Affordable development with 120 new apartments planned for northeast Salem

A new affordable housing development in northeast Salem could be home to as many as 500 people within two years as such rentals remain in short supply. 

Income-dependent rent and onsite daycare are among the features of the housing project by Home First Development and Green Light Development.

The Portland developers intend to build 120 apartments between 891 23rd N.E. in the first phase of the project, with construction beginning in the fall of 2024. Of those, 90 will be family units with two, three or four bedrooms, according Ben Pray, owner of First Home Development.

Pray said the total number of residents could be between 300 and 500 people. Construction is expected to be completed by late 2025.

Developers plan to eventually build a total of 200 units, according to Josh Kay, owner and managing broker of First Commercial Real Estate. Kay is the broker for the property, which is currently owned by Salem Health. The developers are under contract to purchase the land, Pray said.

The new complex, called the Gussie Belle Brown Apartments, will be open to people earning at or below 60% of the Salem area’s median income, Pray said. That’s $35,160 for a single person or $50,220 for a family of four.

Developers also plan to reserve at least 24 units for people earning 30% or less of the median area income – $17,600 for a single person and $25,100 for a family of four. The size of those units could change depending on feedback and community needs as the project is closer to completed, according to Tim Lawler, development manager for Green Light Development.

The $45 million project is primarily paid for by tax credits and funding from the state’s Housing and Community Services Department which helps fast-track affordable housing development through a competitive grant process. The project received a $17.9 million grant in July.

Rent costs would vary based on a resident’s income. On average, the complex’s three-bedroom units will rent for around $1,125 a month, Pray said.

The project is part of a surge in apartment construction in Salem, with several downtown developments planned or in progress. It also comes as the city and state continue to face a housing crisis, with rental costs on the rise and a shortage of available units.

He said the site is ideal because it is close to public transportation, large enough to support a large number of units and amenities, and well-served by utilities.

Amenities will include a playground, basketball court and large community building. 

Pray said they are seeking funding from the state’s Housing and Community Services Department to open an adjacent day care facility for working parents living at the apartments.

The site is also next door to two service providers – the Mid Willamette Valley Community Action Agency and Seed of Faith Ministries, a Black-led church in northeast Salem.

Portland-based Green Light Development has signed a co-developer agreement with the church for the project.

“The unique needs identified by Seed of Faith has and will continue to inform our site planning, design and eventually operations,” according to Pray. He said the church “will be an active presence at the community room and has the opportunity to refer qualified tenants for the housing.”

Developers held listening sessions with Black residents of Salem and members of Seed of Faith’s local congregation who said that many families move to Salem to be closer to relatives incarcerated at the Oregon State Penitentiary, the state’s only maximum-security prison. They also said minority renters face bias from property management companies. “The development team has heard from community members that the lived experience of the Black community in Salem is a story of enduring and persisting even with the lack of opportunity,” the project summary said. 

To counter those issues, developers plan to issue a request for proposal before a property management company is selected. The interview panel will include members of the Seed of Faith Ministries community.

The apartments will be named after Gussie Belle Brown, who moved to Salem in 1968 and worked as a certified nursing assistant at Salem Hospital for over 30 years, according to an obituary.

Bishop Wade Harris, the longtime pastor at Seed of Faith Ministries, said Brown also served as a pastor at State Street Church of God for around 15 years. She died on Dec. 19, 2022.

Harris said he suggested naming the apartments after Brown due to her history of working with homeless people, particularly senior citizens, to connect them with service providers and get them into housing.

The new development is across the street from Yaquina Hall, a city-run affordable housing project with space for 150 people that opened earlier this year at 2720 B St. N.E.

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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Ardeshir Tabrizian has covered criminal justice and housing for Salem Reporter since September 2021. As an Oregon native, his award-winning watchdog journalism has traversed the state. He has done reporting for The Oregonian, Eugene Weekly and Malheur Enterprise.