Construction of a new inner eastside affordable housing project is finally taking off.
It's been four years since city officials purchased the Safari Club, a sordid strip joint in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood, for future use as part of the $258.4 million Portland Housing Bond approved by voters in 2016.
Last month, City Hall formally signed on the dotted line — injecting $33 million in bond funds into the project at 3000 S.E. Powell Blvd. and transferring the property to Home Forward, the local housing authority.
"The housing that will be created there will serve generations, improve the neighborhood and will be beautiful," said Michael Bunocore, the agency's executive director.
The total cost is pegged at $82 million — with Bank of America chipping in $33.1 million for low-income tax credits and more than $5.7 million coming from waived development fees.
The four-story, H-shaped wood-frame building with a brick facade will create 206 rental units housing an estimated 354 people, with preference given to those exiting homelessness. It will feature 123 studio apartments, 18 one-bedroom units, 59 two-bedroom units and six three-bedroom units. Thirty apartments will be designated as permanently supportive, at a cost of $10,000 per year per unit to be paid by the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services. Culturally-specific support services will be administered by El Programa Hispano Catolico.
Food security, youth and employment services, as well as medical and mental health care will also be provided to residents.
Some 68 units will be priced to be affordable to households making 30% of the area median income — that's less than $29,000 annually for a family of four — with the rest affordable for those making 60% of the median income. Rents will start at as little as $400 per month, but many residents will also receive vouchers covering all or most of their bill.
The units are guaranteed to stay affordable for 99 years, according to the city documents.
"It's a high opportunity area that is also experiencing extreme market pressure and gentrification," said City Commissioner Dan Ryan.
Shannon Callahan, director of the Portland Housing Bureau, said construction was delayed as planners figured out access issues on Powell Boulevard, a bustling state highway, and discovered unstable soil, filled in decades ago, which required environmental remediation and deeper foundations.
The City Council ultimately decided to buy part of an adjacent property from Home Forward for $727,000. The 1.3-acre parcel will be split, allowing for more outdoor amenities and parking at the complex, and future affordable homeownership opportunities down the line.
"It will provide an even better development," said Callahan, "with more light, air, space for landscaping, trees, gardens, a playground and an overall better living environment and community for the residents."
The project is slated to open in June 2023.
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