Christ UMC hoping to build senior affordable housing


Sometimes a church goes out looking for a mission project and the project chooses them.

That’s been the case for Christ UMC Cedar Mill on the west edge of Portland, where the congregation has been actively engaged in conversations about how to best use church property to better help the community it serves – and that happens to be affordable housing for senior citizens.

While researching options on affordable housing, Rev. Ric Shewell said the congregation learned the property they own adjacent to their current facility is zoned for institutional use and transit, which meant and affordable housing complex could only go up if it addressed a critical need – housing for senior citizens.

“It felt like what God was calling us to do,” said Shewell.


In the west Portland/Beaverton area, there are several young families living and working and there are grandparents wanting to move to be closer. But it’s not always fiscally possible with the high cost of living in the area.

“It’s sad that seniors can’t afford to live near their families,” he said.

The church has looked at all sorts of financing options and is working with the same developer Portsmouth Union used for its affordable housing complex – HomeFirst.

“We’ve learned a lot from Portsmouth Union,” Shewell said.

Shewell said the church purchased the property, approximately 1 acre with two residences located to the east of the church. The property was purchased when the church was growing, and plans were to expand and possibly add another sanctuary. As church membership stagnated, though, conversations focused on only two options, building the building or selling the property.

“It was really the work of other United Methodists that caused us to see, ‘oh, there’s a third option,’” Shewell said.

The church is currently doing geo testing, drawing plans and putting together grant applications for support from government sources.

Larry Burbidge, a member of the congregation, local Realtor and project coordinator, said it also makes good fiscal sense for the church to use the property it owns to generate funding that will allow the church to continue to expand its ministries.

“We have a fiduciary obligation to run this correctly,” Burbidge said. “We’re better utilizing the assets we have.”