PUC Affordable Housing Initiative

Here is the latest news and information on our affordable housing initiative. We will do our best to keep this page updated as the plan progresses. Below you will find the latest collateral, a press release archive and working timeline for the project. We are happy to answer questions, respond to media requests, or connect you to affordable housing resources. Please fill out the form below and we will do our best to respond in a timely manner.

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Press Releases & News


Portsmouth Union Gets to Work on Affordable Housing Project

UMOI | August 15, 2018

Portsmouth Union Church in the north Portland neighborhood looks right now – from the outside – like it’s in chaos. Last week, rubble from one-third of the building was strewn across the west side of the lot, there was some issue with the water, and two outhouses are now sitting on the east side parking lot. [Read More...]

Public Theology Jesus was homeless.jpg

'Jesus Was Houseless'

Public Theology Podcast | December 4, 2017

Hosted by Christ Church PDX
featuring Andy Goebel & Julia Nielsen, co-pastors of Portsmouth Union Church


UMOI | 10/29/2018

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.[Read More...]

Portland Church Answers Call for Affordable Housing

KOIN 6 | August 3, 2016

In this housing crisis, the people at University Park United Methodist Church in North Portland are taking matters into their own hands. For Pastor Andy Goebel, it's not enough to just preach scripture. He says their mission is to "do justice, love, mercy and walk humbly with God."

The church plans to build new, affordable housing for dozens of families. [Read More...]

Affordable Housing Ideas for Churches...

The Oregonian | March 22, 2017

"I think the churches are huge," Justus said. "It really opens the doors for so many more units because of how much land they own... Everything begins with the land, and in the metro area, land is harder to find." [Read More...]


Frequently Asked Questions

+ When, Why, and Who decided to build affordable housing at the corner of Lombard & Fiske?

  • University Park United Methodist Church (UPUMC) began this discernment process and development planning in fall 2014. The congregation was seeking a financially sustainable, missionally creative, and community-focused ministry that would allow us to use our resources to serve the needs of our city. By the fall of 2017, St. Johns Community Church had been worshipping and serving together for almost two-and-a-half years and the two congregations officially became Portsmouth Union Church.
  • Isaiah 58:12 serves as a grounding scripture for our vision- “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

+ Who from Portsmouth Union Church is working on this initiative?

  • Pastor Jules and Pastor Andy are leading the congregation through the process and a handful of smaller groups are handling the details.
  • Affordable Housing Taskforce: Stephen Hicks, Stephanie VanRheen, Lisa Horne, Scott Jensen, Betty Cruson, Wayne Harrel (previously Grace Chisholm and Cory Haller)
  • Communications Workgroup: Megan Cutler, Wayne Harrel, Scott Jensen, Darrell Grenz, and Stephanie VanRheen
  • Focus Group Workgroup: Andy Goebel, Lisa Horne, Kate Rohl, Darrell Grenz, Stephanie VanRheen

+ Why Affordable Housing?

According to late 2017 statistics...

  • The Portland Metro area has just 13,000 affordable units – 25,000 fewer than needed.
  • In the greater Portland area, the deficit is now 44,000 units
  • Median rent is $1,805: our apartments will aim to be between $750-1000.
  • To learn more about the state of housing in Portland, check out the highly informative GPP Housing Data Hub.

+ What is Bell Tower LLC.?

  • Bell Tower LLC. was formed as a separate legal entity to act as the “owner” of the housing development. The officers of the LLC. are members of the Portsmouth Union’s Leadership Team and Board of Trustees, but this structure helps to mitigate the risk to the church itself.

+ How many units will there be? Will they be studios, 1 bedroom, or 2 bedroom units?

  • Final design decisions will be based on city approval, but draft plans call for 20 units (10 one-bedroom minis, 10 two-bedroom minis)

+ What does affordable mean? Are all of the units going to be affordable?

  • Affordable, in this context, means that no more than 30% of an individual or family’s income is spent on housing. The way it is often talked about is that our apartments will be affordable to people with an income that is between 30-60% MFI, which is considered very affordable.
  • MFI stands for Median Family Income. The median family income for Portland was $82,734 in 2016. This means that a family with an income of $24,820 should not have to pay more than 30% of their income on rent- roughly, that shakes out to $620/month. On the higher end of the spectrum, at 60% MFI, or $49,640 annually, rent would be closer to $1,200/month.
  • Yes, all of our units will be affordable, however the precise MFI percentage for each unit may vary depending on a number of considerations.

+ Who is going to manage the property?

  • The Taskforce will use a competitive process to contract with a Property Management company who will manage the apartments, including facilities, rents, and leasing.

+ How much space is the church we sacrificing?

