The trend in housing starts in Pendleton appears to be moving in a positive direction as new single family homes under construction are built without a 25 percent or 40 percent grant from the city. Those are the amounts of assistance available to or requested by property owners from the city for projects downtown to create additional housing.
I decided to sit in on the Pendleton Development Commission Advisory Committee meeting in an effort at getting up to speed on the city’s progress in their efforts to increase housing in the urban renewal district.
The feeling of city officials is that boosting the available downtown housing will encourage tenants to shop downtown rather than the Melanie Square/Safeway/Walmart area. I guess if you need a new custom cowboy hat, boots or perhaps a saddle, and have no desire or need to cook, or a convenient place to park, they believe this is the place for you.
I questioned the absence of city-owned property in the urban renewal district on their list of available property considered keen for development. An example of an empty city-owned property, the old DMV/warming center, was given. It could easily be demolished, perhaps even giving the Fire Department some training, sold for residential development, and returned to the tax rolls, a win for both the city and taxpayers. The committee chairman indicated their emphasis should be on getting the most bang for the buck on each investment.
This looked to me like the perfect project, all bang and no buck. The Ward 1 city councilor, also representing the Urban Renewal District, seemed uninterested, explaining that all investments needed to be in the downtown area.
The Edwards Apartments building as well as others in the district beg for demolition.
Perhaps it’s time for an ordinance rewrite allowing the city to act aggressively allowing seizure, demolition and redevelopment. Perhaps that $3-plus million in their war chest would be better spent on such projects, and loans versus grants made available to downtown building owners for remodeling.
How about taking a page from the Hermiston High School? They build houses. Make some of that vacant city property available for housing projects, giving PHS students the same opportunity.
The efforts by the city to promote new construction seem to be working. It makes the case that you don’t need a big giveaway for progress on the housing front.