Commissioner: 'Water House' was a mistake

Credit: PortlandOregon.gov

PortlandOregon.gov

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by KGW.com Staff

kgw.com

Posted on August 13, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 13 at 8:02 PM

PORTLAND -- The city of Portland announced Tuesday morning it would be selling an energy-efficient Northeast Portland showcase home called the "Water House" for nearly $500,000 less than it cost to build, officials said.

"The Portland Water Bureau invested close to $950,000 in hard and soft costs to build the house," commissioner Nick Fish said. "Through a competitive bidding process, H&H Real Estate has been selected to serve as the seller’s agent. H&H has recommended an asking price of $475,000."

The Water House, at 1616 NE 140th Avenue, was built on vacant surplus property to illustrate green building techniques. More than 40 local partners and sponsors worked on the project.

Water Bureau officials in 2011 estimated the building would cost $200,000 and had hoped to sell it for $400,000.

"Was it the right idea then to build a high-end house to feature technologies when working families are having trouble making their mortgage payments during the great recession? No," said Fish. "In retrospect, was it a mistake? Yes." 

The Water House came under fire when an audit revealed the water bureau was using customer payments to fund its construction. City code states that those payments can only be used for water and sewer services. The audit also found that City Council never approved the spending, which at that point had already reached an estimated $700,000.

Background: Audit nicks water bureau for non-service-related costs

“The Water Bureau is under new management,” Fish said Tuesday. “We are committed to stabilizing rates and to high levels of accountability and transparency.”

Fish said about 2,500 people have toured the house since January 2011. It has also hosted workshops and classes on water efficiency practices.

According to Fish, the proceeds from the Water House sale will go towards more stable water rates. 

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Related: Portlanders less satisfied with City Hall, survey shows (2011)


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