Repeating Mistakes Is Not a Housing Strategy

CascadeNewLogoBy John A. Charles, Jr.

The Portland City Council has approved a plan for the Housing Bureau to lease industrial land in North Portland for $10,000 per month, beginning October 7. The site is to be used for the construction of a large homeless shelter that potentially could serve up to 1,400 people. This idea, pushed by developer Homer Williams, was rushed through with virtually no due diligence.

Before additional money is spent, the City Council should carefully analyze what went wrong in two previous construction projects. First was the $58-million Wapato Jail built by Multnomah County in 2004, but never operated. With 525 beds in pristine condition, one would think there is potential for this site to temporarily house at least a few people now living under bridges.

Second, in 2011 Portland opened the $47 million Bud Clark Commons, which includes 130 studio apartments and extensive social services for low-income individuals. It was a nice idea, but the police have been called so often to the Commons that in December 2013, then-Chief Mike Reese told the Portland City Council that he was considering filing a chronic nuisance property complaint against the shelter.

Both structures were built with good intentions, but things did not go as planned. Let’s learn from the past before repeating mistakes in the future.

John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

  • Roger Enout

    August 22 Heart Warmer: “Some people give and forgive: Others get and forget.”

    • Connie Kosuda

      like INTEL.

      • Roger Enout

        Behest we forget, what are you getting by being something of a shilling…acting up for what’s left of US?

        • Connie Kosuda


          • Roger Enout

            Urine so a pol pot?

  • Bob Clark

    Homelessness is a real grind, an issue dating back to biblical times and before when man first began civilizing. The work ethic which maybe help keep homelessness constrained for most of U.S history has diminished since the turn of this century. Government tends to lack the moral compass to assist folks that can lift themselves up into a life of greater effort and self worth.

    As a result, there is a need to put charities like the Salvation Army and others at the lead in addressing the homeless issue. Government by itself is not very good at this issue as it can’t seem to build shelter and other facilities at anything close to market rate. The Bud Clark Commons cost nearly $900 per square foot, according to some reports I have read; this against the more typical construction price of $200 per square foot.

    An underlying issue for Portland is do you increasingly enslave the low and middle income classes to supporting those of the very poor through higher taxation, which tends to cause some to actually fall back towards being poor themselves? Or, do you either ignore it or search for another means to reduce homelessness. On the latter score, the state, federal and even Metro have vast idle land holdings; and maybe offering resettlement and a chance to work it into a homestead act of sorts with the settlers working to construct their own housing. Just a brainstorm kind of thought.

  • Connie Kosuda

    $10,000 a month rent for property of this size appears to be a very prudent investment indeed.

    • According to at least one opponent of this deal, the market rate value of the property is closer to $100,000 a month, ten times what the city apparently is willing to accept.

      The size of the property is not the determining factor here. As they say, the three most important factors in determining the desirability of a property are “location, location, location.”


      • Connie Kosuda

        it’s that it’s available, and very much needed for this purpose / and enough is enough with the delays / God bless them for their willingness to act to help others,

        defeating greed and self-interest in this world is a plus.

        • .

          Trial Sharia, Babe!

          • Connie Kosuda

            non responsive = the best you can do?

          • Go yeast, maam

            Your peculiar bag of hammers, ballast for Titanic consortium’s.