Home to many of Portland, Ore.’s most vulnerable residents, Hawthorne East Apartments was in danger of losing its affordability.

The development’s prime location and expiring rental subsidies made it a desirable target for market-rate developers to turn the property into high-end apartments or condominiums.

Recognizing that losing the 71-unit community would be devastating to the senior and disabled residents, many of whom had lived there for 10 to 20 years, Northwest Housing Alternatives (NHA) acquired and preserved Hawthorne East in partnership with the city of Portland’s ambitious “11x13” campaign to save 11 of the most at-risk Sec. 8 properties from market-rate conversion.

“Portland has experienced skyrocketing housing costs during the economic recovery, by many metrics leading the country,” says Christopher Hulette, housing developer at NHA. “Preservation of existing affordable housing, especially fully subsidized projects like Hawthorne East, is vitally important to protect our most vulnerable residents.”

With a new 20-year Sec. 8 contract and other restrictions, the development will remain affordable housing for decades to come.

The nonprofit closed on the purchase in 2013 and completed recapitalizing and rehabbing the property last year. The building had not seen any significant investment in over 30 years, so the team put in new building systems, added mobility-enhancements including a second ADA ramp, and thoroughly rehabilitated each apartment, including installing air conditioning and improved ventilation systems. A new office was built to house a near-full-time resident services coordinator.

The preservation effort was particularly meaningful at a community where the average age of residents is 64 and more than half have been homeless.

Much of the improvements were aimed at improving the quality of life for residents, including addressing chronic health concerns such as asthma and mobility impairment.

Financing for the $16.4 million development includes federal and state housing tax credits from Oregon Housing and Community Services. Wells Fargo Bank is the tax credit investor and permanent lender.