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In Portland, A Mass Timber High-Rise Will Deliver A New Breed Of Affordable Housing

A rendering of TimberView, a new affordable housing development in Portland.

Many Portland renters are bracing themselves for a rent hike that could price them out of their homes.

Three decades ago, the federal government launched the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit to offer property owners a tax break if they provided affordable units. This program came with an expiration, however, and soon many of these owners will be eligible to raise rates on the tenants who have benefited from the program. 

Oregon Housing and Community Services estimates that the low-income requirements for about 4,400 units will expire within the next eight years, leaving renters in a difficult spot. 

Despite this pending change, there are still developers in the Portland area that are working to not only provide locals with more affordable housing but a new type of affordable unit that can benefit both the community and the environment. 

Truebeck Construction, C&J Property Development and structural engineering firm DCI have broken ground on TimberView on the corner of Northeast Glisan Street and Northeast 99th Avenue. Designed by ​​Access Architecture, the 105-unit, mixed-use multifamily development will offer affordable apartments to people earning 60% of the area median income or less. Once completed, the eight-story TimberView will be the tallest mass timber affordable housing development in Portland. 

According to Ryan Wood, director of operations in Portland for Truebeck, using mass timber as opposed to concrete or other materials offers both environmental and affordability benefits. 

“Mass timber not only produces fewer CO2 emissions, but it also allows us to build a less complicated structure with more repeated details, so we can work with a smaller crew,” Wood said. “It also allows us to reduce the cost of interior finishes. Because mass timber is exposed, we spend less on drywall and paint.” 

Mass timber produces 30% fewer CO2 emissions than concrete buildings and 50% fewer emissions than steel buildings. Wood said that sustainability has been taken into consideration throughout every step of the design and build process and the team is working toward LEED certification

Along with its sustainable features, TimberView stands apart from other affordable housing projects in the area as it is the first mass timber project under the new high-rise code — which allows timber buildings to be up to nine stories tall — and it will be the first mass timber affordable housing project of its size. 

A rendering of TimberView

Additionally, TimberView will boast a number of high-end finishes that are not common in many affordable housing communities, including radiant floor, high-performance windows, an outdoor deck for residents and ground-floor commercial space designed to accommodate a food hall. 

The building facade features metal panels and inside, the commercial spaces and residential entry on the ground floor will have wood panel siding and exposed timber. Wood said that working with mass timber makes it easier to construct in an urban environment like downtown Portland since fully constructed panels can be lifted directly off a pallet truck into the place they will be installed. This reduces the material laydown area and keeps the construction site cleaner, with fewer materials that could get damaged or stolen while they are sitting out, waiting to be installed.

Wood said that Truebeck is uniquely suited to work on this type of mass timber project. 

“Truebeck’s résumé of mass timber projects in Portland and California aligned us perfectly for this project,” he said. “We recently built Chile's house for Catholic Charities of Oregon, which was the first mass timber affordable housing in Portland."

A rendering of TimberView

The Truebeck team partnered with Access Architecture early on during project development, and TimberView has benefited from Truebeck’s design-build methodology and mechanical, electrical and plumbing expertise. 

While the project only recently broke ground, Truebeck was present during the pre-construction and design phases and was integral in helping the team decide to embrace mass timber. Also, by being involved early on in the planning process, Truebeck was able to reduce the number of requests for information. 

“We were able to give the design and ownership teams a tour of other projects Truebeck has completed to show the different ways mass timber can be featured and finished, since we have several to showcase,” Wood said. “This helped the team choose how the building will feature mass timber and the best approach to take during construction based on our recommendations from lessons we have learned in the past.” 

Along with providing additional affordable housing that Portland desperately needs, TimberView will benefit the community by using local prevailing wage workers, Wood said. 

“TimberView will have far-reaching benefits for the people of Portland,” he said. 

This article was produced in collaboration between Truebeck Construction and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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