St. Philip the Deacon – “Building Neighbors” Project to Create Affordable Housing

By Reverend Maria McDowell

For the last year, St. Philip the Deacon has been a member of the Leaven Community Land & Housing Coalition. We have worked with other faith communities to change city code as a part of the Expanding Affordable Housing Opportunities grant. We successfully lobbied for changes to city code to allow faith communities to use their abundant land to build affordable housing. 

In early November, St. Philip virtually gathered to discuss its role in affordable housing. Every concern shared, every hope expressed, was infused by the heart of St. Philip: we have always been a haven for those unwelcome elsewhere, and we want to continue to be good neighbors to the vulnerable (listen to Mother Alcena Boozer, former Rector and lifelong member of St. Philip tell some of this story).

So, we made a huge decision: we want to try to build low rent/very low rent housing.

On Dec 1, we took another huge step! In partnership with Second Stories, PCRI, Urban League, and  NW Pilot Project, we submitted our Metro Housing Bond RFQ. The last week before submission was a flurry of gathering details negotiating relationships and clarifying partnerships. It is clear that we share a common vision for caring for our vulnerable black and elderly neighbors. We will be building housing for folks at the 30-50% MFI, people who really need inexpensive housing.

I am VERY excited at the relationships we are developing, and the work that is ahead of us.

And we have a lot of work ahead: applying for funding, getting to know our partners, evaluating our current building, clarifying our vision for this project at St. Philip, and more. The affordable housing world is fast-paced, chaotic, and competitive. 

Most important to us at St. Philip is our vision, and our desire to work with our neighborhood partners. We know we want to care for our neighbors. We are open to who and how. We know we want to be worshipping at the corner of Knott & Rodney for decades to come. We are open to using the same worship space or rebuilding it around a shared community space. 

Our community work is crucial. We need to listen to our neighbors, to hear from all of you in the Eliot Neighborhood the kind of neighbors you want us to be. To this end, our communications team will be setting up conversations, virtual “house meetings” with neighbors, strangers, the Albina Library Staff, Dishman Staff, the Eliot Neighborhood Association (and more). We are still trying to figure out how to do this in the time of Covid, and are open to suggestions. 

But we are excited. Excited to use what we have, our land, to care for vulnerable neighbors who need a place to live and services to support them living well.

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