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In the News

In the News

Portland considers ordinance to increase affordable housing


The proposal would require developers of 10 or more units to make at least 10 percent of those units affordable to the middle class.

Portland Press Herald

By Leslie Bridgers

February 25, 2015

 

Portland officials are considering an ordinance that would require developers of residential projects with 10 or more units to make at least 10 percent of those units affordable to median-income households.

Jeff Levine, Portland’s director of planning and urban development, presented a draft of the proposal at a public forum held Wednesday evening by the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee.

The purpose of the forum was to look at ways “to remove barriers to housing production and … close the affordability gap” for the middle class, said City Councilor Kevin Donoghue at the start of the meeting, which drew about 50 people.

The city does not require developers to include affordable housing in their projects. It does have an ordinance that increases the allowed density by 25 percent for projects in which 25 percent of the units are affordable for households at 80 percent of the median income – $60,000 a year for a family of four.

But, Levine said, “I don’t see it used very much.”

The proposed ordinance would broaden the definition of “affordable” to include households with earnings up to the median income – $75,000 for a family of four.

Concurrently, the city is working to allow more density within certain zones. Levine said the efforts are part of a package of proposals to encourage and ensure more housing development in Portland.

Meanwhile, the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce has formed a task force that’s discussing what the city is proposing – called inclusionary housing – a concept the business and development community is “leery of,” said Chris O’Neil, the chamber’s liaison to the City Council.

“They’re asking, ‘What can you give me in terms of breaking down barriers?'” he said.

The group is working on a “suite of incentives” it would like, such as eliminating parking space requirements, O’Neil said.

The proposal says developers could opt out of the requirement by paying $100,000 per unit to the city’s Housing Trust Fund. Developer Ethan Boxer-Macomber said at the forum that he thinks that number is “probably too high.”

Levine said the Housing and Community Development Committee will review the proposed ordinance, which ultimately would need the City Council’s approval.

Levine said the ordinance would not affect any projects that are already in the permitting process, such as the “midtown” proposal for 445 apartments in the Bayside neighborhood.

Most speakers at the forum said they thought the proposed ordinance would have a positive effect on the city.

“I support everything you’re doing,” said Dana Totman, president of Avesta Housing. “Most importantly, I just want to say to you, it’s definitely needed.”

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