Portland Mayor Announces His First Project Using Housing Bond, on Site of Former Strip Club

Former Safari Club site was purchased with Airbnb (and other short-term rental) tax dollars.

A Home First construction project in East Portland. (Christine Dong)

A Southeast Powell Boulevard strip club bought with short-term rental monies will be the site of the first new housing built with the $258 million Portland housing bond.

The former Safari Club site was purchased in September with tax dollars collected from short-term rentals. And the Portland Housing Bureau plans to develop the 50,000-square-foot site.

"The bond gives us the resources to build and preserve an additional 1,300 units of affordable housing in Portland," said Mayor Wheeler. "Our strategic framework focuses on creating housing opportunities for families and individuals impacted by racism, housing discrimination, homelessness, and displacement."

The bond will be used to build or preserve 1,300 units of affordable housing.

Wheeler delayed any purchases with bond funds after City Commissioner Dan Saltzman approved the purchase of the Ellington Apartments last year—the first effort to preserve affordable housing with bond money.

Advocates raised a cry about the Ellington purchase because they hadn't got a say, and former PHB director Margaret Vliet objected because of past mismanagement of the affordable housing on the site.

After a 10-month delay on further expenditures, City Council approved a framework for making such purchases in October. But in July, the housing bureau moved forward on purchasing possible land for development.

City officials said the Safari Club site met the criteria for the bond because it was in an area at risk of gentrification but also close to amenities such as parks and transportation.

"We're pleased to build our first housing bond project in such a dynamic area," said Shannon Callahan, Interim Director of the Portland Housing Bureau in the statement. "We look forward to working with the Bond Oversight Committee and the community on the development plans."

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