Portland to sell controversial 'Water House'

Portland to sell controversial 'Water House'

PORTLAND, Ore. – A controversial eco-friendly house built by the city of Portland is going on the market.

The Water House was billed as a win-win by former city commissioner Randy Leonard. It wasn’t supposed to cost citizens a dime.

The KATU Investigators have been looking into the house since January, 2011.

Leonard at the time said the Water House would demonstrate how to build a home that helps a family conserve water and energy.

The house, located at 1616 NE 140th Avenue, wound up costing $950,000, according to Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish. Now it’s going on the market for roughly half of that.

Fish, who currently heads up the water bureau, calls the Water House a mistake he regrets.

“No one was watching the bottom line as carefully as they should,” said Fish. “What I have learned is we have to do a better job of oversight.”

The Portland Water Bureau says about 2,500 people have visited the home in the two years since it was completed.

Bureau spokesman Tim Hall said whoever buys the home will save a lot of money on water and energy costs, but he admitted the building costs were more expensive than first thought.

“It was a demonstration project and the costs were higher than what the water bureau and I believe Commissioner Leonard and the City Council thought they would be,” said Hall.

Neighbors who spoke with KATU said they were skeptical the home would sell for anything near the $475,000 listing price, which is one of the most expensive homes in the neighborhood.

“What is the purpose of this house? I don’t even know,” said Peggy Krahn, who lives two houses down.

A real estate broker found no home has sold near $475,000 in a 27-block radius of the Water House in the last six months. The agent who will be selling the home for the city admitted to KATU that the listing price is at the high end of the market.

Fish said he’s reached out to entities that could provide oversight on future projects in order to improve accountability and transparency in the future.

“We will take a loss. A big loss,” said Fish. “We’re not in the business of owning and operating water houses.”