Developer trying to work with Portland on faster, less expensive - KPTV - FOX 12

Developer trying to work with Portland on faster, less expensive affordable housing

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In the search for answers to the Portland area's housing crunch, a local developer is asking the city to think outside the box.

Rob Justus, who operates Home First Development, said he is in discussions with the city to build what are known as "turn-key" properties to be used as affordable housing.

Justus' developments are funded by traditional financing, then sold directly to a buyer when construction is finished.

His company is currently building 92 affordable apartments in east Portland for a local non-profit organization.

"This project happens to be in Reynolds School District, so we're going to work with them to identify families that are already here to live in these units," Justus said.

Currently, the City of Portland relies on a traditional model of affordable housing development, beginning with a design by city planners, followed by bids from outside contractors and construction. 

Kurt Creager, director of the Portland Housing Bureau, said he is open to Justus' approach, though.

"If a developer has their own working capital and they have their own site, and they would like to build something and sell it to the City of Portland, we need not be involved in the design," he said.

Creager explained that the city's self-imposed guidelines for developing affordable housing can make those projects more expensive, with restrictions on everything from building materials to what kinds of workers can be used.

Justus' developments, meanwhile, can be built at roughly half the price the city currently pays per unit of affordable housing.

Creager said the city is currently considering a proposal submitted by Justus and his partner.

"A concept of about 300 units, at a cost of $100,000 a unit,” he said. “And that's a terrific bargain."

Unlike many other affordable developments, the apartments Justus is currently building in east Portland will all rent at below market value, with a two-bedroom unit priced at close to $800 per month.

"The organizations that we're building for aren't trying to pull money or make money off the projects we're building,” Justus said. “For them, it is about the mission of affordability.”

He believes his developments are designed to be sustainable and to last 60 to 80 years.

Justus said he has approached the city with his proposals in the past, but discussions never led anywhere. He said he is now looking forward to working with the city.

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