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$2.4 million federal grant to support a green retrofit of Portland affordable housing

Posted by | Catholic Charities Communications

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $2.4 million to Catholic Charities of Oregon for the green retrofit of a 40-year-old North Portland affordable housing complex.

Teams from Catholic Charities of Oregon and the Oregon field office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development hold HUD’s $2.4 million check to Catholic Charities for the green retrofit of a 40-year-old affordable housing site June 25.

Caritas Plaza, built in 1984, has 30 units. Home to seniors and people with disabilities, it’s located in Portland’s historic African American neighborhood.

Such funding often is used for insulation, energy efficient windows and doors, heat-resistant roofs, energy efficient heating and cooling and other improvements. The grants aim to enhance the quality of life for residents while reducing climate pollution and promoting the use of green building materials.

Bryan Guiney, director of HUD’s local field office, listens to Allan Widlits, a resident of Caritas Plaza.

Allan Widlits, a Caritas Plaza resident, grew up in the neighborhood and chose to return after he retired. His family arrived in the area 120 years ago. He worked for his uncle’s garbage hauling company before entering journalism, public relations and insurance sales.

“I had a chance to return here to my old neighborhood with the help of HUD and Catholic Charities. I took it. I’ve been glad ever since,” Widlits said during a June 25 award ceremony in Caritas Plaza’s shady backyard. “I’m grateful that today’s announcement means this will be a home to me and others for a long time to come. I’m also glad that we will be doing our part to help the planet.”

Allan Widlits, a resident of Caritas Plaza, speaks to the media June 25.

The Caritas Plaza grant, only the second of its kind in Oregon, is part of $142 million released nationwide by the Biden Administration for climate resilience and energy efficiency renovations in HUD-supported housing. The administration calls the awards a way to “combat the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and modernize affordable housing.”
To date, the Green and Resilient Retrofit Program has awarded more than $754 million across the country.

Natalie Wood, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oregon, thanked HUD for the good relationship and significant support.

“This means so much to Catholic Charities and to our residents, who have built a beautiful community here and want to see it continue and expand – and be even better for our planet,” Wood said.

Caritas Plaza offers safe housing to some of Oregon’s lowest income residents.

“Today’s amazing investment by HUD allows us to sustain and improve this welcoming community, making a significant impact on Portland as well as the planet’s health,” Wood explained. “And the timing is urgent: among the fastest growing parts of the homeless sector are seniors. Our seniors deserve a home.”

Wood said Caritas Plaza is a happy place, where people hold conversations, play games, tell jokes and have an annual summer barbecue.

Natalie Wood, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oregon, speaks outside Caritas Plaza June 25.

Marsha Jackson, resident services coordinator, gave a similar perspective.

“This is a community like any other where people have hopes and dreams, where they are working out a path for life, where they are recovering from hard knocks,” said Jackson. “But’s also a place where people laugh and joke and tell stories – the stuff that makes us human. I, for one, am grateful that our elected leaders see the value in a place like Caritas Plaza. Even better, this community will now stand out in environmental sustainability.”

“The name of this community says a lot,” said John Tamminga, Vice President of Community Development & Housing for Catholic Charities of Oregon. “Caritas is Latin for ‘loving kindness,’ the kind of love that seeks only the good of the other and of the world in general. That’s just what residents and staff try to accomplish here every day.”

John Tamminga, Vice President of Community Development & Housing for Catholic Charities of Oregon, speaks to listeners outside Caritas Plaza June 25. 

State Rep. Tawna Sanchez said the federal investment is critical to helping to solve the housing crisis in Oregon.

“And the work over the last quarter-century by Catholic Charities has been both bolstered and recognized today at Caritas Plaza,” Sanchez added.

“HUD’s leadership and investments are making positive impacts for Multnomah County,” said Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson. “When we keep families together, we break generational cycles of homelessness and housing instability. When we support elders, we keep people in their neighborhoods and with their communities. I especially love seeing this commitment to North Portland, a part of Multnomah County that deserves these kinds of substantive, collaborative resources.”

HUD Acting Secretary Adrianne Todman announced the new nationwide funding June 25 at the National Leased Housing Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

“These investments will reduce costs and improve the living conditions of the families who live in these homes,” Todman said.

The grant is part of a federal initiative that makes sure 40% of certain federal funds go to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution.

“HUD’s commitment to climate resilience and energy efficiency in housing reflects our dedication to a sustainable future that benefits both people and the planet,” said HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Andrew Lofton. “I am proud that these funds will work to make Portland greener for years and decades to come.”

Bryan Guiney, director of HUD’s local field office, said the terms of the grant include extensive engagement of residents, who will receive notice of the process, attend meetings and be guaranteed a place to stay during the work.

Bryan Guiney, director of HUD’s local field office speaks outside Caritas Plaza June 25.

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