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Eugene City About a New Affordable Housing Project in Downtown

eugene housing projectEugene city officials didn’t have to look far to land a private developer to take the reins of an affordable housing project on the Eugene downtown riverfront.

The Eugene City Council unanimously authorized Monday the sale of a future parcel for $1 to Portland-based Williams & Dame & Associates. There is a condition that it will build at least 75 units of affordable housing on it.

Earlier this month, there was an agreement between the city and developer to partner on a public-private project to transform the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s former operations yard into a new neighborhood complemented with retail and a three-acre community park stretching along the riverfront.

The city initially had agreed to sell the lot to an affordable housing developer, which could have included Williams & Dame or another organization, at some point. But as the talks have continued, Williams & Dame expressed willingness to take on the project to give its investors greater certainty about its direction, Michael Kinnison, the city’s community development director, told city councilors.

“Williams and Dame feel they can ensure that’s done on an expedited timeline of a high-quality design that blends with the rest of the development,” Kinnison said.

A representative of the developer didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Several city councilors and residents had earlier expressed concerns about what they considered too little green space. The council directed city staff members to continue discussions with Williams & Dame to try to secure more parkland.

The project will be either constructed by Williams & Dame itself or in partnership with another organization. The developer, well-known for its projects in Portland, has partnered in the past with BRIDGE Housing Corp., which is a San Francisco-based affordable housing developer.

By buying the land for $1, Williams & Dames agreed to build no fewer than 75 units that are affordable to households earning less than 60% of the area median income, which is $38,460 a year. Monthly rents would be capped initially at $721 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,000 a month for a three-bedroom apartment, based on limits set by the federal government.

Williams & Dame and any partner would need to comply with these incomes and rent limits if they seek to qualify for a federal program that awards income tax credits.

The move by Williams & Dame may have boosted political support for its plan to seek a 10-year property tax waiver under the city’s Multi-unit Property Tax Exemption for the apartments it plans to build. It has not yet applied for the waiver.

To qualify for MUPTE, a developer either must designate 30% of the units as “workforce housing” with rents at or below 30% of the area median income, or no more than $1,283 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,603 a month for a three-bedroom apartment — or the developer can pay a fee.

Councilor Alan Zelenka said a Williams & Dame MUPTE request would be dead on arrival for him if the developer had zero connection to the affordable housing project.

With Williams & Dame taking the project’s reins, “that at least opens it up for me to consider the MUPTE,” Zelenka said, although he noted he would need more information before deciding.

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