Recent Workshop Provides Guidance for the OHCS Mental Health Housing NOFA Allocating $16+ Million in Funds this Year

Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) will award more than $16m this year through their Mental Health Housing NOFA to create affordable housing for those with serious mental illness and substance use disorders. On March 7, Pinnacle attended a workshop conducted by the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) on creating and operating quality supportive housing for special needs populations. Attendees included a third each: new to this funding, some experience, and expert level. It was also about a third each of developers, supportive service providers, and property managers. CSH gave definitions of mental health housing, the ideal development team, key models with examples, and keys to success.

The biggest take-a-way is the importance of partnerships between developers, service providers, and property managers that all have similar missions. OHCS and CSH offer free assistance on connecting organization if needed. They also had good advice on garnering local support including using photos of good examples (we have lots of those!) and doing tours of local successful supportive or supported housing projects.

A training earlier that day was conducted with OHCS staff members on the specifics of the NOFA. The presentation can be viewed here and NOFA application here. This maps out all the requirement of the application due April 21.

Housing Basics

The mission of supported and supportive housing is to help people who face complex challenges to live with stability, autonomy, and dignity. It’s the blend of affordable housing and supportive services.

The difference between supported and supportive housing is the restrictions of the % of units set aside for OHA referrals and number of tenants per unit. A good comparison is located here.

  • Supported housing: Independent living, voluntary for serious mental illness and required for substance use disorders, no more than 25% can be set aside for placement by a serious mental illness Supported Housing Provider.
  • Supportive housing: Majority or all tenants receive support services with a serious mental illness or substance use disorders. If transitional, no more than 2 years.


Determine if you’re going to lease or build new. You can’t develop without a strong partnership including a developer, supportive services provider, and property manager. This is referred to as the three-legged stool. These don’t have to fall into three difference companies…a developer can also provide property management.

Capital + Services + Operating = Development Team

  • Developer: Oversees capital development and the project from concept through construction. They ensure the project will be viable for the long term.
  • Service Provider: Designs and implements the services offering plan. They raise funds for ongoing operations and coordinate any additional services outside their umbrella.
  • Property Manager: Designs and implements the day-to-day operations plan. They upkeep the property and manage the inflow of tenant revenue. They also coordinate with the services provider.

Budgets needed:

  • Development – Schedule of Sources and Uses of Funds and Capital Financial. Include both hard and soft costs.
  • Supportive Services Budget – cost of services for tenants (both on-site and off-site)
  • Operating Budget – Schedule of income and expenses and operating subsidy (if needed to cover the gap in what tenants can afford to pay)

Discussion: Funding sources, what do you currently use?

Three Key Models

1. Single Site, single population – caters to one population. example: Kelly Cullen Community in San Francisco, CA affordable apartments for chronically homeless that includes an on-site community health center.

2. Single site, mixed population – combines supported and supportive housing. example: The Franklin & Eleanor Apartments in Bridgeport CT. Includes 48 units for low-income residence, 24 units for permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals, 62 units for independent senior living, and 35 units for assisted senior living. Alpha Community Services provides counseling and case management services on site.

3. Scattered site housing – opportunity is that you can take advantage of available/donated properties. Challenge is delivering services across a larger geographic location versus a single site. Example: Allegan County Supportive Housing Initiative, Allegan County, MI.

No one model is the answer to every situation.


  • Can micro-apartments fill a need – are they quality living?
  • Modular units were mentioned and an audience member said their experience was the development time was shorter but the overall cost wasn’t less expensive.

Keys to Success

  • All parties need a similar mission to keep people housed.
  • Make sure you have a contract and/or memo and understanding that includes the documented roles and responsibilities. See examples of these documents on CSH’s website.
  • All parties to meet on a regular basis.

Building Community Support

  • Strong communication to address unsubstantiated fears
    • Inform the community – hold open houses, tours of other sites, use photos of GOOD projects.
    • Control your message – choose one or two spokespeople and create simple messaging and attractive materials.
  • Enlist stakeholders
    • Focus on positive or neutral supporters…not on the negative (hard to change minds)
    • Identify where the opposition might come from.
  • Tell your story
    • Include testimony from tenants and neighbors of existing supportive housing
    • Use social media.
    • Find examples of successful projects. E.g. a supportive housing project in New York raised property taxes (CSH has case studies on their website)
  • If needed, develop a strategy to protect and use legal rights

Additional Resources:


Jessica Biel is Business Development Director at Pinnacle Architecture. Jessica brings over 15 years of experience in strategic marketing and content development at global architecture firms. She’s passionate about learning everything she can about her client’s business, their struggles, and what makes them shout with joy. Through research and developing educational content, Jessica helps communicate the benefits of good architectural design that enhance lives and communities. Jessica can be reached at 541.388.9897×16 or Jessica@Parch.Biz.