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Former Housing Director Pans Apartment Purchase

Proposed $47 million purchase of the Ellington Apartments would be first under the new housing bond.

Margaret Van Vliet, director of the Portland Housing Bureau from 2009 to 2011, is criticizing the city’s plan to buy the Ellington Apartments in Northeast Portland—the first proposed purchase from the $258 million housing bond voters approved last month.

The city has agreed to pay $47 million for the 263 units and plans to spend an additional $10 million on repairs, with $37 million of that coming from the bond.

“The property was built using public resources, and has a long and somewhat ugly history of inadequate management,” Van Vliet wrote in a Dec. 4 letter to Mayor Charlie Hales and city commissioners.

“Its physical condition is questionable. With respect, PHB is not equipped to provide the kind of asset management befitting a public owner, especially for such a troubled asset.”

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman disagreed in a Dec. 6 email.

“The proposed purchase is not based on the past,” he wrote, “but is premised on an immediate need to prevent displacement and to provide long-term affordability.”

Van Vliet letter is here.

Full Saltzman email below:

Dear Margaret –

Thank you for your letter regarding the proposed Ellington purchase. I am tangentially aware of some of the history with the Ellington, but the proposed purchase is not based on the past but is premised on an immediate need to prevent displacement and to provide long-term affordability for Portland families well into the future.

The Ellington was offered for sale on the private market with an intent to reposition it to higher-income renters. The majority — ninety-five percent — of the units are family-sized, and larger than most units currently being built. The complex is on 10.7 acres, one of few parcels of its size in the City. In addition, the grounds and layout of the complex allow ample room to allow families to congregate, engage with their neighbors and for children to play. The acquisition price per new affordable unit with bond funds will be $168K. This represents less than 15% of the bond funds. The Housing Bureau has also done extensive due diligence with its entire team and understands the physical condition of the buildings and the rehab work to be done.

Thank you for sharing your thought and opinions. And, while I value your opinion, I respectfully disagree.

Here is more information from the Housing Bureau’s website regarding the proposed purchase.