September 18, 2011; Source: The Oregonian | The recession in Oregon has stopped housing development in its tracks, and hundreds of empty lots have been repossessed by banks who then generally become quite motivated sellers. With land prices in the Portland area down 50 percent from their peak, Habitat for Humanity’s Portland branch recognized an opportunity and launched a fundraising campaign and began to buy up these lots—now amounting to 150 in all—as sites on which to build homes. Even with plans to increase the number of houses they built by 50 percent, the 150 lots are enough to keep Habitat busy building houses for the next five years. The relatively low price on this bank-owned land helps futher reduce construction costs.
Habitat is making the best of a bad time in the real estate market, but seems to be maintaining an appropriately sober outlook. “(These are) pretty remarkable deals, partly because of a lot of folks being desperate out there,” says Steve Messineti, executive director for Habitat for Humanity/Metro East. “There are losers here. The win-win of this is removing it from the banks’ balance sheets.”—Ruth McCambridge