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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.”

Background

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 www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/equitablehousing

Community members share and learn at event about affordable housing in the SW Corridor

Portland Mayor Wheeler, Tigard Councilor Tom Anderson and other community leaders speak about the need for a holistic and inclusive approach to meeting the housing needs in the area.

On a recent Saturday morning at Markham Elementary School in SW Portland, more than 100 community members came together to hear each other's stories and learn about preserving and creating affordable housing in the SW Corridor in advance of a new light rail line. Joining them were community leaders, affordable housing and renter advocates, and elected officials, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, Tigard Councilor Tom Anderson, Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, Multnomah County Councilor Sharon Meieran, and State Representatives Margaret Doherty and Andrea Salinas. Gloria Pinzón from Momentum Alliance was the skillful MC for the event.

In a rousing speech, Mayor Wheeler said, “We must invest holistically in our communities, in both housing and transit. We need to act early on housing and we need to work with all our regional partners on solutions.”

“The regional housing crisis has hit the SW corridor,” declared the Community Alliance of Tenant’s (CAT) Katrina Holland. “People are experiencing large rent increases today, years before light rail is even here.” 

Other community organizations participating included Muslim Educational Trust, Community Partners for Affordable Housing, Momentum Alliance, OPAL Environmental Justice for Oregon, 1,000 Friends of Oregon, UniteOregon, Community Housing Fund, Fair Housing Council of Oregon, WorkSystems Inc., Southwest Neighbors, Inc. and many others. The event was put on by Metro and the cities of Portland and Tigard.

dancers

Amplifying the multi-cultural community spirit, Danza Azteca danced during a break, and the Musli Educational Trust catered lunch. 

Of those who filled out a demographic survey, 32 percent were people of color, 15 percent spoke a language other than English at home, 25 percent were renters, 66 percent female and 12 percent identified as having a disability. The average age was 52 and average household size was 2.6. 

Listening to and learning from each other

The event, which was billed as a “listening and learning session,” served to educate, build community, gather input and affirm leadership support for affordable housing and transit in the SW Corridor. After hearing speeches and participating in a welcoming exercise, participants broke out into small group discussions about challenges faced by renters and home owners. 

Neighbors listened to each other answer the question, “When light rail arrives, what is your greatest hope or aspiration for housing in the SW Corridor?”

Here’s what some people had to say …

  • “I’ve lived here since college – went to PCC and PSU by bus. I want people my daughter’s age to be able to live here the way I could when I was young.”
  • “Current residents along SW Corridor are able to reap the benefits of the new transit line and are able to continue to live in their communities without being displaced.”
  • “Everyone who needs a place to live has a place to live.”
  • “Tigard wants affordable housing! Housing for people who live here now.”

Small groups of 5 to 10 people discussed challenges for renters and homeowners; both to stay in their homes and to create new choices for people moving in. Some themes we heard were:

  • More housing choices are needed for people to stay in the community and for new people moving.
  • Displacement is a threat to residents and community.
  • Economically integrated communities with good transit are desired.
  • Early services and land acquisition is needed to get ahead of rising costs of land and housing as new transit comes along.

Media coverage

FOX 12 news, the Tribune, and Street Roots all covered the event.

Next steps

Look for draft strategies and housing targets this winter. Your feedback is important. Check out our events calendar for the SW Corridor Equity and Housing Advisory Group meetings and CAT’s tenant education workshops. And/or get in touch with Asher Freeman at CAT (asher@oregoncat.org) if you live along the SW Corridor and would like to bring one of their workshops to your building.

For more information about the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy and to read the full transcribed notes from this event, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/equitablehousing.

Community event to discuss housing and transit in SW Corridor

Join us at a Community Learning and Listening Session to share your ideas on the equitable housing strategy

flyerCommunity members are invited to a Community Learning and Listening Session on Affordable Housing on Saturday, October 14 to share experiences and provide input on housing challenges and opportunities to shape a new SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy.

The event will be an opportunity for community members to learn about affordable housing needs in the corridor and provide input to help preserve and build more places for people to live.

Residents can get involved by connecting with neighbors, learning how to volunteer with local housing organizations and sharing their comments on the transit planning process.

Featured speakers will include Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Tigard Councilor Tom Anderson. They will talk about the importance of inclusive communities with more housing and transit. Housing experts from the Community Alliance of Tenants and Community Housing Fund will talk about the challenges lower income residents in Southwest are facing and what resources are available.

Join us for a fun family-friendly event with childcare, food and entertainment. We hope to see you there!

  • When: Saturday, October 14, 2017, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. (doors open at 9 a.m. for registration, lunch served at 12:30 p.m.).
  • Where: Markham Elementary School, 10531 SW Capitol Hwy, Portland, OR 97219.
  • Who: Everyone is welcome; childcare will be provided.

Please RSVP and share this event on Facebook.

For more information about the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy, visit: www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/equitablehousing.

Questions? Contact Ryan Curren, 503-823-4574, Ryan.Curren@portlandoregon.gov

Cities of Portland and Tigard planning for more housing choice and opportunity for all along potential light rail line through the SW Corridor

Planners requesting proposals from community-based organizations to help create an Equitable Housing Strategy

Most people know the SW Corridor as Barbur Boulevard or 99W. No matter what you call it, though, it’s got potential for improved pedestrian safety and transit service. In addition to better sidewalks and public transportation, the area is a prime location for more types of businesses and houses for the region’s growing and diversifying population.

As the region plans for a light rail line from Downtown Portland to Bridgeport Village, the cities of Portland and Tigard, along with Metro, are developing an Equitable Housing Strategy for this major transportation corridor. The strategy will help ensure that homes along the new transit line meet the needs of households of different sizes and incomes.

City of Portland receives Metro grant for equitable housing strategy

On March 1, 2017, the Portland City Council passed an ordinance accepting $100,000 from Metro to create a SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy over the next year. Metro also received an $895,000 grant from the Federal Transportation Administration to develop a complementary equitable development strategy, which will include plans for economic, education and workforce development needs along the corridor.  

This planning work will focus on achieving Portland and Metro's racial and social equity goals, including reducing displacement of low-income households of color, creating equitable housing choices throughout the city, and increasing education and economic opportunities for those households along the corridor.

To that end, Metro, Portland and Tigard have convened an Equity and Housing Advisory Group of housing experts from the finance, philanthropic, nonprofit and private development sectors. The group will be begin meeting on May 24 and continue to meet throughout the planning process. 

Funding available for community-based organizations

The City wants the housing strategy to be informed by the needs and priorities of low-income households and communities of color. To support inclusive community engagement, we are seeking proposals from community-based organizations engaging and organizing low-income households and communities of color around affordable housing issues in the corridor. Find more information and instructions in the RFP.

Grants to nonprofit partners will be awarded at the end of the month to fund targeted engagement activities throughout the summer and fall. Broader community engagement events will be held over the summer and fall as research on the corridor’s housing needs is completed and the community-based organizations conduct more focused engagement.

Project deliverables

At the end of a year-long process, a unified and strategic approach to housing for the corridor will be presented to the cities of Portland and Tigard for action, including:

  1. Housing targets to guide action and track progress.
  2. Proposals for financing sources, development tools and supportive land use policies to meet the corridor’s housing targets.
  3. Recommendations for supporting community and housing organizations to work together to champion and implement the housing strategy.
  4. Prioritized early opportunity sites for housing.

For more information, visit www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/equitablehousing.