Affordable housing hitting snags throughout state


In Portland, city officials wrangle with decades-old deal that could provide land in Pearl District, while Bend lawmakers push bills that sponsors concede aren’t likely to pass.

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BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Portland city officials are in talks to enforce a deal made in the late-1990s with a developer to build affordable housing in the Pearl District.

 OregonLive.com reports:

In 1997, the Portland City Council agreed to invest tens of millions of public dollars to tear down the Lovejoy viaduct, build a streetcar line and construct three parks. In return, Hoyt Street Properties agreed that 35 percent of all housing units built on the company’s 34 acres would be affordable to individuals or families of modest means. As a protection, Portland could buy up to half a city block from Hoyt Street at a discount if the company failed to deliver, according to the city’s revised 1999 contract. Portland would have two years to begin construction on a new affordable housing project, according to the deal, otherwise Hoyt Street could buy back its land.

In March 2014, Portland officials realized that Hoyt Street wasn’t on track: of 2,556 units built or under construction, just 727 – or 28 percent – would meet affordability standards. The Oregonian reported the deficiency in August but city officials said they were undecided about buying land from Hoyt Street. On Sept. 3, five days before the city’s deadline to notify Hoyt Street, Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman told the company it was out of compliance and the city wanted land.

According to deputy city attorney Lisa Gramp, officials and the developers have tentatively reached a deal and that the city should close on the property by the end of April. Details of that deal were unavailable.

The Portland City Council will consider Wednesday a measure that would provide more affordable housing in the North Macadam neighborhood.

The ordinance would require the city to provide an acre of affordable housing by the 2022-23 fiscal year, the Portland Tribune reports.

The ordinance submitted by [commissioner Nick] Fish is apparently key to [mayor Charlie] Hales winning council approval for the URA changes he has been pursuing. They will also be considered by the council Wednesday. Hales also supports recommitting to the affordable housing goal.

Although the numbers have changes over the years, the council had most recently committed to having 788 units of affordable housing built in the North Macadam URA that includes the growing South Waterfront area along the west bank of the Willamette River south of the Marquam Bridge. Only 209 units have been built so far, however.

Lawmakers from Bend, an area plagued by near-zero rental vacancy rate, are hoping to get relief from Salem.

Senate Bill 516 and House Bill 2959 would allocate $20 recording fees collected by the state back to Deschutes County, Bend Bulletin reports.

They seek to address what Central Oregon lawmakers and housing officials say is a complicated system of disbursing money for affordable housing that hasn’t been fairly given out statewide in recent years.

“It appears at this moment that the bill was successful in starting a conversation about equity; whether we did that in bill form or whether that gets worked out through agency grants, I still think that’s beneficial for Central Oregon,” said Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, who sponsored Senate Bill 516.

According to the Bulletin, the sponsors of the bill have little faith the measures will pass.

 




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