After sitting empty for several years, the former Marylhurst University property in Lake Oswego will soon become the site of a new affordable housing building, Marylhurst Commons.
A coalition of local, state, and national organizations broke ground on the project Friday.
Marylhurst Commons will consist of 100 units, ranging from one-bedroom to three-bedroom homes. Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas said it’s a step in the right direction for the county, which has a goal to create 1,500 affordable housing units by 2025.
“We all know that Lake Oswego is a high-cost area,” Savas said. “By moving this project forward, local leaders show they believe in keeping housing affordable so they can afford to live in the community that they grew up in, or work in.”
The median income in Lake Oswego is more than $114,000 per year, according to the U.S. Census, well above the state average of about $66,000. Lake Oswego’s average rents are more than 50% above Oregon as a whole.
The new project is funded through the Metro Regional Affordable Housing Bond, and state funding. It’s the second Clackamas County affordable housing project funded through the Metro bond.
Marylhurst University closed in 2018. When the university closed, leaders of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, which owns the property, started discussing what to do with the former college campus.
Sister Linda Patrick, of the Sisters of the Holy Names, said one theme continued to come up.
“People said housing, we need housing,” Patrick said. “We need housing for people with fewer financial resources.”
The project is moving forward with the support of Mercy Housing, a national affordable housing developer with regional offices serving California, Washington and Idaho. Marylhurst Commons is Mercy Housing’s first project in Oregon.
Once complete, the property will also offer services for residents including a playground, and on-site services. Forty of the units will be Permanent Supportive Housing units specifically for families experiencing chronic homelessness.
The project also marks the first family affordable housing project in Lake Oswego. Though affordable housing has long been a topic of discussion in the city, Lake Oswego Mayor Joe Buck said growth has been slow.
“It’s unfortunate that it has taken this long, but it’s a big step in this community’s evolution,” Buck said. “Lake Oswego wants its community to be open and welcoming to all the wide variety of people it takes for us to have a healthy community.”
Lake Oswego has two affordable housing properties for seniors.
Housing children and their families is a large part of the program through a partnership with the Lake Oswego School District.
According to the state report card, 18,358 Oregon students experienced homelessness during the 2021-2022 school year.
Lake Oswego superintendent Jennifer Schiele said she is excited for more Lake Oswego students to have a safe place to live. She said there’s a need for affordable, permanent housing for Lake Oswego students and their families.
“I think a lot of people don’t believe that Lake Oswego has families that are in this kind of situation but we do, and we have a lot of them actually,” Schiele said. “We have many who live in hotels, many who live with relatives, it’s important to us to make sure all of our students have a safe home.”
Marylhurst Commons is set to be completed in January 2024.