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Planning and Sustainability

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Regional partners working to address housing needs in the SW Corridor

The housing crisis requires partnerships and collaborative approaches.

As the low-income households continue to bear the burden of the housing crisis throughout the entire region, there is an acute need for affordable housing in the SW Corridor. Over the next 10 years, an estimated 4,000 affordable homes would need to be built or preserved in the SW Corridor to meet the full need for existing and future low-income households moving in. Thousands more homes are also needed to meet the needs of future higher income households projected to move to the area as well.

The cities of Tigard and Portland are committed to meeting at least 20 percent of this affordable housing need over the next 10 years. If new funding resources are created, then more than 50 percent of that need could be met. A combination of new tenant protections and anti-displacement services are also recommended to stabilize vulnerable communities as they try to find and keep housing in an escalating rental market.

The Southwest Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy was initiated to ensure that vulnerable communities are not displaced as a new light rail line is built in the corridor and new housing is created for all households. The force behind the strategy is the Southwest Corridor Equity and Housing Advisory Group. Charged with focusing the strategy on the needs of low-income households and communities of color, the advisory group comprises representatives from government, nonprofit, private, finance, development and philanthropy sectors.

Tough questions

Over the past year the advisory group partners vetted, deliberated and recommended goals for the strategy. In addition, through a Southwest Corridor Community Grants Program, some organizations on the advisory group (like Community Alliance of Tenants and Muslim Educational Trust) led grassroots organizing in the corridor, which empowered lower income community members and elevated important issues around tenant rights and protections.

The advisory group wrestled with tough questions before finalizing the strategy, including:

  • How do we address the near-term housing crisis while planning to meet the long-term need for affordable housing?
  • How do we balance the demands on today’s existing funding with our aspirations to meet more of the housing need?
  • Knowing what we know today, are these housing strategies enough to prevent displacement related to the light rail investment?

The big questions have no easy answers. But there are hopeful signs for the future, as partners step up to do what they can for the region.

Partners all in

“TriMet is part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis,” said Dave Unsworth, capital projects manager for TriMet, which is prioritizing their land for affordable housing development near future light rail stations. “We believe that an agreement between the cities of Portland, Tigard, Washington County, Metro and TriMet will help us address the demand for affordable housing in conjunction with the Southwest Corridor Light Rail Project.”

In addition, there is a commitment to an ongoing collaborative structure for community engagement and stewardship of the housing strategy. Members of the advisory group will continue to meet through Metro’s Southwest Equitable Development Strategy, where they can influence long-term strategies that improve housing options as well as support small business and workforce development.

Housing nonprofits are also committed to an equitable future for the corridor. Home Forward and Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH) are looking to buy existing apartment buildings and land for affordable housing development in the near term. Proud Ground is also looking to expand its community land trust model to the corridor.

Strength in numbers

As time gets closer to start implementing the housing strategy, the strengths of each project partner continue to show what can be possible when diverse organizations with various resources and ideas come together around a shared vision for housing and transportation. By planning to meet the housing needs of the most underserved of the region, we can increase housing choices and lift the entire community.

But the question of how best to prevent displacement has been the toughest to answer. With the lessons learned from the Albina Community Plan and Yellow Line investment in NE Portland, where thousands of African-American households were displaced, many in SW have asked, “Will this time be any different?”

Affordable housing provider CPAH is putting some skin in the game by buying land throughout the corridor. “We look forward to meeting some of the affordable housing needs as the community changes and grows so that everyone can benefit from the future investment [in light rail],” said Executive Director Rachael Duke. “This is particularly important for those who are at risk of being pushed out.”

As light rail goes, so does the housing strategy

As the SW Corridor Light Rail project continues to make headway on a parallel timeline, the housing strategy is getting the nod. The advisory group officially endorsed it in June, and the Tigard City Council and Portland City Council adopted the strategy in July and October, respectively. Portland City Council will discuss and vote on the alignment — or locally preferred alternative (LPA) — for the light rail line on November 1 from 2 - 4 p.m.

On October 4, the Portland City Council adopted by resolution the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy. Community and agency partners were on hand to testify in support of the housing strategy. From right to left: Ryan Curren (Project Manager, BPS); Rachael Duke (Executive Director, Community Partners for Affordable Housing); Allan Lazo (Executive Director, Fair Housing Council of Oregon); Pam Phan (Policy & Organizing Director, Community Alliance of Tenants); and Amina Omar (SW Corridor tenant)

According to the City of Tigard’s director of economic development, Kenny Asher, “Affordable housing near essential services like transit, shopping and employment centers has been a priority for the City of Tigard. Our support for light rail has been predicated on the inclusion of housing opportunities for those traditionally underserved by transit. By incorporating transit-oriented design projects along the Southwest Corridor, low-income communities that have been traditionally underserved by transit, can afford to live closer to essential services and opportunities.”

