A private developer and local nonprofits worked together to promote a new apartment building on 11th and Lincoln to Latino households in the community.
The project’s developer, Craig Weicker, also owns Civic Winery. He is wrapping up the affordable housing project, which is already filled and has a waiting list. Construction of the building faced price increases during COVID-19. Thanks to local and state affordable housing funding and support, Ketanji Court’s tenants will be moving in the final two weeks of 2022.
“One hundred percent of these units are going to people in need in the community,” Weicker says.
Though the project was originally called “11th and Lincoln,” Weicker says he decided to change its name to make it stand out more for potential applicants. So he dubbed it Ketanji Court after the most recent U.S. Supreme Court associate justice, the first-ever Black woman to sit on the nation’s highest court.
“Ketanji Brown Jackson’s appointment to the Supreme Court was a very inspirational moment for our country,” Weicker says. “She has a tremendous background, and I thought, ‘Well, what a wonderful way to recognize her.’”
The housing project has 59 units, all of which are designated affordable. Eighty percent of the building has three-bedroom apartments, 13 percent of which are for families earning less than 30 percent of the annual mean income ($23,900 for a household of four). The remaining are for those making up to 60 percent of annual mean income (about $40,000 for a household of four).
Weicker says he wanted the building, which is near the Eugene Municipal Court and St. Mary Catholic Church, to fit in with the neighborhood. He says the building’s design is modeled after other housing units in Portland. And its residents will have services nearby including the Eugene Public Library and the Lane Transit District’s downtown station. “It’s an attractive area,” he adds. “It’s a great place for people to live.”
Building affordable housing as a private developer and pursuing public funds is a competitive process, Weicker says. He says he didn’t get affordable housing funding the first time he applied for state money. The state requires that housing projects benefit underserved communities, so for his second application, he says he decided to build housing units and promote it to Latino families,though it is open to all families who qualify.
According to 2021 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 10.6 percent of residents in Eugene-Springfield are Hispanic or Latino.
Ketanji Court will offer residents services from local nonprofits Centro Latino Americano and Cornerstone Community Housing. Weicker says what the services will be hasn’t been decided yet, but it could include English and financial classes.
Weicker submitted documents about the housing development to an Oct. 11, 2021, meeting of Eugene’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund Advisory Subcommittee. According to the application materials seeking affordable housing money from the city, Weicker wrote that he and Centro signed a memo of understanding that the nonprofit would “help Latinx community members secure safe and affordable housing providing services for mixed-immigration status, eliminating language barriers and providing culturally sensitive services.”
Because Ketanji Court has received public money, Weicker says he’s restricted in how much he can earn. He expects any profit will go toward paying off the bank loan and to support the services offered by Centro Latino Americano and Cornerstone.
The total cost of Ketanji Court is nearly $20 million, Weicker says. The building cost increased by nearly $5 million from 2020 to 2022, according to a 2020 grant announcement by Oregon Housing and Community Services’s Local Innovation and Fast Track that reported that the project’s cost was $14,988,000.
About half of the building’s costs have been covered by public money. In 2020, a LIFT grant awarded the project $4 million. It also received a 4 percent Low Income Housing Tax Credit that amounts to about $6 million. Homes For Good, Lane County’s housing authority, is providing 13 project-based vouchers to help very low-income families and individuals.
In February 2020, Homes for Good sent out a request for proposals for project-based vouchers, which is a rent subsidy that goes directly to a landlord, Ela Kubok, the agency’s communications director, says in an email. The agency awarded Weicker’s development 13 vouchers and the same to a housing development in Florence. Vouchers allow development projects to have a better chance in securing state funding, she says, and support households that earn less than 30 percent of area median income.
Similar to other construction projects, Ketanji Court’s costs shot up during 2020 and 2021. About six months before his deadline to find the rest of the building’s funding, Weicker says he saw the costs of lumber skyrocket. From August 2021 to early 2022, the price of lumber nearly quadrupled, according to data from National Association of Home Builders, smashing previous records. The lumber prices resulted in an increase of $4 million in construction costs, Weicker says.
Weicker says that he knows of other affordable housing projects that are facing major delays. “We did have some other delays, but we were able to pivot and make some other changes,” he says.
Kubok says that in the last two years, Homes for Good has developed and built 279 housing units in the community with more on the horizon. “We plan to develop and complete approximately 400 more homes over the next five years,” she adds. “It is our mission to not only build more affordable housing but also partner with others to create more housing opportunities in our communities.”
Weicker says Eugene has been a big help in the building’s construction process. He says that despite the city’s bad reputation in the community — which he adds is undeserved — city officials and the City Council eased the construction process. The city waived its system development charges, fees applied to new developments and property taxes for the building, he says. That waiver saved him several hundred thousand dollars, he says.
City of Eugene spokesperson Cambra Jacobson says the city has invested millions of dollars every year in affordable housing development, more than 1,200 housing units in the past five years. The amount of funding it has available to provide public agencies and private developers changes depending on variables, such as federal funding and local construction activity, which the city taxes.
System development charges — fees applied to new buildings to cover the costs of connecting the development to the city’s infrastructure — have a cap, Weicker says, and it’s a competitive process. He says that he’d like to see the city ease its process and increase its cap to encourage developers to build more affordable housing.
Jacobson says city fee assistance, which includes system development charges, targets low-income housing developments, such as Ketanji Court. The city covers these fees through its general fund, and in combination with the recent money from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, the city has provided more than $1.1 million for projects. And in 2023, the city will put out a request for proposals for about $760,000 in fee exemptions.
Although there’s political division at all levels in the country, Weicker says one issue that everyone seems to agree on is that there needs to be more housing.
“The federal government has been stepping up a lot more, and I think the state is as well,” Weicker says. “If there was more housing, prices would go down. But you can’t build more housing if everything costs a fortune to do it.”
For more information about Ketanji Court and how to get on the waiting list, call 541-968-1151 or visit PinehurstManagement.com/Ketanji_Court.