Nonprofit opens doors to new starter homes
It is repeatedly said within the housing industry that no one builds starter homes anymore. Land, permitting, utility and construction costs are so high that first-time home buyers are routinely priced out of the market.
But a local nonprofit developer has proven that it's still possible to build and sell affordable new homes. Family-size townhomes in the Northeast Portland's recently completed Brunswick Commons start at $255,000. The most expensive ones are priced at $295,000 — well below the $410,000 median sales price for homes in Portland.
Brunswick Commons homes come in four designs with an open floor plan and vary in size from 1,200 to 1,453 square feet.
"These aren't your typical affordable one-bedroom or studio cubby-holes. They are family-sized condominiums with three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and plenty of storage space," said Dalton Sheppard, the assistant director at the National Urban Housing & Economic Community Development Corporation, which built and is selling the townhomes.
Anyone is eligible to buy the new units. But each is discounted $20,000 for households earning up to the median family income. That is $81,400 a year for a family of four. Qualifying households can also receive $20,000 downpayment assistance grants, 10-year property tax abatements and other assistance.
"We're working with the Portland Housing Center," Sheppard said. "They have $20,000 Neighborhood Lift down payment assistance grants. Teachers, those who have served in the military, and emergency responders can qualify for an additional $2,500."
No profit margin
The development corporation was created five years ago to provide job training to people facing barriers to employment and to build affordable housing. Brunswick Commons is the organization's first large housing project. The organization is in the process of rebranding itself Building Our Community to better convey its mission.
"We believe that by moving folks from being renters to homebuyers, there is an opportunity to build multi-generational wealth through growing equity. Homeownership can provide monthly financial stability and predictability and may qualify people to take advantage of additional tax deductions and credits," Sheppard said.
Brunswick Commons has 20 three-story townhomes in five buildings. Two of the buildings have five units each, two of the buildings have four units each, and one of the buildings has two units. They were built by the Vic Construction Co. The $5.1 million project was financed with private donations, grants and loans.
The project is next to the MAX line at Northeast 109th Avenue and Burnside Street. Each townhome also has parking, however, for residents whose jobs are not along transit lines.
Because the organization is a nonprofit, Sheppard said it can sell townhomes at cost. "There is no profit margin listed on top of these units," he said.
Brunswick Commons is not the kind of missing middle housing the City Council is hoping to encourage through the Residential Infill Project, which would allow up to four units on lots in single family neighborhoods. The buildings are larger than the maximum limits proposed in the plan, which will be first heard by the council in January.
Brunswick Commons hosts an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14.
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