Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Faced With Countywide Shortfall of 27,000 Affordable Housing Units, Mayor Sends Email Touting Progress on Roughly 3,100

In an email to supporters this morning, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler touted the City's successful inroads in the fight for affordable housing. The problem is, while Portland real estate experts and economists indicate that the county as a whole is short at least 27,000 affordable units to meet immediate demand, Wheeler's email cites funding for far fewer.

According to HFO Research, Wheeler's email cites current and future funding for approximately 3,117 units to be delivered over the next couple of years -- even as the need continues to grow.

Below is Wheeler's email and--in italics--HFO's citations and total unit estimates. 

Wheeler's email:
1. We are implementing a fee on short-term rental units, including Airbnb, to create additional homeownership opportunities. Because short-term rental companies have a significant impact on the availability of rental units, we are modestly increasing the fee to create a dedicated fund for homeownership opportunities in our gentrifying neighborhoods in our community.[Note: This is anticipated to raise $1.1 to $1.28 million annually or the equivalent of 3-8 units/year]
2. We are leveraging Portland dollars to create 1,300 units in five to seven years with a Housing Bond. We are delivering well ahead of schedule on this promise—announcing four projects totaling more than 560 units of permanently affordable housing planned or purchased to date under the Bond only 18 months in. We are also pushing for a constitutional amendment statewide to allow us to leverage our dollars by combining them with private resources to create more housing units. [The housing bond was passed in November 2016 and, after an initial purchase, the city put spending on hold for nearly a year while it figured out its spending criteria. Units: possibly 1,300 total units although rising construction costs will likely result in fewer. The Daily Journal of Commerce reported September 25th that the city had purchased or committed to acquire 263 affordable housing units and build 384 new units for a total of 647.]
3. We are implementing Tax Increment Funding in urban renewal areas– We have over 600 units (and hundreds more on the way) in the construction or permitting process in our urban renewal districts. [These funds total $61.6 million and are still several years out from completion. Units: An estimated 600, pending additional income.]
4. We utilize public and private sector partnerships to increase housing opportunities. Portland continues to work with longtime partner Kaiser Permanente, who recently joined Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment. Kaiser committed a record $200M into a new community investment fund to preserve and expand affordable housing. [Units: total number unclear. Preservation would mean 0 new units. If all $200 million were spent on expansion, perhaps 200-300.]
5. We utilize methods of creating permanent affordability. We continue to partner with our local land trust housing provider, Proud Ground, and our local Habitat for Humanity affiliate to create permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for Portland area residents. [Habitat for Humanity: 20-25 homes per year; Proud Ground: about 20. Total: roughly 45 annually.]
6. We work with local and state agencies to create funding availability for permanent supportive housing units. This funding opportunity marks the first-time funding to build affordable housing has been bundled with funding for the services residents will need to thrive in that housing. By packaging construction capital and support services funding together for the first time, the City and its partners hope to achieve a minimum of 50 permanent supportive housing units. (Units: 50.]
7. We are using a Smart Cities PDX Priorities Framework to ensure our growth is equitable. As the City evaluates new technologies, uses of information, and related partnerships, we must ensure they promote equity, address inequities and disparities in our city, and provide tangible benefits to the people of Portland. We intend to expand this framework into how we approach housing—promoting equity and addressing inequities and disparities in our city. [Units: 0.]
8. We are increasing renter protections with an expungement program. The pilot program reduces barriers for those with a criminal record trying to rent homes and increases access to housing opportunities. Those with violations, misdemeanors or low-level felonies are eligible for expungement. [Units: 0.] 
9. We leverage market rate developments to include affordable housing. The Multiple-Unit Limited Tax Exemption program incentivizes those with market rate developments in the pipeline to include affordable housing units in their projects, so we can more quickly put more affordable housing units on the ground. [Units: 605]*
10. We utilize Inclusionary Zoning. We require any new development of 20 units or more to have affordable housing units included in the development. [Units: 209 under construction, future number uncertain as this policy has appeared to have a chilling effect on applications for development of units inside the City of Portland of more than 20 units.]
We have focused our efforts on leveraging funding sources, and maximizing strategic investment opportunities because I want to ensure that Portland remains a city that is accessible and affordable for everyone. I don’t want millionaires to be the only people who can afford to live downtown. I don’t want service industry workers to have a two-hour commute. I want a city where we actively create housing options at every income level and for people of all ages. 
Portland City Council has consistently voted in favor of more housing despite otherwise important and competing values—and I want to be clear that our efforts have paid off. 
Annual production and permitting levels are higher than at any point in the last 15 years. In 2017, there were 14,000 units in the production pipeline, including permits. More than 600 affordable housing units came online in 2017—more than double the number of units in the prior year. 
Note: Above, the mayor cites production and permitting of market rate and affordable units, the vast majority of which are market rate units and not affordable housing. 

*Page 9, City of Portland Residential Property Tax Exemption Programs 2016-2017 Annual Report, June 2018.

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