John D. Gray, 92, got wind about three years ago, near the bottom of the Great Recession, that Habitat for Humanity was doing something pretty interesting here in Oregon’s largest city. In a depressed real estate market, Habitat, the nonprofit housing group, was betting big: trying to buy vacant land on the cheap, shopping from banks in repossession and foreclosure sales to squirrel away for housing projects years in the future. This spring, the first 22 homes in the largest Habitat project in Oregon history — a 65-unit subdivision left partly built by a private developer who abandoned it when the market crashed — are rising on Portland’s east side. Habitat, meanwhile, has become the 10th-largest home builder in the Portland metropolitan area by housing volume, according to a local building trades association, and even more dominant on the lower-income east side through the $10 million land-bank fund that Mr. Gray helped anchor. Other Habitat branches have also pivoted in the recession, trying different angles in a dark time. In Nevada and Florida, for example, some Habitat groups stopped new construction entirely and shifted to renovation, buying abandoned properties in cities racked by high foreclosure rates.
– NY Times