Habitat for Humanity in the Portland region received a large private donation this week from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, and is putting the money toward affordable housing.

More than $8 million will be used to create housing for low income families in the Portland area, especially historically marginalized communities of color who have been blocked from economic opportunities, the nonprofit said.

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“This is a critical time for Oregon residents who continue to feel the impact of housing affordability, especially with the pandemic exacerbating that,” said Steve Messinetti, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Portland.

Steve Messinetti, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Portland Metro East, says that House Bill 2001 would allow nonprofit developers like Habitat to build more affordable housing.

Steve Messinetti is president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Portland.

Samantha Matsumoto / OPB

According to the nonprofit, the median sales price for a single-family home was $511,000 in February, a 16% increase over the prior year. This past year, Habitat Portland Region’s average first mortgage was $166,000 for 3- and 4-bedroom homes. But, Messinetti said, with this large donation, Habitat wants to go above and beyond offering affordable housing.

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The Portland branch of Habitat for Humanity received $8.5 million. Scott, who has donated billions of dollars to charitable causes since her divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

“This gift is almost double what we raised in a typical year in terms of our fundraising, so it’s definitely a significant boost,” Messinetti said.

He said the timing of the gift aligns with the development of a new five-year strategic plan aimed at long-term affordable housing solutions.

“Our plan is really about magnifying our impact through policy change efforts and being more involved in creating smart housing policies in our community,” Messinetti said.

Another aspect of the plan puts focus on assisting marginalized communities in accessing housing. Messinetti said the donation will accelerate many new initiatives.

“This isn’t just going to be something that allows us to do a little bit more of what we’ve always done,” Messinetti said. “But I’m hoping that this can really move the needle on affordable homeownership and especially closing what we call the minority homeownership gap for communities of color in our region.”

Portland received just a fraction of the donation to Habitat for Humanity nationwide. Scott donated $436 million in unrestricted giving to the nonprofit’s headquarters branch .

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