Turning triangular lot into a square deal
Thursday, November 30, 2006
By Su-jin Yim
It's an empty lot in a hot neighborhood, but for neighbors and housing advocates, it's been a mind-numbing exercise in patience.
The contaminated site at Southeast 19th and Division streets has sat empty for more than a decade as old tanks buried underground leak gasoline.
Now, two housing groups and Multnomah County hope to replace the Seven Corners brownfield with condos.
It's an unusual project for Reach Community Development, which was originally awarded the triangle of land in 1999 and planned to build apartments for low-income or physically disabled elderly.
Then the Southeast housing group found out new rules from the Housing and Urban Development Department: The eight or so buried tanks made the project ineligible for crucial federal funds, says Michelle Haynes, Reach housing development manager.
So, Reach and the county stepped back, looked around and noticed something. Buying a home in the neighborhood is tough. Why not try to make it a little easier?
Reach reached out to the Portland Community Land Trust, and the homeownership organization stepped up.
Together, they want to develop a four-story building with three floors of condos and ground-floor retail and parking. At least half of the 25 condos would be designated as affordable housing. The rest would sell for market rate. The county expects to receive the go-ahead from the state Department of Environmental Quality by the end of the year, Haynes says.
Because of the odd size and shape of the lot, the condos probably would need to be one-bedrooms, leaving out families. That also means it won't qualify for public subsidies, much of which are restricted to family housing, the housing advocates told Multnomah County commissioners earlier this month.
Land trust Executive Director Allison Handler says her group would ensure the units remain affordable by tacking on deed restrictions that limit how much owners could resell the condos for.
If the plan works, residents could start moving in during the latter half of 2008. Neighbors are waiting to see updated design and architectural drawings, says Linda Nettekoven of the Hosford Abernethy Neighborhood Association.
The project could become a model for others on how to build affordable housing without leaning heavily on public cash, Handler says.
County commissioners greeted the idea enthusiastically at a recent meeting. Chairwoman Diane Linn said the neighborhood can't wait for something to happen.
"The mixed-income piece is a real asset," she said. "Every community should have a mix of people."
Su-jin Yim: 503-294-7611; firstname.lastname@example.org