of affordability, using as little public subsidy as possible.

We framed the challenge this way to emphasize flexibility and focus on the big-picture outcome: This is less about developing "projects" than creating a viable new model or path that could potentially help our partners house large numbers of people for an extended period of time.

Proposals were invited under three broad categories: Rural Workforce, Extremely Low-Income/Hard to House (i.e. those with additional challenges to housing stability like mental illness, etc.), and an Open category serving any low-income population.

Meyer received 18 proposals from across Oregon, and after an extensive vetting process, awarded grants to four projects:

BRIDGE Housing Corporation: Creating Equitable Opportunity through Opportunity Zone Investments (Statewide/Open)

BRIDGE will explore utilizing the new Opportunity Zones to promote the creation of affordable housing in Oregon without relying on scarce and competitive federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The recent federal tax cut package created tax incentives for investing in economically distressed communities (“Opportunity Zones”) defined by the state. BRIDGE will partner with Novogradac & Associates (a national tax and real estate development consultant) to develop a model for creating housing with the help of new investors expected to be drawn to the Opportunity Zones. Many in the affordable housing world are wondering whether Opportunity Zones could be an effective tool for developing affordable housing, and BRIDGE is well-positioned to be an “early-mover” here and to share what they learn with the field.

Housing Development Center: Zero Energy Modular for Rural Workforce Homeownership (Statewide/Rural Workforce)

Housing Development Center (HDC) will partner with Vermont Energy Investment Corp. to bring VEIC’s interesting zero-energy modular housing model to scale in Oregon, combined with a land trust model to assure long-term affordability. HDC is a leading nonprofit consulting firm focused on affordable housing finance and development across the state and a partner with Meyer on several recent important projects. This proposal takes on several key unresolved issues in affordable housing in Oregon: how to scale up modular design and construction beyond its very small current market share, how to jump-start affordable housing production in rural Oregon, and how to leverage highly energy-efficient new construction for long-term affordability.

SquareOne Villages: Affordable Together: scaling a community-based approach to housing (Lane County/Open)

SquareOne Villages was a grantee in the first round of Cost Efficiency grants in 2015-16, developing and documenting best practices around creating new tiny home villages for extremely low-income people (typically those leaving homelessness) in Lane County. In its next phase of work, it will explore combining limited equity cooperative ownership with a community land trust structure to create a new affordable homeownership model. Since it began experimenting with very low-cost housing options, SquareOne has progressively stepped up its ability to improve the quality and design of tiny homes, and if this hybrid ownership structure is successful, it could benefit a range of similar efforts across the state.

In addition to those three projects, a fourth organization was awarded a grant under Meyer’s 2018 RFP to improve access to private market housing and was invited to join the 1 Million Months cohort because its work aligns well with the goals and intent of the 1MM RFP:

Hacienda CDC: Community-based affordable ADU rentals to increase the supply of private market units and stabilize low-income homeowners at risk of displacement. (Portland/Open)

Hacienda has been a leading partner in the Living Cully collaborative (along with Verde, NAYA and Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East), which has been engaged in robust neighborhood-focused work on affordable housing and community development since 2010.

This project will fund the design, planning and implementation of affordable accessory dwelling units to be rented to low-income tenants and people of color in Cully, Lents and Inner North/Northeast Portland. The project will not only create new affordable units, but also help insulate low-income homeowners from displacement pressures by supplying them with supplemental income from the rentals.

What Comes Next

The four grantees are just beginning their work now and are committed to sharing what they discover over the next two years. Meyer plans to provide a series of opportunities for stakeholders and other interested parties to engage with the cohort and learn from their work to build out replicable and scalable new approaches. Stay tuned for more!

— Michael

1 Mill months challenge progress update: New projects will test financing, design and construction ideas for affordable housing
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