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Portland Housing Bureau

Solving the unmet housing needs of the people of Portland.

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fax: 503-823-2387

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Portland is committed to fighting housing discrimination

Read what Commissioner Dan Saltzman had to say in the Oregonian about what Fair Housing audit testing reveals and what the City is doing about unequal treatment in our housing market.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Photo of Dan Saltzman

By Dan Saltzman

At the heart of our conversation about the state of housing in Portland is a conversation about the kind of city we want to be — who will get to live in our great neighborhoods, what our schools and communities will look like, who our investments in parks and transit will ultimately serve.

As The Oregonian/OregonLive has reported, city-funded testing shows that Portland remains a place where you can be denied housing because of the color of your skin, where you were born, how ably you get around or if you have children. Of 51 properties tested, more than one-third showed unequal treatment toward an undercover tester belonging to a protected class, most frequently black and Latino testers.

The city works to foster integrated communities and housing access in a number of ways, including education efforts around fair housing policy and practice. Some areas of focus already appear to be yielding improvements: The latest report, for example, shows a drop in unequal treatment toward people with disabilities following concentrated outreach around reasonable accommodations. It seems, however, that policy training will not deter an agent who quotes higher rental prices or misleading information to prospective tenants because of their race. That is why the city of Portland's Housing Bureau commissioned improved audit testing that allows us for the first time to take meaningful action against discrimination.

Because adverse differential treatment is often subtle and challenging to prosecute, at least three tests are needed in a single case to stand up to legal scrutiny. Portland's hot rental market, however, is thwarting our ability to carry this out annually. After 15 months, we are still awaiting vacancies in close to 20 sites to conduct the necessary retests to support enforcement. This timeline is disappointing, but the integrity of the process is critical if we hope to be able to act where bias is uncovered and bad actors are identified.

In the meantime, testing is constantly taking place in our community. The Fair Housing Council of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development test on an ongoing basis. City-funded tests add to that picture, so we have budgeted for testing in the coming year — but while we wait to conclude investigations on at least 19 pending cases, we have to ask ourselves whether annual reporting is possible at this time.

As we move forward, I will look to our citizen-based advisory boards, including the Fair Housing Advocacy Committee and the Portland Housing Advisory Commission, as well as members of the community at large, for input on the appropriate frequency and scope of audit testing.

In addition to testing, the city funds legal support for victims of fair housing violations. As a result, Legal Aid Services of Oregon has successfully negotiated or litigated 53 such cases since 2011. We will therefore also continue tenant education efforts, so that tenants are empowered to advocate on their own behalf and seek the legal services available to them.

One need only turn on the evening news and see the images coming out of Baltimore to witness the harm to cities when communities are left with a sense of hopelessness about their right to equal treatment. For some of us, this report reveals hard truths about our city; for others, it reflects little more than daily lived experiences. In every case, it gives us the starting point for an important conversation about how to respond to these results so that no Portlander is barred from housing opportunity due to discrimination.

Dan Saltzman is the Portland city commissioner in charge of the Housing Bureau.

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A Discussion on the State of Housing in Portland

The Oregon Opportunity Network will host a discussion of our new report and what its findings reveal about the state of housing today.

Portland Map graphicHow does housing production today compare to where it was before the recession? How have Portland's racial demographics shifted in the last 15 years? Where is population growth concentrating? What neighborhoods are still considered affordable -- and for whom?

Join us Friday, May 8 at noon for a discussion of the findings in our new report, hosted by the Oregon Opportunity Network. We will be joined by Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

When: Friday, May 8, noon-1pm
Where: First Unitarian Church of Portland, Eliot Chapel - 1011 SW 12th Ave. 

Under the direction and guidance of Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman and former Housing Bureau Director Traci Manning, the Portland Housing Bureau has developed the State of Housing in Portland 2015 Report -- a first-of-its kind report on Portland's housing market. Blending historic data on households and housing stock with current data on housing production and the rental and ownership markets, PHB has provided the most up-to-date picture of the market by housing type, neighborhood area, and affordability to households based on composition, and by race and ethnicity. 

It also consolidates the outcomes of PHB's programs and portfolio, thereby measuring how current City policy, budgeting, and operations impact the housing market.

Beginning with Phase Two of this report, due out later this year, the State of Housing in Portland will be published each fall to provide elected officials, policymakers, government insti­tutions, community organizations, and other partners with the information to guide discussions and decisions on housing policy and resources.

During the next few months, we will solicit feedback about the efficacy of the report in giving Portland City Council the information it needs to make policy and resource decisions. PHB will also present the report to other stake­holders in the housing system, and request their feedback, which will be reflected in Phase Two later this year.

Download the full report here.

Watch City Council's recent discussion of the report here.


Portland Housing Bureau Seeks Team for its First N/NE Portland Housing Initiative Project

 Images of N/NE PortlandThe Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) is moving forward on its $20 million initiative to address displacement and gentrification in North/Northeast Portland. The Bureau has just released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for the first development project to come out of the housing plan, accepted by City Council earlier this year.

The mixed-use development planned for NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd could provide up to 70 affordable family-size rental apartments, plus commercial space for community businesses.

As part of the City's initiative to address the impacts of gentrification on Portland's historically African American neighborhoods, PHB has taken a new approach to this solicitation. Rather than seeking project proposals, PHB will award the contract based on the development team.

