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PCC and affordable housing partners officially open Connery Place near Southeast Campus

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Dr. Bennings provides remarks to a small group in front of Connery Place.

Dr. Adrien Bennings provides remarks in front of Connery Place.

According to a survey by the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, 64% of Portland Community College students say they experience some sort of basic needs insecurity. And, overall, more than 52% of students at Oregon’s community colleges reported being housing insecure during the pandemic.

To address these issues PCC, Portland State University, Mt. Hood Community College and the nonprofits College Housing Northwest (CHNW) and New Avenues for Youth created a pilot program in 2021 called Affordable Rents for College Students (ARCS). Since it started, NAYA Family Center has also joined the effort, which aims to provide subsidized housing for students at several apartment complexes in the Portland area and help relieve student homelessness and housing insecurity.

“This will go a long way to not only be a legacy for communities to follow but also be a model for other community colleges across the state and the nation,” said Dr. Adrien Bennings, PCC president. “This partnership has created an opportunity for our students to have access to affordable housing. When you see the situation across our state, this is going to go a long way in creating some resolution so that basic needs can be met.”

Ukrainian children playing.

The Strategic Plan: Belonging

The 2020-2025 Strategic Plan prepares the college for the future of higher education. Part of the plan is creating a sense of belonging and well-being for every student and staff, ensuring access to key resources, develop intercultural competencies, and support a culture where everyone feel acknowledged, inspired and supported.

Learn more about the plan

The first property the non-profit organization developed is the 72-unit Connery Place building for $11.5 million, which hosted its ribbon-cutting last week to officially open the complex. Funding from the Oregon Department of Human Services helped purchase the new property, which is located two blocks from the Southeast Campus.

Around 20 of the apartments will be offered to students at a rent affordable rate to someone making 30% of the area median income (about $600 a month) for a one-bedroom apartment. The other 50 apartments will be offered to students making 60% of the area median income ($1,200), according to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In addition to Connery Place, PCC’s Portland Metropolitan Workforce Training Center redevelopment will be introducing affordable housing on the property in partnership with Home Forward.

Javier Gomez, who immigrated to Portland from El Salvador, is a PCC Future Connect Scholarship Program student. Gomez is taking advantage of the housing via ARCS and said the stability the housing has provided has been key to his education.

“I was able to continue my college education,” Gomez said. “It’s wonderful when the community comes together and tackles these problems in the wider society.”

Full-time or part-time students can apply for apartments through the organization’s website, though applicants for the 20 lower-rent units need to be referred through partner colleges or nonprofits.

“Statistics show us that students feel less lonely, students feel more like somebody cares that they are in school and feel more like they belong,” said Senior Fellow at Education Northwest and the founder of Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice Sara Goldrick-Rab about providing stable housing. “And a Washington state study is also showing that we’ve actually improved their health. I’m seeing students who get housing are less likely to go to the emergency room or less likely to encounter police that result in felonies, charges or arrests. So I’m really excited and optimistic about this.”

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, is the Director of Public Relations at Portland Community College. A graduate of Portland State University, James has worked as a section editor for the Newberg Graphic... more »