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Seniors Celebrate Housing Rehab

MEDFORD — Residents of 56 affordable senior housing units Friday celebrated the grand reopening of Spring Street Apartments after a $5 million makeover — a project that brought in much green, energy-saving technology and left rent and utilities — as before — under 30 percent of residents' income.

The three-story development, located within walking distance of Providence Medford Medical Center, markets and shops, was bought from its original developer in 2008 by Northwest Housing Alternatives, a nonprofit affordable housing organization based in Milwaukie.

The complex was completely rehabbed and recapitalized, including the purchase price, for $5.5 million, said Stephen McMurtrey, housing developer for NHA.

Linda Novak, 65, and other residents gathered Friday for lunch and a cake, which was shaped like the apartment complex. Those present said they loved the place — especially the rents, which for Novak is $196 from her Social Security income of $676.

"Before I was here, I was just about homeless," says Novak. "My husband passed away, and I didn't know affordable housing existed. I had to wait only two months to get in. I love it — nice neighbors, wonderful management."

The re-do of the complex, says McMurtrey, includes an entirely new building envelope, meaning siding, insulation and double-pane windows, new roof, new decks and green features such as heat pumps, high-efficiency HVAC, passive solar water heaters and Energy Star electric features.

"It's fantastic, and it's great to see increased availability of affordable housing for seniors," said Medford City Councilman John Michaels, taking part in a tour of the complex.

Senior and disabled renters are subsidized by federal HUD funding via Oregon Housing and Community Services, the State Home Oil Weatherization Program and State Housing Trust Fund, said McMurtrey.

Jean Arent, 85, a 21-year resident of the complex who pays $163 a month for rent, said, "I love it. You can walk anywhere. I couldn't live anywhere else."

After paying $400 a month for one 10-by-12-foot room, Cerise Daniels, 53, found Spring Street Apartments two months ago. "I like it a lot," she said. "I'm finally able to afford a place of my own, at $213. It's quiet, and you become friends with a lot of people. It's like a big family."

The project is capitalized by the nonprofit Network for Oregon Affordable Housing in Gladstone. The group's preservation director, Rob Prasch, said he gets his credit line from 22 member banks. The complex is managed by Cascade Management of Grants Pass. NHA is the largest nonprofit developer of affordable housing in Oregon, with 1,613 units in 16 counties, housing more than 2,500 people, said Tim Collier, NHA director of resource development.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Resident Linda Novak, 65, shows off her new kitchen cabinets in Medford Friday after a $5 million makeover of the Spring Street Apartments, which provide affordable senior housing. - Julia Moore