  • The current fellowship hall will be demolished Summer 2018 to create space for apartments. However, our bathrooms and kitchen, along with the ailing roof, will be redesigned in the remaining space for greater accessibility and improved quality.

+ Who is going to pay for the changes?

  • The cost of demolition and reconstruction is integrated into the housing financial plan managed by our LLC, Bell Tower. Any additional improvements PUC would like to add in the interior space will be our responsibility.

+ When will construction happen and will there be bathrooms?

  • Because of the changes to the lot line, demolition of at least the fellowship hall needs to be complete before the the City review process can begin in earnest. This means there will be an impact to our Sunday morning gathering space for about 90 days in the summer of 2018. As with nearly all construction zones, there will be disruption, but we will do our best to minimize impacts and ADA accessible porta potties will be made available for the duration of demolition.

+ What is Home First Development?

  • Home First Development is our general contractor and has been guiding us through this journey since early conversations in 2015. Home First was founded on the principle that everyone deserves access to safe, affordable housing and on the strength of their partnerships in the community. Rob Justus and Dave Carboneau are the principal developers and work with a team of strategic partners including architects, associates, and construction companies.

+ How much and how are we paying for this project?

  • How Much: Subject to the City’s final approval of our plans, the entire project costs approximately $2.334 million, but will only require a $1.636 million loan (Beneficial Bank) because we have $300,000 land value and $323,000 cash from the sale of Yale Ave. parsonage.
  • How: Rents will more than cover monthly mortgage payments for the lending agreement, over the course of 30 years.

+ Are we using government loans or subsidies to pay for this project?

  • No. Government loans and subsidies require extensive technical, professional expertise. Additionally, accepting financing from these sources increases project costs and extends the construction timeline due to additional expectations that we are not at this time required to meet by the City of Portland or our neighborhood leaders.

+ What is "Land Use" and why is the City making this so complicated and costly, especially when we are providing affordable housing during a housing crisis?

  • The church lot is zoned R1 (medium residential). Because we have a church in a residential zone, it is referred to as a Conditional Use. To “split the lot” we are essentially shrinking the amount of land that is deemed Conditional Use, then using the Property Line Adjustment (PLA) process to determine the new property line. The “new” lot will need to follow the development standards for Planning Code 33.120 Multi-Dwelling Zones (Also, effective May 2018- Full Zoning Code)
  • There may be opportunities for exceptions, waivers, and adjustments to the rules and fees, but we still have to follow the established process and that inevitably takes time. Rob and his team, as well as other staff even within the Bureau of Development Services are eager to usher this project through, but even with support, there will be obstacles to navigate.

+ How are we engaging our neighbors in this process?

  • One of our early partners was Meyer Memorial Trust. We were granted $11,000 for technical assistance and training. We are spending that money through three main channels- 1) facilitated congregational and community learning opportunities, 2) targeted focus group outreach to reveal unknown expectations, and 3) documentation and story-telling.
  • Training Roster
    • Relational One-to-Ones
    • Fair Housing Laws- Community Alliance of Tenants
    • Equity Training- Portland Hearing Voices
    • Community Organizing- IAF Leadership Institute
    • Trauma Informed Care
    • Assertive Engagement
  • Focus Group Schedule
    • March 11th 12-2pm (Congregational focus)
    • April 19th 12-2pm (Social Services group)
    • June 21st 6-8pm (Neighbors group)
  • Spiritual Groundbreaking Newsletter
    • Follow and subscribe to hear in-depth reflections from our Pastors through the ups and downs and lessons learned along the way.

+ How can I get involved?

  • Advocacy | As of August 2018, the City has approved our demolition permit to make room for the future apartments, but in the coming months we will be navigating even more complex regulations to get the seal of approval to break ground on the units. There may be opportunities to stand with us in that process.
  • Financial Support | Our financing plan is solid, but with construction costs rising daily and big dreams for what this future community can be, we welcome monetary donations of any size. Check out our GIVE page for more details and feel free to reach out to connect in person if you want to learn more before giving.

Project Timeline 


Focus Groups & Trainings 

It's true. We are planning to build 20 units of affordable housing on our property to serve our North Portland neighbors and to create movement within our partner faith communities to do the same. Our intention, as a church, is to be supportive of the residents that will live in our new apartments, and we know we can't do that alone. Our congregation has been preparing through a series of conversations and training that began in 2017. This spring we are excited to continue that engagement by sitting down to listen to and learn from social service providers in April and our neighbors and other community members in May.  If you are interested in attending one of our focus groups please follow the links below to register.


Affordable Housing Partners


Ask Us A Question

Do you have a question or idea about the project? Our Affordable Housing Task Force would love to hear from you.


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Contact Info


(971) 533-7276

4775 N Lombard St.
Portland, OR 97203