September 22, 2017
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Portland mayor wants to require developers to include more low-income housing

By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Mayor Ethan Strimling speaks to reporters after giving his State of the City address in Portland on Monday night.

Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling wants to require developers in the city to include more low-income housing in their projects.

Strimling announced Wednesday a proposal to raise the percentage of low-income housing to be included in large residential projects to 20 percent, as well as lower the income eligibility requirements for tenants seeking access to those units.

The city already has a nearly two-year-old ordinance requiring new developments with at least 10 housing units to set aside 10 percent of those units for low-income tenants, and the mayor’s proposal would amend that.

“Portland’s housing crisis has not gone away,” said Strimling in a Wednesday statement. “While our current Ordinance was an important step in the right direction, it is clear we must do more. Additionally, I feel the current income eligibility requirements are too high to make enough of an impact so I am proposing they be lowered to reach more of our residents.”

The mayor’s announcement comes as developers are vying to build on four high-visibility acres of city property in the West Bayside neighborhood. Several competing proposals for the six city-owned lots were blasted for not including enough low-income housing during a Wednesday night meeting of the City Council’s Economic Development Committee, according to the Portland Press Herald.

The property in question was made available by the city’s relocation of Public Works facilities to another part of Portland, and city councilors will need to approve any sale to a developer that their economic development staff ultimately recommends. The projects being pitched for the West Bayside lots largely consist of housing, with some office, retail and light industrial spaces mixed in, the Press Herald has reported.

Under Strimling’s latest proposal, developers would need to set aside twice as many units in larger housing projects as previously required, and those units would need to be made accessible to lower income tenants. The mayor’s amendment would make it so that the units in question are affordable at 80 percent of the Area Median Income if they are rentals and 100 percent of the AMI if they’re for sale.

Under the current ordinance language, those percentages are 100 percent and 120 percent, respectively.

According to a Wednesday release issued by City Hall, the change would reduce the affordability of a unit for sale for a family of four by almost $50,000, from approximately $273,000 to $225,000. It would also decrease the rent on a rental unit for the same family by more than $400 a month from $2,053 to $1,643.

Strimling’s new affordability standards would mean the housing units would become affordable for families making a total of $83,400 annually, while rentals would be affordable for families earning $65,700 annually. Under the current ordinance language, those incomes are $98,500 to buy and $82,125 to rent, respectively.

Under the ordinance, developers can pay a fee of $100,000 per unit to the city’s Housing Trust in lieu of including affordable housing, or provide comparable units nearby off-site.

The City Council is expected to consider the mayor’s proposed ordinance amendment at its Monday night meeting.

 


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