“Our mission is based on the belief that strong, healthy communities are created and stabilized when homeowners have a stake in their neighborhoods,” says Miller, quoting HOST gospel. “We look for opportunities in which the community is interested in improving and sustaining itself.”
Rich Binsacca is a freelance writer in Boise, Idaho.
PROFILE: John Miller
Credit: David Papazian Photography
A Portland native, John Miller has witnessed the migration of the Rose City’s workforce residents from the urban core to the suburbs and beyond, the flipside of a growth boundary established in the late 1970s to stem sprawl and encourage high-density housing that instead resulted in higher land costs and housing prices.
Ironically, his not-for-profit development company, Home Ownership a Street at a Time (HOST), is using the growth boundary legislation to finance and build housing that keeps low-income workers close to their jobs while maintaining urban vitality. “We work in neighborhoods that are in transition,” he says, and under a mission that encourages existing residents to remain (and thrive) as homeowners rather than be displaced by gentrification.
In addition to developing infill parcels near existing public transit, building communities with interesting streetscapes, and targeting existing families, HOST is able to secure low-interest, long-term financing from community reinvestment tax credits.
He and his team also seek out in-kind and pro bono services and corporate foundation support to supplement loans; though HOST avoids direct government financing, it does help buyers navigate the public funding matrix for mortgage loans.
The result of HOST’s 20-year history is a portfolio of nearly 400 homes purchased by folks with incomes as low as 70% of the market’s median. “We’re seen as a welcome addition to an active neighborhood’s existing revitalization efforts,” says Miller. “We enjoy strong support because of our mission.”