Coming Home. NAYA’s award-winning affordable housing projects.

Coming Home. NAYA’s award-winning affordable housing projects.

While we celebrate and honor the cultures, traditions, and histories of Native American communities during National Native American Heritage Month, at NAYA we celebrate our heritage and resilience year-round and in everything we do. Foundational to our work and mission, continued innovation and adaptation allows us to expand our programs to better serve our community.  

One of the areas of which we are most proud is the growth and innovation in our affordable housing developments. In fact, about six years ago we were assessing our capacity to operate affordable housing effectively. Instead of turning away from this urgent need, we leaned in to tackle the issue of homelessness for our Native community, and the need for affordable housing in Portland, and the result has been award-winning. 

Nesika Illahee, Grand Opening January 29, 2020. Nesika Illahee, or “Our Place” in the Chinook language, is historic and groundbreaking as it was the first affordable housing project to utilize Indian Housing Block Grants in an urban setting. Developed in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians (Siletz), Community Development Partners (CDP), and the Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA), this 59-unit project allowed us to reserve a minimum of 20 units for federally recognized tribal mebers with a first priority to Siletz Tribal members. Through NARA’s on-site support services, Nesika Illahee is designed to be a supportive environment for those on their journey to recovery. In 2020, Nesika Illahee was honored with the Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Awards, small-scale category. This award commends the project’s affordability, innovative financing and building technologies, proximity to employment centers and transportation hubs, and the unique involvement of public and private partnerships.  

Mamook Tokatee, Grand Opening May 5, 2021. Mamook Tokatee, or “Make Beautiful” in the Chinook language, offering 56 units of affordable housing, was our second project to be developed in partnership with Siletz and CDP. Once again utilizing Indian Housing Block Grant revenue, we were able to reserve units for Native community members–but unique to Mamook Tokatee, there is also an artist preference. With studio apartments and an artists’ community studio room, the development offers deep affordability to artists. Just last month on October 25, Mamook Tokatee won the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition’s Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award in the Housing for Native Americans or Tribal Populations category. This award recognizes the impactful use of low-income housing tax credits and celebrates developments that strengthen communities, provide opportunities for residents, and contribute to local economies.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, CDP President and CFO Kyle Paine, and NAYA Interim Director of Community Development Sky Waters, at the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition’s 29th Annual Edson Award Ceremony in Washington D.C.

Hayu Tilixam, Grand Opening December 12, 2022. Hayu Tilixam, or “Many Nations” in the Chinook language, is the third collaboration between CDP and NAYA that is focused on providing culturally specific housing for the Native community. In a second partnership with NARA, Hayu Tilixam also offers critical stabilization services to residents. Of the 50 units of affordable housing, nine are designated as permanent supportive housing. Hayu Tilixam was recognized with the 2023 Golden Hammer Award for Best New Multifamily Project. This award celebrates developments that prioritize affordability, quality of design, livability, and community revitalization. 

Place-based investments 

Realizing that due to rising housing costs, our Native community was being pushed out of Portland, we made the intentional move to invest in Portland’s NE Cully neighborhood. The three affordable housing developments mentioned above are all located in Cully, with two exciting projects to come in 2024: 

Through a partnership between Home Forward and Portland Community College, the Portland Community College Opportunity Center will offer a county health clinic; workforce development classes focusing on health care and construction careers; 84 units of affordable housing units, 20 of which NAYA can offer to our community including some designated as permanent supportive housing for foster youth; and an Early Learning Center with up to four classrooms. 

Tistilal Village, located on the bus line to NAYA in the Portsmouth neighborhood, is another historic affordable housing project developing 58 units of affordable housing. The project is redeveloping an existing NAYA property, advancing the vision of Native housing leaders that built the original property in the early 1970s. The project team includes NAYA and NARA, who have served the Native American community for a combined total of nearly 90 years; and Colas Construction, a second‐generation, family‐owned construction firm and the largest Black‐owned general contractor in the Pacific Northwest.  

Change Makers with Katie Goar 

NAYA Interim Chief Executive Officer Oscar Arana was interviewed for the Change Makers podcast with Katie Goar. Formerly NAYA’s Director of Community Development, Oscar spearheaded efforts to lean into our community’s housing needs, leading NAYA’s housing development project team to gain the knowledge and expertise to “do housing right!” This interview explores NAYA’s critical work in addressing houselessness and the impact of our culturally specific programs and wraparound services. To listen in on this inspiring two-part interview click the links below: 

Podcast EPISODE 1  

Podcast EPISODE 2 

 “We’re excited for the footprint we’re building here with the Cully neighborhood with these affordable housing developments, early learning center and campus. We’re really Indigenizing the Cully neighborhood,” said Arana.  

As a testament to National Native American Heritage Month, we are truly grateful for the opportunity to provide life-affirming and life-changing programs and services, like affordable housing, to our community. With a strengths-based approach, all things become possible.