In its never ending wisdom and good stewardship of the public purse, Portland has decided to spend $29 Million dollars on a 60-unit luxury condo building in the heart of the city’s upscale Pearl District. That comes to $483,333 per unit. For a condo. In an area where there is no parking. With the public on the hook for most of it.
In standard Portland operating procedure, it will please the greenies, by using an “innovative wood product called cross-laminated timber, or CLT, instead of steel and concrete.” Even more Portland-y, it will be called Framework and some organization called “Project^” is involved. Yes, Project^ is the name. With a “^”.
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Courtesy of Willamette Week:
The building would be the nation’s tallest made of wood and serve as a public relations boon for the timber industry, but it’s also attracting critics because it would be far more expensive to build than a traditional concrete and steel structure.
“This might be a good project if we were not in a housing emergency,” says Jo Ann Hardesty, a candidate for the Portland City Council. “I’m just concerned we get distracted by the shiny new object.”
As Wheeler prepared to take office in fall 2016, he pledged to slash the high price the city pays to build affordable housing.
At the time, WW reported that city-subsidized apartments cost up to $514 per square foot to purchase and renovate—more than double the rate of constructing market-rate housing.
Wheeler’s response to that story was decisive.
“We have to reduce costs and get more supply on the market as quickly as possible,” Wheeler told WW then. “You can’t just declare a housing emergency and keep doing the same thing.”
But a year later, Wheeler’s choice for Portland’s next affordable housing project comes with a even higher price tag: $651.43 per square foot.
The city will chip in $6 million in urban renewal funds toward the nearly $29 million project. Another $19.5 million will come from other government sources—Home Forward and the federal low-income housing tax credit program—and $1.5 million from private investment and other public grants.
Meanwhile, the City Council hasn’t been given a chance to vote on the funding of Framework with city dollars. Instead, Wheeler acted alone.
In response to criticism last summer of the sluggish pace of city-funded housing projects, Wheeler relaunched a program called Fast Starts, in which developers with shovel-ready projects could apply for funding. The City Council voted to approve the Fast Starts, but Wheeler has picked Framework as the first project.
Last year, the median family income in the Portland metro area was $74,700 for a family of four or $52,290 for an individual.
Local housing authority Home Forward will contribute about $6.5 million, including grant money and fees the group will earn for development, according to Home Forward spokesman Tim Collier. About $10.6 million will come from federal tax credits, and building developer Project^ —pronounced “project”—will spend about $1.2 million.
“That’s like paying for a Toyota and getting a Tesla in return,” Wheeler wrote Thursday.
Wheeler wrote that leveraging private and other public resources is “essential” for creating affordable housing that lasts.
Investing in high-quality materials upfront will help ensure that the apartments affordable for 99 years as intended, he wrote.
“Less maintenance and repair over time translates into lower rents throughout the life of the building,” Wheeler wrote.
He noted the project’s numerous architectural awards including the Portland Design Commission Excellence Award and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Tall Wood Building Prize.
So in Ted Wheeler’s world, somehow paying more than market value for something is akin to getting a good deal?
The city’s website has a page dedicated to the project:
“We are pleased to be part of the mayor’s comprehensive efforts toward providing affordable housing to an underserved community of residents in Portland,” said Anyeley Hallova, developer, project^. “Our proud commitment to social equity and economic opportunity in urban and rural Oregon is being cosigned by a powerhouse alliance of like-minded organizations whose focus is on energy efficiency, conservation, building innovations, rural economic development, sustainable forestry, transit-oriented development, and affordable housing.”
“We need more affordable units today and additional tools to address our community’s long-term needs. As a public agency, we have a responsibility to help create more options to develop affordable housing that’s seismically safer, more efficient and more sustainable. We’re thrilled to be a part of this innovation for our industry” said Michael Buonocore, Executive Director, Home Forward.
Framework is an award-winning project nationally and locally in recognition of its innovative, sustainable design, and pioneering research. The project recently received an acknowledgment prize for North America from the LafargeHolcim Foundation, considered the world’s most significant competition in sustainable design and scooped the national U.S. Tall Wood Buildingprize of $1.5 million from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Softwood Lumber Board, and Binational Softwood Lumber Council to fund the research necessary to utilize wood products in high-rise construction.
The Framework Project is represented by a collective of strong industry expertise that will drive the project’s success and will promote the use of wood technologies in future tall building developments. The group includes, in addition to project^ and Home Forward, LEVER Architecture, Walsh Construction Co., KPFF Consulting Engineers, ARUP, PAE Consulting Engineers, 2.ink Studio, and StructureCraft Builders Inc. For additional information, www.frameworkportland.com.
The current number of homeless in Portland is estimated to be about 4,200, with about 2,500 of them in shelter beds on any given night, leaving about 1,700 out in the streets. At the rate of the Framework project, Portland will be able to solve the homelessness issue with about $2,029,998,600 total. That’s over $2 Billion.
The average price of a house in Portland is $380,000, and I’m sure those are a lot bigger than the 660 square foot condos of Framework. The city could literally buy 60 houses and save $6 Million from the cost of Framework.
Also keep in mind this $29 Million is just the starting estimate. If this is anything like the OHSU tram, which went from a projected $15 Million to north of $55 Million, or the sewer treatment plant that went from $8 Million to over $12 Million and also kills birds, or the paperless billing system that was designed under the guise of cutting costs but ended up costing $3 Million more than projected, or the Sellwood Bridge project that went from $290 Million to $325 Million and required emergency city bonds and federal grants in order to complete, then the taxpayers and businesses better get ready to pony up the difference for Wheeler’s pet project.
But who wants to be a taxpayer when they can live better on the dole with “free” luxury condos?