Churches Gather to Address Affordable Housing Crisis


   Pastor Julia Nielsen speaks to the housing summit
Recently more than 40 individuals from congregations throughout the Greater Portland Area gathered to discuss how they could best address the affordable housing crisis. They met on October 13th at Portsmouth Union Church, which is led by Pastors Julia Nielsen and Andy Goebel. It was an ideal location to discuss and organize next steps in building affordable housing, since this church is currently in the process of building twenty units on their property.

The October event included people sharing what their congregations can bring to this effort in terms of land, passion, skills, imagination, and money. The event included pastors and lay people from Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Baptist, and Presbyterian congregations, and a strong showing of from United Methodist churches including West Portland, Christ, Portsmouth Union, Beaverton, and Fremont UMCs. Others in attendance were representatives from a Jewish synagogue, local government officials, and a variety of interested affordable housing advocates.
Jim Wehner, President of FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia, shared experiences that he has been involved in related to building affordable housing and doing community development.

At the close of the event, participants were encouraged to make a commitment to be a part of this on-going regional and ecumenical faith response. According to materials shared by the Leaven Community, which helped to facilitate the summit, the goal is “for religious institutions to contribute to equitable, relational, and vital neighborhoods by addressing in concrete ways, the common pressures of gentrification and its effects of displacement and unaffordable housing in our city.”
Rev. Lowell Greathouse, the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference, said that “this summit represents an important next step in the evolution of our church’s commitment to build affordable housing. We are clearly entering a time when the ecumenical church community is seeking new ways to be in partnership with others, who are committed to addressing this issue.”

The faith community’s interest in the affordable housing crisis is growing, and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is planning their own Affordable Housing: Faith Forum and Resource Fair in partnership with the City of Portland, which will be held on Thursday, November 15th. Details on that event are available on the EMOregon.org website.
This video tells the story of Portsmouth Union's project to respond to the current crisis.

Read more about Portsmouth Union's housing project: