Leah Fisher, Neighborhood Planning Program Manager
Portlanders know that rent prices are at all-time highs, real estate prices are just as bad, and long-time residents are being priced out of their neighborhoods and homes. Advocates, organizations, and others have been calling for change, help, and anything that will slow this housing crisis. The solution is not going to be easy and must come from many different organizations, agencies, and entities developing various resources, policies, and funding mechanisms to create and preserve housing accessibility and affordability.
The more neighbors know what has happened, or is in the works, the more effective everyone can be in taking action to ensure Portland remains a place for long-standing and new residents. The following is a summary of many of the actions and steps that local, regional, and government agencies have taken in the last few years address the housing affordability crisis. If you know of others please email them to Leah Fisher at SE Uplift and let’s continue to understand, track, and support these efforts!
STATE OF OREGON
What’s it about? The Statewide Housing Plan clearly articulates the extent of Oregon’s housing problem and what can be done to address it. 1 It includes data, outlines the State’s guiding principles, and communicates priorities for housing.
Why is it important? Government agencies, organizations, and decision makers cannot take appropriate or dramatic action without understanding the problem. Policy change, funding allocation, and other changes are informed by good data and a sound strategy. This plan outlines the paramount need for housing across the state. It will be delivered to the legislature, who allocate funding to various programs, change laws, and more.1
How do local advocates use this information to take action? Advocates can use this data to inform their own efforts around housing, to advocate for housing and tenant policy and systems changes, push for funding at all levels of government, or when applying for grants.
How do I find out more?
- Go here to learn more about the Oregon Housing and Community Services, read the draft plan and appendices, and view past webinars about this process and document.
- For a 2-page Demographics and Housing Profile, view this Fact Sheet
What’s it about? In 2016, the Oregon State Legislature lifted a long-standing ban on inclusionary housing across Oregon and set some baseline requirements for inclusionary zoning. Inclusionary zoning or inclusionary housing is a local policy/ordinance that requires a given share of new construction to be affordable for people with low to moderate income. By lifting the state’s ban, it now allows (does not require) the option for cities and counties to create a policy and/or incentives to provide affordable housing in their communities.
Why is it important? This legislation gave local jurisdictions the ability to require affordable housing be included in private-sector development in a way that works for each community. Oregon benefits because more affordable units may be produced across the state.
How do local advocates use this to take action? Encourage your local city or county to develop and adopt their own inclusionary housing policy. The City of Portland has done so– read below for more information on the City of Portland’s inclusionary housing policy.
How do I find out more? Go here for a summary of the SB 1533B from the Oregon Housing Alliance, and clarification on the baselines required by the state along with definitions of what affordable means. Go here to read the enrolled Senate Bill.
REGIONAL GOVERNMENT – METRO
What’s it about? Metro’s Regional Investment Strategy outlines the agency’s values and vision for the region (Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties). The strategy includes the agency’s vision for affordable housing and specifically, the regional housing bond framework. (Read the next section to learn about the affordable housing bond that passed in November.)
Why is it important? Everything starts with a plan, knowing Metro’s plan to address the affordable housing shortage is important because it’s the first step in getting funds to take action.
How do local advocates use this information to take action? How Metro will allocate housing funds across the region, what it will look like, and who will benefit from it is essential for advocates to know in order to hold the agency accountable. Or push for change or redirection if that approach is not acceptable.
How do I find out more? Go here to view the Strategy report.
What’s it about? In November of 2018, Metro-area voters approved a $652.8 million general obligation bond to create affordable housing for approximately 12,000 people in the greater Portland region. Property owners in the tri-county Portland area would pay the bond back through higher property taxes over the next 30 years. Property taxes would rise 24 cents per $1,000 in assessed value.2
At the same time, voters also approved Measure 102, which amends the Oregon Constitution to allow affordable housing bond money to be spent on partnerships with nonprofits that support affordable housing.3
Why is it important? The need is great across the state, regionally, and in Portland. Metro can assess need from a regional perspective and work to improve affordability across the three counties. It is anticipated the bond will build as many as 3,900 homes affordable to households that make 80 percent or less of the region’s median income for their family size.4
Measure 102 amplified the opportunity to create affordable housing, because most new affordable housing today is partially to entirely privately owned, this measure allows the region to maximize its dollars through partnerships. Without the amendment’s approval, the housing bond was expected to create only 2,400 homes, verses the 3,900 now anticipated.5
How do local advocates use this information to take action? The bond recently passed in November of this year, so no new units have been built. However, advocates can track what Metro does with the funds and hold them accountable to the commitments they have made in their Regional Investment Strategy.
CITY OF PORTLAND
What’s it about? The State of Housing in Portland report is the most comprehensive resource on housing and affordability in the City of Portland. Each annual document addresses issues important for the time. This year the report is centered on the rapid growth the City has experienced in recent years and the corresponding shifts in population, households, incomes, and neighborhoods Portland is seeing across the city.6
Why is it important? The City Bureaus, local organizations, and local decision makers cannot take appropriate or dramatic action without understanding the problem. Policy change, funding allocation, and other changes are informed by good data. This report outlines the needs for affordable housing and rents across the City.
How do local advocates use this information to take action? Advocates can use this data to understand the problem, inform their own efforts around housing, and advocate for housing and tenant policy and systems changes, and funding. Data can also be used by housing organizations applying for grants or other funding to demonstrate the need.
How do I find out more?
- Interactive Map: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/78184
- State of Housing in Portland Report: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/article/707182
What’s it about? Portlanders approved an affordable housing bond in November 2016 to build affordable units in the City. The $258 million bond raised property taxes by 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed value of homes. It was the largest General Obligation Bond ever passed by Portland voters to date. The funds will be administered by the Portland Housing Bureau with a focus on building and preserving deeply affordable housing for households between 30-60% of the area median income (at that time $22,000 to $43,080 for a family of four).7
Why is it important? The 2016 Housing Bond has contributed to the production of new affordable housing in the City. The projection was to build and preserve 1,300 units of affordable housing. To date, five projects have already been identified, totaling more than 630 units completed or in progress.
How do local advocates use this information to take action? Advocates can track what the Portland Housing Bureau does with the funds and hold them accountable to the commitments they have made to the community.
How do I find out more? Follow affordable housing projects here.
What’s it about? In 2016, the City of Portland started collecting a tax on residential and commercial building projects with improvements valued at $100,000 or more called the affordable housing construction excise tax (CET). Additionally, in August of 2018, the City of Portland approved a new $4 per night booking fee on short-term vacation rentals (e.g. AirBnB) in the city. Earned revenue from this fee is dedicated to housing and homeless initiatives.
Why is it important? Every little bit helps! The CET leverages the significant amount of development happening across the city right now by getting private sector development and folks doing major improvements to chip in. Additionally, the per-night short-term rental fee is expected to raise between $1.1 million and $1.28 million a year for housing initiatives.8
How do local advocates use this information to take action? Continue to be aware of, and support, these decisions if you feel more funding needs to go toward affordable housing efforts. There is a lot of pressure to fund many different programs and projects, so decision-makers need to know that the public supports decisions to fund affordable housing initiatives.
How do I find out more? Go here for more information on the CET.
What is it? After the State Legislature lifted the ban on inclusionary zoning in Oregon in 2016, the City of Portland went to work developing a local policy to address the housing crisis and leverage the booming private sector development. The Inclusionary Housing Zoning Code Project was a collaborative effort between the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Portland Housing Bureau that went above and beyond the State’s baseline requirements.
Why is it important? Given that over 80-90% of housing in the City of Portland from approximately 2012 to 2017 had been in multi-family buildings with over 20 units, the City has the potential to see a significant increase in affordable housing through the implementation of inclusionary zoning.9 In its first 18 months, the Inclusionary Housing Program has already created hundreds of affordable units in private developments throughout the city—roughly the equivalent of $32 million in public subsidies.10
How do local advocates use this information to take action? Local advocates can continue to track the policy implementation to ensure it is benefiting those intended, and to track the production of new affordable units. This latest report shows early success in producing affordable housing in the private market and outlines program adjustments to encourage continued development.
How do I find out more? Review the project website for background information and current reports on status of housing.
What’s it about? The City of Portland has made a number of small and large changes (and proposals) to its residential and mixed use zones across the City. These changes create an opportunity for an increase in the number and types of housing units available in the city. One example of a change is allowing people to live in an RV or tiny home with wheels in single family zones. Other changes create the potential to infuse thousands of new units in specific areas of the city like the recently adopted Central City 2035 Plan, and theRose Quarter Development which is already under construction. Then there are other citywide zone changes such as the Residential Infill Project (RIP), which is still in process and is projected to increase units across the city in single family residential zones.
Why is it important? In the case of allowing people to live in an RV or tiny home with wheels, the intent is to create an opportunity for affordable or free places for folks to reside while in transition, or permanently. The City of Portland is still in the process of updating the Tiny Homes ordinance based on the 2018 Oregon Reach Code, which went into effect September 2018. In summary, the new code will be using the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC) as its basis. Regarding other strategies to increase density across the city, economic theory indicates that an increase in housing supply will reduce prices. Also in theory, smaller units should be more affordable, although the newness of those units is also a factor. Land use changes through zoning revision is a process that doesn’t often occur, and can shape a community for decades to come. Therefore, learning about proposals and taking part in conversations related to zoning policy is important to ensure your voice is heard.
How do local advocates use this information to take action? First off, it’s important to understand the data and rationale around decisions. Most often there are guiding documents, studies, and past outreach done prior to a jurisdiction making zoning changes. In the City of Portland, the City looks to Oregon’s Statewide Planning Goals, The Portland Plan, and most recently, the 2035 Comprehensive Plan as a guide to land use decisions. These documents, combined with data on housing affordability, have been driving forces behind the zoning changes listed in this section.
For recently approved zoning changes, knowing the policy is helpful in weighing in on the new development that will come, preserving historic resources in the area, and/or ensuring infrastructure, transit, and other amenities are available to accommodate the increase in population.
- Allowance of RV and tiny homes on wheels. Fact Sheet here.
- Tiny Homes. The new state code provisions here (see pp. 6-9).
- Central City 2035. Information and plan go here.
- Residential Infill Project. Project website here. Review the revised Residential Infill Project economic analysis prepared by Johnson Economics. Review the PSC’s tentative amendments to the Proposed Draft of the Residential Infill Project from last September.
What’s it about? The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) is managing a grant funded by Metro to identify faith communities interested in developing affordable housing on their property. The grant will provide concept development for three to five sites on faith-owned land, as well as possible Zoning Code revisions to streamline City processes. The grant project will conclude in November 2019.
Why is it important? Finding unique and innovative ways to provide affordable housing is key to meeting the need. Helping faith communities who want to use their excess property to provide affordable housing is definitely innovative!
How do local advocates use this information to take action? The City is in the beginning stages of exploring the feasibility with interested institutions. Track, support, and weigh in when public comment opportunities arise!
More information: Go here.
What’s it about? State and local governments can and are doing more to address housing affordability than just funding and building affordable housing. It’s also important to lower the barriers to entry for home ownership and bridge the gap between housing opportunities and communities of color who have been historically left out. It’s also important to ensure protections are in place for tenants to be able to stay in their home and for renters to not be taken advantage of.
Why is it important? There are so many aspects around stable and affordable housing that go beyond the physical structure. This article doesn’t go into detail about these pieces, but state, regional, and local agencies are working with community partners to address associated policies, funding, and programs to make housing accessible for all Oregonians and reduce displacement of current residents.
How do local advocates use this information to take action? These programs or efforts may not get as much attention, but they are in need of funding and support too. Tenant protections come up against well-funded lobbyist groups, at times making even reasonable protections difficult to pass at all levels of government. Displacement is up against the workings of our free market economy among other long-standing social justice barriers. These efforts need all the support they can get from local advocates. Programs need to be evaluated for effectiveness and future efforts need to be funded at realistic levels. Talk to your decision-makers today!
How do I find out more? Most of the reports listed in this article cover these topics in some level of detail. Additional information is available through organizations like Community Alliance of Tenants, Oregon Housing Alliance, and other housing advocate agencies and organizations.
1. Oregon Housing and Community Services. (November 2018). Oregon’s 2018 Statewide Housing Plan Draft. Retrieved from: https://www.oregon.gov/OHCS/pages/oshp.aspx
2. The Oregonian, Oregon Live. (November 2018). $653 million Metro affordable hosuing bond passes: Election results 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2018/11/2018_metro_affordable_housing_bond.html
6. Portland HousingBureau. (December 2018). State of Housing Report. Retrieved from: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/article/707182.
7. Portland Housing Bureau. (2016). Portland Voters Pass First Affordable Housing Bond. Retrieved from: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/phb/article/597707
8.The Oregonian, Oregon Live. (June 2018). Portland tacks two new fees on Airbnb-style rentals. Retrieved from: https://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2018/06/portland_adds_2_fee_on_airbnb-.html
10. Oregon American Planning Association. (March 2017). Inclusionary Zoning. Retrieved from: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/inclusionary-zoning-webinar-affordable-housing-silver-bullet-or-trojan-horse-recorded-tickets-33260658525