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Gray's Landing

About

Gray's Landing is the first affordable rental housing development in West Portland's emerging South Waterfront neighborhood. Its contemporary design was conceived by the same architect of a nearby market-rate complex. Homes are in walking distance to the Willamette River, farmer's markets and community events, as well as to the Veterans Administration Medical Center and Oregon Health and Sciences University, two major area employers as well as critical service providers.

Affordability

209 affordable homes targeted to households earning 60 percent of median family income; 24 dedicated to veterans

Green

Certified LEED Platinum

Access to Transit

The Portland streetcar has stops in front of Gray's Landing. Bus stations and the Aerial Tram are in walking distance. A new transit bridge over the Willamette River is scheduled to open in 2015 to connect walkers, bikers and transit riders to East Portland.

Oregon

Curated photography and artwork adorn Gray's Landing's walls, one of many features that complement its contemporary design.

Oregon

Transit options abound for Gray's Landing residents in the South Waterfront neighborhood of Portland, Ore.

Enterprise's role

Enterprise invested $11.4 million in Gray's Landing through Low-Income Housing Tax Credit allocations. Its veterans' focus, innovative green features, including 100 percent stormwater management through a green roof and second-level courtyard, and location in a central, transit-oriented waterfront neighborhood reflect Enterprise's highest priorities.

Partners

Energy Trust of Oregon; Oregon Housing and Community Services; Portland Bureau of Environmental Sustainability; Portland Housing Bureau; REACH CDC; U.S. Bank; United States Department of Housing and Urban Development

"I Feel Like We're Home"

Mary Helfin is a picture of grace. Sitting upright, hands folded across her knee, she wears an expression of serenity as her voice is colored with hope and melancholy. On the coffee table, pictures of her late husband are pressed in a frame together with an image of an American flag.

A World War II veteran, Leonard witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was on a Navy ship off the coast when Japanese bombers flew overhead. The planes were so close he could almost touch them, he told his daughter, Cheri.

Over their 66-year marriage, the Helfins led the life of a military family, living in military bases in different parts of the country. When Leonard fell ill later in life, they flew to California seeking adequate medical treatment before settling in veteran's housing in Oregon. They were visiting relatives in Portland when they saw Gray's Landing being built. "That's where I want us to be," Leonard told his wife.

"But he knew I would be here without him," says Mary.

Leonard passed away in 2012. While coping with her loss, Mary found that she could no longer afford the home they'd shared. There was a problem transferring Leonard's veterans' benefits. "It was a really hard year," says Cheri. "She had nowhere to go. We didn't know what to do. Mom was in a state of mourning."

Cheri's tenacity and persistence culminated in calls to senators and congressmen. Eventually, REACH, long-time Enterprise partner and Gray's Landing developer, was made aware of their predicament. Mary and Cheri were able to move into their new two-bedroom home at Gray's Landing in early 2013.

"It's better than any place I've ever lived before," says Mary. "I feel like we're home."

Optimism and the Fight for Fairness

  • Oregon

Traci Manning's parents used to tell her that life wasn't always fair. "I utterly rejected that," she says. "Everybody should have a place to grow up and get started."

As the director of the Portland Housing Bureau, Traci has dedicated her life to fighting for fairness. She's spent 20 years in the affordable housing industry, starting out as a receptionist and working her way up. Asked what role ambition has played in her career, she credits a singular focus.

"I am not in the least bit ambitious in my own career. I am passionate about solving problems for the people who need it."

One of her challenges is to keep homes affordable in a city with one of the nation's lowest vacancy rates. High rents and an onerous application process are working against low-income families seeking homes they can afford.

That's one reason the Housing Bureau decided early on that Gray's Landing was a high priority. Along with providing homes and services to veterans, it was to be the first affordable housing development in Portland's new South Waterfront community. When initial financing fell through, the Housing Bureau stepped in. They took title to the property, hired an experienced community development organization in REACH and provided $23.7 million in support.

Committed to environmental sustainability, the South Waterfront is equal parts ecodistrict, emerging neighborhood and transit-oriented community. That profile gives Gray's Landing residents access to a range of features: farmer's markets, waterfront views, ample public transportation and walking trails.

Asked about the importance of Gray's Landing's desirable location, Traci responds, "All citizens should get to share in the amenities that public investment brings.

One of the greatest indicators to your health and success in life is your zip code."

She says that one way to promote more developments like Gray's Landing is to continue cultivating strong, sophisticated partners. "Enterprise helped develop some of the capacity. I think they've literally touched the whole industry here," says Traci. "They've been huge for Portland. There's nobody like them."

Enterprise and the Housing Bureau are equally committed to combating homelessness, ensuring that people don't have to choose between paying for rent or buying groceries, and seeing that kids can attend the same schools rather than bouncing from place to place.

Traci sums up her overall approach: "Optimism is the most important trait," she says with a laugh. "It's hard work. You have to believe that it's possible."