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July 14th, 2004 Dan Cook | News Stories
 

Westport in a Storm

Owner forced to sell Northwest flophouse.

     
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2243 NW HOYT AVE.
IMAGE: MATT WONG
Rodney Huschka, owner of Westport Villa, bowed to city pressure earlier this month and agreed to prepare his century-old flophouse for sale.

Huschka bought the insect-infested, dilapidated building at 2242 NW Hoyt Ave. a decade ago and packed it with troubled single people whose rent was paid by someone else (see "Tenants from Heaven," WW, June 2, 2004).

The Villa posed a housing conundrum for the city. On the one hand, it was one of the few places willing to rent to drug and alcohol abusers and people with emotional disorders. (The majority of Huschka's tenants receive $500 a month in government assistance, with $325 to $400 earmarked for rent.)

On the other hand, it was a fire hazard and a crime magnet in an upscale neighborhood. In addition, Huschka hadn't paid the taxes he owes on the place (nearly $50,000) or the fines he's accumulated by refusing to bring his building up to code (nearly $20,000).

Ultimately, conditions there were just too vile for the city to stomach. City Commissioner Randy Leonard, whose office oversees the city's building inspectors, laid it on the line: Either Huschka cleans the place up and puts it on the market, or the city starts squeezing him. Huschka, who didn't return phone calls, decided to play ball. In the past, he'd claimed to have talked to developers interested in rehabbing (or razing) the place.

As part of his deal with the city, Huschka agreed to pay his fines (he'd recently paid his tax bill), bring the building up to code and work with social-service agencies to ensure none of his current tenants ends up on the street after they're moved out this summer.

That's a bit of good news for housing advocates, who will nonetheless be sad to see the Villa's units disappear. "As bad as Westport Villa is, at least it was someplace to live for that clientele," says Leslie Ford, CEO of Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, a social-service agency that provides support services for the homeless. "Portland is facing an incredibly severe lack of low-barrier housing, and this is 60 more units taken out of that inventory."

 
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