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Portland, Oregon: Affordable Housing Prioritizes Native Americans and Artists

A photograph of a four-story building with a street, sidewalk, parked cars, and street trees in the foreground.
Photograph of an interior hallway with a tribal symbol next to an apartment number and a painting of a Native American woman in the foreground.
Interior photograph of a loft with stairs on the right, a kitchen with a stove and wooden cabinets on the left side, and a doorway to a bathroom in the background.
An interior photograph of a room with three movable tables and chairs, cabinet and shelving on the right, and windows in the background.
Interior photograph of a room with a ceiling with exposed ductwork, a table with chairs, and a kitchenette, with a children’s play space framed by a mural of a totem pole in the background.


Home > Case Studies > Portland, Oregon: Affordable Housing Prioritizes Native Americans and Artists


Portland, Oregon: Affordable Housing Prioritizes Native Americans and Artists


A 2022 report by the Portland Housing Bureau found that most neighborhoods in the Oregon city were not affordable for the average Native American household. In Portland’s Cully neighborhood, rising housing costs have displaced longtime Native American residents, motivating the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), an urban agency that has promoted "cultural reclamation and sovereignty" since 1974, to invest in developments intended to redress this problem. Through its partnership with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Community Development Partners, NAYA has created affordable housing intended for the city’s Native American community. The second project to come of this partnership is Mamook Tokatee, a 56-unit affordable housing development located on 42nd Street, which NAYA envisions as an inclusive and equitable economic revitalization corridor.

Following the precedent of Nesika Illahee, the first affordable housing project developed under this partnership, Mamook Tokatee uses Indian Housing Block Grant (IHBG) funds, but it is unique in that it supplies housing specifically for Native American artists living in the Portland area. The development received the 2023 Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award in the Housing for Native Americans or Tribal Populations category.

Affordable Housing for Native Americans

The 4-story building is located on an urban infill site and consists of 6 studio apartments, 33 one-bedroom, 7 two-bedroom, and 10 three-bedroom apartments. Residents earn between 30 and 60 percent of the median family income. Most of the individuals and families occupying the building are members of federally recognized tribes. Twenty units are set aside for members of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, which contributed funding for the project.

Site amenities include a community art studio, a community room, secure indoor bike parking, and eight onsite parking spaces. The developers incorporated energy-efficient features in Mamook Tokatee’s design to help reduce housing costs. The building includes all-electric construction, eliminating the need for gas lines and enabling the use of smaller, more cost-effective heating and cooling equipment. The tight building envelopes and energy recovery ventilation systems in all units also heighten energy efficiency.

NAYA provides onsite property management and resident services based on the Relational Worldview model, a holistic approach that considers an individual’s mind, body, spirt, and social context when providing wraparound services. Developed by the National Indian Child Welfare Association in the 1980s, this holistic model is rooted in the Native American concept of balance as the basis of health for an individual, family, or organization. NAYA’s full-time resident services coordinator (RSC) provides essential services such as eviction prevention, housing stability, and referrals to community resources. The RSC also connects residents to NAYA’s youth programs, education, job training, and cultural events.

Celebrating Native American Art and Artists

Because art is an important aspect of Native American culture, and because many members of the Native community are artists, the developers honored Native American art in the building’s architecture, designing spaces and programs for residents to create and share art. The architects reimagined the traditional Native American plank house’s small, demountable wood structure as a modernized, four-story design with a Native American theme, echoing the architecture of the Pacific Northwest cedar plank house on the lower floors and creating grey/white upper floors that blend into the Pacific Northwest sky. The building’s interior features works of Native American art, including framed pieces, sculptures, murals, and etchings. A cultural arts coordinator manages an onsite art studio and organizes events and workshops on traditional native practices including drummaking, pottery, weaving, and storytelling. Mamook Tokatee, which is a Chinook Wawa phrase meaning "make beautiful," reserves 11 units for artists, including 5 ground-floor loft units.

This connection to art and culture promotes healing and community building among residents who were displaced from their former neighborhoods. Native storytelling elements of the courtyard and indoor community spaces serve as tools for reducing isolation and enhancing cultural pride and belonging. For example, artist Toma Villa created the Children’s Mural, which depicts a totem pole with a raven, beaver, and bear to symbolize the Native American concepts of creation, persistence, family, and vitality.


The total cost to develop Mamook Tokatee was approximately $21 million, with Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) providing most of the funding (table 1). OHCS funding included approximately $13.8 million in 9 percent low-income housing tax credits. Other grants critical to the project’s success included $1 million from the IHBG, which funds 20 units and ensures that the project houses members of the Native American community.

Oregon Metro’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) program provided $300,000 in funding. Additional support included a $300,000 Meyer Memorial Trust grant and more than $100,000 in sustainability-related funding, including a Pacific Power Blue Sky grant and federal solar tax credits.

Table 1. Funding

OHCS 9 percent low-income housing tax credit equity $13,780,000
OHCS General Housing Account Program 2,290,000
OHCS Oregon Multifamily Energy Program 160,000
Indian Housing Block Grant 1,000,000
Oregon Metro Transit-Oriented Development program grant 300,000
Meyer Memorial Trust grant 300,000
Network for Oregon Affordable Housing Permanent Loan 2,970,000
Deferred development fee 80,000
Blue Sky grant 80,000
Federal solar tax credits 40,000
Total $21,000,000

NAYA’s Network of Cultural Resources

Mamook Tokatee is one of three NAYA housing developments in Portland’s Cully neighborhood that form a network of cultural resources. Nesika Illahee offers 59 units of affordable housing, and Hayu Tilixam provides 50 units. Located less than a mile from Mamook Tokatee, both developments have onsite resident services provided by NAYA. This model creates a supportive community among the Native Americans living in the buildings, and staff members share knowledge about their respective programs with their counterparts at the other developments. Mamook Tokatee hosts an annual block party in which residents from all three properties, neighbors, and other Native American community members can share a meal, enjoy artist showcases, and play games. In addition to the housing developments, NAYA opened its Economic Development office and retail space adjacent to Mamook Tokatee at the end of 2023.

This article was written by Sage Computing, Inc, under contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.