"The community has been clear that affordable housing is important — but coupling affordability with opportunity is even more important," said Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who worked with Mayor Hales to bring forward the $20 million initiative last Spring. "Housing development brings job opportunities and economic development. We are dedicated to making sure this investment not only provides housing options, but also serves to build the long-term sercurity of the contractors, professionals, and businesses here in this community."

To that end, PHB will consider factors in their selection process such as a team's ties to the North/Northeast Portland community, their understanding of the specific barriers to housing access for area residents, a contracting and workforce training plan that draws from the surrounding community, and engagement of minority-owned and women-owned businesses, in addition to their capacity to finance and develop the site.

The deadline to apply is July 16. The selected team will collaborate with PHB on the final project to ensure alignment with the goals of the N/NE Neighborhood Housing Strategy, like addressing barriers to housing access, and ensuring that those at risk of displacement or who have already been displaced have the opportunity to live in the community.

Learn more about the N/NE Neighborhood Housing Strategy here.

Read the full RFQ here.

City Council Approves Deal for Pearl District Affordable Housing

Portland City Council voted today to approve a real estate deal between the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) and private developer Hoyt Street Properties (HSP) for more affordable housing in the Pearl District. HSP will sell the quarter-block site on NW Raleigh Street to the City at the below-market price of $1.3 million. PHB hopes to develop the property for very low-income family housing.

"We know that people thrive when they live in areas with opportunities," said Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman. "We are glad to be moving forward to create more housing options for vulnerable families in such a key location. "

The deal was part of an ongoing effort undertaken cooperatively by HSP and the City to ensure that private development in the Pearl District includes housing options for Portlanders of all income levels.

Last fall, HSP and PHB jointly determined that HSP would fall just short of a 1999 goal to maintain 35% affordability in the housing developed on its 34 acres of land in the Pearl District. Despite having recently closed on the Abigail Apartments to build 142 units of affordable family housing, 30% of nearly the 2,000 units across 14 projects were affordable as of September 2014. Factoring in other housing projects in the design, permitting, or construction stage brought that figure to 28%.  

The remedy, according to an agreement with the City, provided the opportunity for the City to acquire land from HSP for affordable housing at a below-market price. The City and HSP engaged three appraisers to arrive at a reduced purchase price—HSP agreed to reduce the price another $500,000 below that, bringing the final purchase price to $1.3 million —13% below the market value of $1.5 million.  

"It can be a real challenge to match the pace of the private market in a boom like what we have seen in the Pearl District and throughout the River District," said PHB Director Traci Manning. "We are thankful to Hoyt Street Properties for the concessions they have made in this process to ensure that this area provides adequate housing options for all Portlanders."

The 10,000-square-foot site on NW Raleigh Street, between 13th and 14th avenues, is conveniently located near public transit and is the only one of HSP’s available parcels on paved streets.

The deal is set to close on Friday. PHB expects to acquire the site before the end of April and begin soliciting a developer this summer.

Fair Housing Report Shows Some Gains and New Areas of Focus

Fair Housing logo

A report released by the Portland Housing Bureau and the Fair Housing Center of Washington in partnership with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon suggests that people from certain protected classes receive unequal treatment in Portland’s housing market, particularly on the basis of national origin. 

The report is the result of City-funded audit testing to identify possible violations of Fair Housing law. The Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) contracted with the Fair Housing Center of Washington (FHCW), in partnership with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon (FHCO), to conduct tests between October 2013 and December 2014.

Of 51 initial tests conducted in the first phase of testing, 19 (37%) showed adverse differential treatment toward testers belonging to a protected class (five on the basis of race, seven based on national origin, four based on familial status, three on the basis of disability). Another eight tests from the first phase were inconclusive.

Follow-up testing has been or is being conducted on the 27 that showed adverse treatment or were inconclusive. To date, one of these cases provides sufficient evidence of discrimination to support referral to the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) for legal action. The most common issue identified was that testers from protected classes were given different information on rental terms and conditions, and unit availability.

“I am deeply troubled by the results of this testing. Everyone should have the same access to housing of their choice and should not be treated differently based on the color of their skin, their national origin, the size of their family, or their disability,” said Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

A consortium made up of the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the City of Gresham is using these results, as well as newly available data and mapping tools, in its Fair Housing Assessment, a precursor to the region’s Five-Year Consolidated Plan for federal spending priorities. In it, the governments will demonstrate the steps they are taking to further Fair Housing. This includes a study of segregation, disproportionate housing need, disparities in access to community assets and exposure to harmful community factors, complaint outcomes, and Fair Housing awareness.

The report may also reveal some gains. The tests showed fewer instances of differential treatment based on disability, particularly for persons requiring accommodations for service animals. Reasonable accommodations for people experiencing disability has been a strong area of focus in the City’s outreach and education investments.

“We still have work to do,” said PHB Director Traci Manning. “I am encouraged to see improvement in an area where we have made concentrated efforts, though we know people in our community living with a disability still experience discrimination in access to housing. The amount of differential treatment revealed in this report is very concerning, but this gives us areas of focus for next steps, and we are eager to bring our community together to tackle the issues.” 

Download the full report here.