Portland-area church property offers new affordable housing for LGBTQ+ seniors

By Joni Auden Land (OPB)
April 14, 2024 1 p.m.

The Opal Apartments complex was built on a property owned by Christ United Methodist Church

After years of development, the Opal Apartments — a 54-unit complex serving LGBTQ+ seniors located in Cedar Mill, west of Portland — opened to the public on Thursday and will soon be filled with residents.

At the opening ceremony, dozens of people from local governments, nonprofits and across the LGBTQ+ community gathered to get a peek at the new buildings. There are multiple one- or two-bedroom units, and multiple community rooms on the ground floor for different events.


The brand new apartments, on the site of two single-family homes, are owned by Christ United Methodist Church, who owns the land and will be neighbors to the Opal’s residents.

The Opal Apartments in Cedar Mill, Oregon, on April 11. The apartments will serve LGBTQ+ senior citizens.

The Opal Apartments in Cedar Mill, Oregon, on April 11. The apartments will serve LGBTQ+ senior citizens.

Joni Land / OPB

The apartments are not exclusively for LGBTQ+ residents, but priority will be given to applicants that are referred by Friendly House Elder Pride Services, a nonprofit serving older LGBTQ+ people in Oregon. Residents must be 55 or older, and earn between 30-60% of the area median income.

Stake in the development is evenly split between Christ United Methodist Church and Home First Development, a Portland-based company specialized in affordable housing projects.

Rev. Paul Richards-Kuan, the lead pastor at Christ United, said the idea for this project started nearly 20 years ago, and began in earnest in 2018 following the passage of a Metro’s voter-approved affordable housing bond that year. Metro is the Portland area’s regional government.

Interest in the units is already spiking. Home First CEO Ben Pray said they already have more than 100 people on the waiting list, which speaks to the need for housing queer seniors.


“A lot of people are wishing there was more affordable housing,” Pray said. “Partnering with a church and using underused church land — it’s a challenge, but it works.”

Related: Report finds queer Portlanders in need of more housing services

One of those challenges included a buried oil tanker that forced crews to conduct a brownfield remediation and clean the contaminated ground. Richards-Kuan also said his other congregations criticized the choice to support queer seniors via social media and letters to the church.

He said he was glad the project was finally complete and that people could soon move in. Members of the church made more than 70 quilts for the new residents upon their arrival.

“This is about the people who are going to move in, and that they’ll be able to have a safe, affordable place to live,” Richards-Kuan said.

More housing built on church properties

It’s part of a wider movement of religious congregations building housing units on their properties, many of which have old historic buildings but fewer people to fill seats.

Related: As membership declines, Portland churches see money and ministry in affordable housing

Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth, head of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church, has recently pushed for more churches to explore adding affordable housing as part of their mission. The UMC hosted a conference in Portland last year to help interested congregations jumpstart the process.

Bridgeforth said Christ United Methodist was the first to fully complete such a project, and that other congregations in the Pacific Northwest are exploring similar developments on their land.

“I think it will be the norm, because we sit on a lot of property throughout the state,” he said. “We’re not going to use all of it for traditional church things, but providing housing is a responsibility of the church.”