Council met on Wednesday after a two-week hiatus. The
main topic was a review and discussion of the proposed re-development of the
former LCC building at 1059 Willamette.
The building has been vacant since 2013 and is in a bad state of
disrepair. In 2016, Council had approved inclusion of the building as one
of four key projects within the Downtown Urban Renewal District. In 2020,
the City bought the property from LCC for $500,000 using federal Community
Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. Last summer, Council prioritized
investment in this building as part of our economic recovery from the pandemic
and to help meet our need to provide more housing that people can afford.
As a condition of the CDBG funds, 51% of the units must be affordable to people
at or below 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).
Council released a request for proposals in the fall and received a single
proposal from deChase Miksis and Edlen & Company for a 129-unit
building. The 66 affordable units would be supported with services
provided by Cornerstone Community Housing; and ten units would be reserved for
survivors of domestic violence in partnership with Womenspace. Located
across the street from the bus station, the proposed building would be all-electric,
aligning both with our goals to build housing downtown and to meet our climate
recovery goals to reduce our use of fossil fuels.
Some community members have objected to this building because even at 80% of
AMI, the rent is still pretty high. People in that income range earn about
$39,000; and the monthly rent, including a utility allowance, is projected to
be $894 for a studio and $956 for a one bedroom. This is higher than the
federal HUD Fair Market Rates of $773 and $893, respectively. Councilors
asked the Manager to explore the options for finding an additional $2 million
that could help the project bridge the gap to offer rents at the lower HUD
Overall, Councilors and I are strongly supportive of this project. It
is proposed by a local developer with roots in Eugene who cares about our city
and our residents; and who has partnered with respected nonprofits. They have
committed to retaining the affordable units for 35 years, 15 years longer than
the what is required by the CBDG funding agreement. The City is providing the
land for free, covering the cost of demolition and the EWEB connection fees,
and forgiving System Development Charges. Our total commitment is $1.1
million of a $30 million project.
The challenge of funding housing in this middle “workforce” range is
formidable. Federal resources are focused on lower income levels, at or
below 60% of AMI. Working households above that level make too much to
qualify for that lower cost housing and not enough to pay for market units.
We need to build all types, and this new housing will add to our increasing
range of options in our downtown core. Located in the Urban Renewal
District, this project benefits from local revenue sources, including the MUPTE
fee of $400,000 paid by the Obie Company for their housing in the 5th Street
expansion. It’s an important step.