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New Portland State University study confirms a large supply of older, more affordable apartments exists in the region – but they are being sold

Research makes the case for preserving them when planning for new transit investments.

Rising rents are no longer news in the Portland metro region. And as greater Portland grows and becomes a more desirable place to live, the need for housing will continue to push housing prices upward.

That’s why the cities of Portland and Tigard are trying to get ahead of this demand as planning continues for much-needed transportation investments in the Southwest Corridor. The two cities are developing a SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy, which will include preserving some currently affordable housing along the corridor as part of a broader housing strategy.

To inform the housing strategy, Portland State University was commissioned to analyze market trends and demographic information across the region and within the SW Corridor. The analysis looks at the trends in apartment sales and rents from 2006-17, focusing on how they affect vulnerable populations — renters who are lower income, people of color and/or with disabilities.

Titled Preserving Housing Choice and Opportunity, PSU’s report focuses on what the authors term “naturally occurring affordable housing” — or NOAH. A shorter executive summary of the report is also available.

“Most low- to moderate-income renters are living in naturally occurring affordable housing,” stated report co-author Lisa K. Bates, PhD, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Urban Studies in the Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. “This is housing that is not subsidized or regulated. It's subject to the market when it comes to rent going up or the building being sold, renovated and leased at a higher price.”

NOAH in the SW Corridor

According to Dr. Bates, there are roughly 11,400 of these lower cost, older rental units along the Southwest Corridor. These units typically are more modest with fewer amenities. Many of them are in buildings with 100 or more apartments. 

“The loss of these kinds of units is exacerbating the housing crisis in our region, and preserving their affordability is an important component of a strategy to ensure that the new light rail provides access and opportunity in an equitable way,” Bates said.

Tigard Community Development Director Kenny Asher stated, “Many Tigard residents are in danger of being priced out of their neighborhoods and losing connections with their schools and social networks. The cities of Tigard and Portland are working together with regional stakeholders to find an equitable way to bring much-needed transit to the SW Corridor without increasing housing costs even more.”

Some findings from the report include:

  • Ninety-three percent of existing apartment buildings in the SW Corridor are considered naturally occurring affordable housing or NOAH.
  • Many apartment buildings in the SW Corridor have been sold in recent years, and the pace is increasing, with sale prices of this type of housing have climbed by 274 percent.
  • Two-thirds of NOAH sales in the SW Corridor are in low-income census tracts, and nearly 40 percent are in racially diverse areas.
  • Many cities and regions across the nation have developed innovative funding solutions to acquire NOAH and preserve its long-term affordability, some with a specific focus on locations near transit.

“Fortunately, we have promising examples from other cities who have made the holistic investments in both housing and transit,” said Ryan Curren, SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy Project Manager. “Light rail could serve so many households who need good quality transit the most if we can muster the resources to preserve some of this housing near future stations in the Southwest Corridor.

Housing crisis is real for many

Most of the Portland region’s low- and moderate-income residents live in NOAH apartments. Preserving the stock of this type of housing is important for the stability of these low-income renting households as higher income renters move to the area. It is also important to address because the loss of NOAH means a reduced ability for vulnerable populations to access new transit.

Amina Omar, a Somali refugee with four children, speaks from experience. “I first moved to Portland in 2005 and then to Woodburn in 2015, when my family needed more space. When I left Portland, things were much cheaper. Finding a place was easier. Rent was not that bad, but now rent is up in the sky.

“We moved back to SW Portland in May of this year. Nowadays, landlords ask if you make three times the money for rent. Three-bedroom apartments that used to be $1,000 to $1,300 are now $1,700 or more. The rising rents impact families, but if you have assistance like Section 8, that helps a lot. If I had to pay everything on my own, I would have to work three jobs just to survive, and I would have no time left for my children or for myself.”


The City of Portland has responded to the citywide housing crisis by declaring a State of Emergency, which prompted the inception of several programs, projects and land use plans to address the shortage of housing for middle and lower income residents.

