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Keeping in touch: Notes from the Mayor

Mayor Lucy VinisThis blog aims to nurture our conversation and understanding of the issues before us. Every week, I will provide a weekly update on the activities in the city government, my activities as mayor, and brief reflections on progress, opportunities and challenges. You are invited to respond with reactions, insights and questions. We do this work together.

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Jun 11

June 11, 2021

Posted on June 11, 2021 at 3:08 PM by Niyah Ross

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 rate.

 

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.