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'I still didn't believe it until I got the keys': Funds from 2018 Metro housing bond boost affordable housing

Seven affordable housing complexes are currently under construction across Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. People are already moving in.

GRESHAM, Ore. — Driving down Southeast Yamhill Street near 185th Avenue in Gresham, a new road leads south into a new complex. The buildings are big and blue, with white trim and a modern looking community center.

Rockwood Village offers 224 units of brand new affordable housing, a small piece of progress amid Portland’s mounting housing crisis. It’s the first of many complexes to come, funded by revenue from Measure 26-199, a nearly $653 million affordable housing bond approved by Metro voters in 2018.

“It’s so exciting,” said Lynn Peterson, Metro council president. “It's amazing that we have two housing developments in Washington county that are opening in the next couple of months, which will offer 135 new homes. And all of these are protected to ensure long-term rent stability for people on a limited income.”

A total of seven affordable housing complexes are currently under construction across Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. 

Others include the Viewfinder in Tigard, which will offer 81 units, and River Place in Portland, which will offer 177.

The 20-year bond is expected to add 3,900 units of affordable housing to the region, with hundreds opening each year.

People like Aerlis Daisy Mejia are already moving in.

“Oh my God. It was so amazing,” she said. “I still didn't believe it until I got the keys in my hands.”

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A single mother of four boys, Mejia was born in Mexico but spent most of her life in Portland. At the age of 38, she signed her first leas for a two-bedroom unit in Rockwood Village, paying $1,470 per month. Her rent is on the higher end of the affordable units because Mejia, who works in customer service, makes 70% of the Area Median Income, disqualifying her from government assistance.

Still, the unit within her price range, and it’s new. After looking for more than a year, Mejia didn’t think she’d be able to find anything like it.

“It is huge,” she said walking through her kitchen. “Now I can cook, you know, for my kids.”

Credit: KGW

In the years before her apartment search, Mejia stayed at a friend’s place and, at times, lived in her car. The circumstances were repercussions of a tough divorce.

“I didn't want my kids to be going through that with me because when I did it and, you know, it was myself,” she said, noting her kids stayed with their dad when she was sleeping on the streets.

When Mejia tried to get an apartment, most complexes turned her down. She had no rental history and no credit.

Rockwood Village, boosted by those housing bond funds, gave her a chance.

“I used to feel sorry for myself for a long time, and I only made things worse for myself,” Mejia said in an interview Thursday. “I'm not gonna lie. Sometimes it takes a long time, but things get a little bit better.”

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