One of these initiatives is the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy, which focuses on the area around the proposed alignment for the new light rail line and other public investments from Downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village. With funding and staffing support from Metro, the cities of Portland and Tigard are partnering with community groups and institutional partners to leverage a major public transit project with housing policies and investments so all people — regardless of race, ethnicity, family status or disability — have a range of affordable choices of where to live.

The PSU report provides a deeper understanding of the housing dynamics throughout the region and the SW Corridor. With this new information, staff at the City of Portland and Tigard and advisory group can more accurately plan for and develop an equitable housing strategy for the area, with the goal of preserving as much naturally occurring affordable housing as possible while also creating new housing for residents of all incomes.

For more information, visit

Still time to comment on the Residential Infill Project amendments

Public comment period for the Discussion Draft extended to Thursday, November 30

Since the release of the Residential Infill Project Discussion Draft, dozens of community members have attended the kick-off meeting, one of the five drop-in office hours or any of the various meetings staff have been attending since the proposals were published on Oct. 3, 2017. This outreach period is focused on familiarizing community members with the detailed amendments in preparation for the Planning and Sustainability Commission and City Council hearings next year.

We have heard that the November 20 date is making it more difficult to prepare feedback due to the timing of several organizations’ monthly meeting schedules. So we're extending the comment deadline to the end of the month (November 30) to give people more time read the draft proposals and submit their comments. Please note: This is not the last chance to be heard; formal public hearings will be held with the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) in the winter and City Council in the spring of next year.

Review the Discussion Draft materials

The Residential Infill Project Discussion Draft materials include:

  • Project summary – 8-page color summary of the 12 proposals of the Discussion Draft with maps and illustrations
  • Volume 1: Staff Report and Map Amendments – includes project overview and introduction, analysis of proposals, as well as the methodology for creating the Housing Opportunity Overlay – the new ‘a’ overlay
  • Volume 2: Zoning Code Amendments – the actual regulations
  • Volume 3: Appendices – includes Guidance from the Comprehensive Plan, FAR Background, R2.5 Catalog, Visitability Best Practices, Map Refinements, and Historically Narrow Lot Background 

Parcel-specific information that shows which amendments will affect individual properties is available through the Map App – an interactive online map.

How to comment

Comments are due by November 30, 2017.

You may submit comments on the Discussion Draft in several ways:  

City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Attn: Residential Infill Project
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 7100
Portland, OR 97201

How will my comments be used?

Comments on the Residential Infill Project Discussion Draft will be directed to City staff, who will use the feedback as they develop a proposal for the PSC. This Proposed Draft will be considered by the PSC early next year, and Portlanders will be able to give formal testimony on the Proposed Draft at that time.

For more information

Please contact:

Historic Landmarks Commission to Deliver Annual Report on November 29th

The 2017 “State of the City Preservation Report” outlines Historic Landmarks Commission priorities for changing public perception, adding housing units, and inventorying historic resources.

Among their many recent approvals, the Historic Landmarks Commission supported an infill project that will add 60 new housing units to the Alphabet Historic District. Rendering courtesy Atomic Sky and Emerick Architects. Every fall, the Portland Historic Landmarks Commission delivers their annual “State of the City Preservation Report” to the Portland City Council. The report is an opportunity for the all-volunteer commission to highlight their recent activities, identify priorities for the coming year, and celebrate notable rehabilitation and infill projects approved by the commission. This year’s report will be delivered Wednesday, November 29th at 2 p.m. in the Council Chambers at Portland City Hall. The presentation is open to the public and testimony will be accepted.

The 2017 report focuses on numerous Historic Landmarks Commission priorities including changing public perceptions, addressing the housing emergency, and updating the citywide Historic Resources Inventory. The report’s authors state,

The Portland Historic Landmarks Commission, in partnership with City Council, must continue to be proactive advocates of maintaining and refining protections for designated properties, as well as working to assure that these protections are available to and benefit all Portland citizens. We can advocate for our City’s collective history by supporting the Historic Resources Code Project, as well as working together to make informed decisions that are equitable and long-term in thinking.”

