Portsmouth Union creates affordable housing guidebook for other churches


As more and more churches around Portland and in the Oregon-Idaho Conference seek ways to create affordable housing for their communities, a how-to guide has surfaced from two of Portland’s pastors leading the way.

Revs. Julia Nielsen and Andy Goebel of Portsmouth Union Church in north Portland have created a process guide for churches to use if they’re considering building affordable housing on church property.

Portsmouth Union – formerly University Park UMC and St. Johns Community Church – is on the cusp of building a 20-unit, multi-family, affordable housing complex on its property.

Nielsen said she and Goebel have been jumping through a ton of hoops with the City of Portland, banks and other organizations to make sure they’re following the correct guidelines, are submitting the right information to access funding and seeking out additional resources to make this dream a reality.

“You can’t just Google this,” Nielsen said.

The two pastors have created a 43-page technical process guide to, first and foremost, provide answers to frequently asked questions by other churches looking to get involved. Nielsen said they were able to create the guide through support from the Columbia District Extension Society.

The guide discusses zoning and property concerns, financing and sustainability, diversity and inclusion and more. Nielsen said they have a lot of experience – even though they still don’t have the $2.6 million building on their property.

“In the process, we’ve learned a lot about the financial technical pieces of this,” she said. “It felt like time to create this (guide).”

Those wishing to hear about Nielsen and Goebel’s guide in person can attend the Columbia District United Methodist Women’s meeting on Sept. 14 at Freemont UMC in Portland. The gathering starts at 9:30 a.m.