With Plans to Build Housing for the Homeless, a Portland Developer is Privatizing Socialism

Reason no. 16 to love Portland right now.

A rendering of the Fair-Haired Dumbbell building.

Kevin Cavenaugh, the developer who completed the brightly colored Fair-Haired Dumbbell last year at the east end of the Burnside Bridge, is not just making Portland's skyline a stylistically interesting place. He's also trying to save our soul.

In a development that will break ground this year, he's tackled the thorniest problem the city faces—without government handouts to help him. He'll build housing for the homeless and subsidize it with market-rate rents.

The twin two-story buildings on Southeast Gladstone Street are called Jolene's First Cousin. They'll contain 11 rooms for formerly homeless people. Also in the buildings? Two market-rate lofts and three small commercial spaces, all on a 5,000-square-foot lot.

(Rendering by Scott Baumberger)

He wants to replicate this Creston-Kenilworth project with a "second cousin," a third, a fourth and so on, all across Portland.

"I want to be building Jolene's 20th Cousin in 2020," says Cavenaugh. "Right now, I'm proud of an idea. I want to be proud of an actual thing."

Cavenaugh also has a project in the design phase to provide subsidized housing for social workers trying to solve the homelessness crisis. At the Atomic Orchard Experiment, on Northeast Sandy Boulevard, 11 of the 55 one-bedroom lofts will rent for $582 a month. People with a master's in social work and whose job is related to homelessness will have first priority.

"It's about good-citizen housing," Cavenaugh says. "What they do makes Portland a better city. And I want to honor that. I don't want to live in a city that doesn't have first responders and teachers and social workers within its bounds."

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