SW Corridor rich with economic and cultural diversity

As we prepare for a new light rail line along Barbur Boulevard, immigrants and vulnerable communities must not be displaced.

Imagine you had traveled thousands of miles to get here, all your belongings with you. You searched for people familiar with your culture and found a community in SW Portland with a place to worship and a grocery store that reminds you of home. You live in an apartment building full of people who speak your language, dress like you and worship the same way. Your children are comfortable in their local school. You scrimp to pay the rent, but you’re willing to live with others to make ends meet.

Then, your apartment building is sold, and you and your neighbors are evicted, your family is uprooted, your children have to say goodbye to friends, and you don’t have enough savings to pay first and last month’s rent in a different, more expensive apartment building down the road ... farther away from your place of worship with friends and community.

Some version of this has been the reality for many of Portland’s communities of refugees and immigrants for generations. But, who knew the risk of displacement could be so high in Southwest Portland?

Housing by the numbers along the SW Corridor

The housing data for SW Portland when compared to the rest of Portland busts the myth that the area is full of mostly affluent white homeowners:

  • There are 12,000 low-income households in the SW Corridor
  • There is a higher percentage of renters in parts of the SW Corridor than Portland citywide, including East Portland.
  • Parts of the SW Corridor is home to a higher percentage of foreign born communities of color than Portland citywide.
  • Per capita income in parts of the corridor is roughly half what it is for the rest of the west side of Portland.

So, there’s a lot of economic disparity and population diversity in the area. Which means that we should ensure we don’t repeat past harms and push out our most vulnerable neighbors as we prepare for a huge investment in transit along the corridor.

Getting ahead of the light rail line

A new light rail line is coming to the last quadrant of the city without one. To avoid the same mistakes made in Albina and Interstate (where vulnerable communities were displaced from their communities), the City must think ahead and be proactive — before market forces push prices up and people out.

We want to get it right — or at least “right-er” — this time.

Buy low(er), secure affordable housing

The most effective way to create affordable housing is to preserve existing apartment buildings that are already affordable to lower-income households. Another way is to purchase developable multi-family zoned land at current (and lower) prices. Currently, in the SW Corridor that’s roughly $50/square foot, which is significantly less than inner SE and Interstate at $75/square foot. This means developers of affordable housing save on cheaper land and build more cost-effective buildings

The SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy includes actions and investments that would get ahead of rising land and property costs. Under the strategy, the cities of Tigard and Portland along with Metro would invest in buildable land before prices spike, ensuring that existing properties would remain affordable. In partnership with TriMet and ODOT, publicly owned land near the future light rail stations will be redeveloped as mixed-use affordable housing.

The strategy also calls for collaboration between the local government and transit agencies (Portland, Tigard, Metro, TriMet and Washington County) and affordable housing providers, renter advocates, community groups and residents to ensure renters and other vulnerable populations have a bigger “toolbox” to protect themselves, their families and their communities from displacement.  

The cities of Tigard and Portland both recently voted to adopt the housing strategy.

Unregulated affordable housing in SW Portland

Some of the best low-cost market rate housing in the city is in SW Portland. There are more than 11,000 unregulated affordable units in the corridor, which are typically older and cheaper apartment buildings. But that makes them easy targets for investors, especially as they consider the economic opportunities that come with new infrastructure investments. 94 percent of recent multi-family building sales in the Southwest Corridor have been these lower cost apartment buildings, which are subsequently “flipped” or upgraded and put back in the rental market at higher rents.

Investments in a new light rail line in the SW Corridor will build out complete communities in the area – places where people have easy and walkable access to stores, parks, schools, transit and other amenities that people need. But they won’t be complete if some of Portland’s most vulnerable populations are pushed out by rising costs of living.

But it requires a strategic and coordinated effort ... (cont.)

Bright ideas for Willamette River’s South Reach emerge!

River lovers come together to talk with each other and City planners about recreation, natural resources and adjacent neighborhoods

This fall, the River Plan / South Reach team convened several meetings to discuss key topics about the southern portion of the Willamette River, from the Ross Island Bridge to Dunthorpe. Lots of interested community members offered great insights and suggestions to City planners, and their input will inform future public discussions and help shape the development of the River Plan / South Reach draft plan.

Review the meeting materials as well as notes from the community discussions. boating

Highlights from the first four Fall meetings

September 13: Riverside Recreation

  • Improve trail access and enjoyment for all by increasing directional signage, providing benches and restrooms, establishing a speed limit for bicyclists and separating pedestrians from cyclists.
  • Provide access from Brooklyn neighborhood to Springwater Corridor Trail and the river.
  • Consider a scenic viewpoint between SE Haig and Rhone streets.

September 18: River and Riverbank Areas

  • Expand the greenway setback to accommodate riverfront trails, vegetation and trees.
  • Consider a willing-seller program to buy up flood-prone properties; use these properties for flood storage and habitat areas.

September 25: In-river Recreation

  • Address impacts of wake boats on river recreation, floating homes and riverbank erosion; consider a no-wake zone, education, boat licensing endorsements and enforcement options.
  • Consider a multipurpose dock at Oaks Amusement Park for transporting patrons to/from the park and as a public dock for nonmotorized water craft.

October 4: River and Riverbank Restoration

  • Bring back the historic tidal flow-through area on the west side of Ross Island to reduce algal blooms.
  • Restore Riverview Natural Area streams to provide cold-water habitat for salmon.

otters

Upcoming meetings on the east and west sides

Two more community sessions will focus on the east and west sides of the South Reach. Staff will work with community members to integrate the issues and opportunities they identified and topics they did not discuss previously.

Westside Discussion
Thursday, October 25, 2018, 6 - 8 p.m.
Center for Equity and Inclusion, 5757 SW Macadam Avenue
TriMet #35, #36*, #43* and 99*

Eastside Discussion 
Thursday, November 8, 6 - 8 p.m.
SMILE Station, 8210 SE 13th Avenue
TriMet #99*, #35, #19

*These TriMet lines provide limited bus service. Check schedules.

Finally! Big open house

On December 1, project planners will host an open house to share a summary of the information and feedback gathered to date, present staff’s recommendations for plan development, and share a draft future concept illustration. Staff welcome public comments on all materials provided at the open house.

River Plan / South Reach Public Open House
Saturday, December 1, 9 - 11:30 a.m.
Llewellyn Elementary School Cafeteria, 6301 SW 14th Avenue
TriMet #19, #70

Questions?
Please contact project staff with any questions about the meetings or the project overall at BPSRiverPlan@portlandoregon.gov or call 503-823-4572 or 503-823-6946

PSC News: October 23, 2018 Meeting Information

BPS Strategic Plan, Work Plan and Budget — Work Session

Agenda

  • BPS Strategic Plan, Work Plan and Budget — Work Session

Meeting files

An archive of meeting minutes and documents of all Planning and Sustainability Commission meetings are available at http://efiles.portlandoregon.gov/classification/3687.

For background information, see the PSC website at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/psc, call 503-823-7700 or email psc@portlandoregon.gov.

Meeting playback on Channel 30 are scheduled to start the Friday following the meeting. Starting times may occur earlier for meetings over three hours long, and meetings may be shown at additional times as scheduling requires.

Channel 30 (closed-caption)
Friday at 3 p.m. | Sunday at 7:00 a.m. | Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

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The City of Portland is committed to providing meaningful access and will make reasonable accommodations, modifications, translation, interpretation or provide other services. When possible, please contact us at least three (3) business days before the meeting at 503-823-7700 or use City TTY 503-823-6868 or Oregon Relay Service 711.

503-823-7700: Traducción o interpretación | Chuyển Ngữ hoặc Phiên Dịch | 翻译或传译 | Turjumida ama Fasiraadda | Письменный или устный перевод | Traducere sau Interpretare | Письмовий або усний переклад | 翻訳または通訳 | ການແປພາສາ ຫຼື ການອະທິບາຍ | الترجمة التحريرية أو الشفهية | www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/71701

 

New rules for design review process and tools move forward as one package; Discussion Draft to be released early next year

The Design Overlay Zone Amendments (DOZA) Process and DOZA Tools projects will be combined into a single package for easier public review and comment.

 lower retail level of condo unit as example of DOZA

The quality of building design matters for a growing city. And the rules and processes to ensure good, people-oriented design for our most vibrant places is important for residents, workers and visitors alike.

With all the new construction going on around town, it’s a good time to revisit the rules that govern how new large buildings look and feel within Portland’s Design overlay zone, which covers many of our growing centers and corridors.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Bureau of Development Services are working on a set of proposals that would update and improve both the process and the tools used for design review.

Initially envisioned as separate projects, DOZA Process and Tools, the two projects will now move forward as a single package, with a unified Discussion Draft expected early next year.

Why the change?

A few reasons:

  • First, the interconnectedness of the design review process and tools presented challenges to moving two separate projects forward on different timelines.
  • Second, BDS is piloting administrative changes that may influence potential zoning code changes, and the DOZA timeline change allows more time for that exploration.
  • Third, a single project with one set of meetings and opportunities for input means community members save time by engaging in one outreach effort.

In the meantime, project staff are working with consultants to test some of the draft tools (guidelines and standards) to ensure they result in good projects. At the same time, improvements to the process by which developers and property owners submit to design review are being refined by a working group of BDS and BPS staff.

Next Steps

Early next year, project staff will share the results of the consultant and staff work online and at public meetings. If you’d like to receive email updates about DOZA, please sign up by clicking on the “Stay Informed” button on the left side of the project website: www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/DOZA

Questions about DOZA?

Contact Kathryn Hartinger at Kathryn.Hartinger@portlandoregon.gov or (503) 823-9714.