Among the Commission’s primary themes in the report is a renewed call for an update to the Historic Resource Inventory (HRI). The report states,

For over ten years, the Commission has been calling for a citywide update of the 33-year-old HRI to provide an accurate public record, include areas and property types not previously surveyed (East Portland, Modern-era buildings, landmarks associated with communities of color, etc.), and develop a tool to inform sound land use planning decisions. Following concerted advocacy from BPS staff and the broader preservation community, statewide land use Goal 5 was amended in February 2017 to remove regulatory barriers to updating local inventories. Portland now has full jurisdiction to make good on the PHLC’s repeated calls to update the inventory.”

Additional priorities noted in the report include:

  • Promoting and incentivizing the seismic upgrade of unreinforced masonry buildings
  • Exploring the possibilities of a State Rehabilitation Tax Credit
  • Maintaining existing state-level protections for designated historic properties
  • Advancing affordable housing options in historic buildings and districts

The 19-page “State of the City Preservation Report” is available for download as a PDF. 

Historic Resources Code Project Seeks Community Input

Four public roundtables have been scheduled to solicit input on the project’s primary focus areas: identification, designation and protection of historic resources.

Kenton Firehouse, a local historic landmark in a conservation district.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is advancing the Historic Resources Code Project (HRCP), a zoning code initiative that will propose changes to how the City of Portland identifies, designates, and protects significant historic resources. Facilitated by a 2016 Oregon State Supreme Court ruling and recent changes to state administrative rules, the HRCP seeks to improve Portland’s historic resource protection programs and better steward the city’s rich cultural and architectural heritage.

Four public roundtables have been scheduled to solicit input on the project’s primary focus areas: identification, designation and protection of historic resources. Roundtables are open to the public and all venues are accessible to people with disabilities.

Why Portland’s Historic Places Matter
Thursday, December 7th, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
White Stag Block, 70 NW Couch St.
An opportunity to define and affirm the City’s historic preservation goals and values. Conversations will focus on the community benefits of preservation, including the cultural, economic and environmental value of diverse historic resources.

New Tools for Inventorying and Adapting Historic Resources
Thursday, January 11th, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Architectural Heritage Center, 701 SE Grand Ave.
An examination of survey, inventory and reuse of historic resources. This roundtable will address opportunities for updating Portland’s 33-year-old Historic Resources Inventory as well as explore possible zoning incentives for preservation.

What’s Working and What’s Not in Portland’s Historic Districts
Wednesday, January 24th, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Taborspace, 5441 SE Belmont St.
A technical discussion about the application of historic resource review in Portland’s Historic Districts. Dialogue will center on the regulations associated with National Register Historic District designation and explore opportunities for improving the practicality and effectiveness of historic resource review.

Local District Designation: An Alternative to the National Register?
Tuesday, February 6th, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
North Portland Library, 512 N Killingsworth St.
An exploration of potential alternatives to listing landmarks and districts in the National Register of Historic Places. Discussions will focus on how the City’s local Historic and Conservation Landmark and District designations might be modified to create more accessible and responsive designation and protection options.

In addition to the above roundtables, staff will be available at two drop-in sessions to provide additional opportunities to learn about the project and solicit general feedback:

Historic Resources Drop-in Session
Monday, December 18th, 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Peninsula Park Community Center, 700 N Rosa Parks Way

Historic Resources Drop-in Session
Tuesday, January 9th, 5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Midland Library, 805 SE 122nd Ave.

Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff will incorporate public feedback from roundtables and drop-in sessions into the development of zoning code concepts. Draft zoning code language will be released in spring 2018, at which time more opportunities for public feedback will be scheduled.

If you cannot attend one of the Roundtables or drop-in sessions, please consider filling out a comment form and returning it to the project team. If you have questions or comments, the project team can be reached at (503) 823-7247 or

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