Despite Mayor John Turner’s recent comments that I don’t like competition, I do like competition. I grew up with four competitive brothers and went to college on an athletic scholarship. I thrive on competition. I might be the most competitive person he’s ever met.

What I don’t like is unfair competition, which is exactly the anti-competitive incentive system he has created and overseen in Pendleton.

I did not come to the council a few weeks ago to ask for money. I asked why there isn’t a clear, concise, fair system for passing out incentives. Why is having a fair equitable system too much to ask for? Why is there so much push back for having equality? If you’re not in favor of a free market and letting developers build what the market needs, then just say that. Just admit you want to pick and choose who wins and what gets built where, for example the fire station. Just say you don’t believe in the free market. I would imagine the majority of your conservative Republican constituents in town would be in support of the free market solving our housing problems. I came to this town and infused the local economy with over $4 million and I built a quality complex as fast as possible because that’s what the housing study showed the market needed. That is clearly not what the mayor or the city council support because that is not what they incentivize. Should I have come to the council over and over for five-plus years asking for stuff? Is that their idea of what is best for the community?

The mayor said I’m concerned with my individual business. That’s right, I am. And so are other property managers and landlords concerned with their businesses. I’m frankly astonished that they aren’t concerned with how our business is doing. Why aren’t they concerned with why none of the thousands of daily commuters want to live in town? Or with all the vacancies that other landlords and property managers are already having in the $1,200 range? Or with the shear number of jobs — more than 900 — needed to fill the pipeline of coming units?

We only need 100 to 112 market rate apartments over the next 20 years, according to two housing studies by career professionals. The mayor and city council have ignored those findings and overseen subsidies and land giveaways for 305 market rate units and counting. Flooding the city with $1,200 apartments will have a negative affect on all landlord business in town, including mine. They’re needlessly destroying the value of our properties.

The mayor’s standard answer to questions about housing seems to be “we need all types of housing.” Great, but why have you ignored the needs of all other housing categories? There is dire need for low-income subsidized housing that will rent for under $500, more mobile homes, more farm worker housing, short-term shelters, town homes and mostly more single family homes. Why take taxpayer assets and only encourage one narrow segment of the housing market?

It’s no wonder there is so much money on the sidelines; it’s hard to predict what the city will incentivize next. Each time you roll out another incentive package it’s different. There is not even equality among the people getting incentives. Go wage war on one of these other categories, you have done enough damage to the market rate apartment segment.

While this giant socialist civics experiment unfolds, why would I or others want to build 50 to 100 single family homes when there is no system or way of knowing what is being cooked up behind closed doors? The uncertainty and lack of transparency starting from the very top is a key reason I and others don’t want to do more business in Pendleton. The entire state is watching the redistribution of wealth in Pendleton. The problem with slow growth in Pendleton is not from topography, it’s from lack of jobs and lack of leadership.

Lashing out at me and calling me stupid is probably a result of your frustration. The numbers don’t lie. You must be incredibly frustrated that you have overseen a city that only can manage 0.3% annual growth. Meanwhile, the rest of the county grows at more than three times that pace, 1.1%. It was probably hard to hear that we have more than enough land inside the urban growth boundary for the next 20 years. It’s obvious that your “flexible” system is a failure. Hermiston has grown three times as fast without giving away land, cash or reducing permit fees.

If waging war on landlords is your answer to solving housing needs in Pendleton, then you might know even less about housing than everyone is saying. You can call me stupid if that makes you feel better, but don’t tip the scales far to one side and then accuse me of being the one that doesn’t like competition.


Nate Brusselback is the owner of the Triangle Apartments in Pendleton.

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