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Equitable housing strategy for the SW Corridor moves forward

Advisory group and Tigard City Council give thumbs up for the strategy to preserve and create more affordable housing in the corridor.

Over the summer, the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy gathered momentum, with votes from the SW Corridor Equity and Housing Advisory Group and Tigard City Council.

The  Equity and Housing Advisory Group endorsed the recommended strategy at their final advisory group meeting in June. This group of leaders from the nonprofit, finance, philanthropic, government, and housing development sectors brought diverse perspectives on housing and transit policy to help develop and vet recommendations over the past year.

Many members will continue to be involved in ongoing planning for the corridor through Metro’s Southwest Equitable Development Strategy. They will also contribute to some of the early implementation activities of the housing strategy, such as station area planning as well as continued engagement of low-income households and communities of color.

In July, the Tigard City Council acknowledged the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy. Before the vote, members of the Equity and Housing Advisory Group spoke to the Council in support of the strategy.

Steering Committee chooses Locally Preferred Alternative

And in August, the SW Corridor Steering Committee (a Metro-led committee) voted unanimously on a 12-mile alignment for the new light rail line. They chose the center of Barbur Boulevard for most of the Portland portion as the “locally preferred alternative (LPA), citing better, more visible station access as an important factor.

Planning and Sustainability Commission weighs in

After a briefing in the summer, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) crafted two letters: one supporting the housing strategy; the other commenting on the light rail project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

In a letter to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler addressing the housing strategy, Katherine Schultz, PSC Chair, stated:

[The SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy] centers the needs of our most vulnerable residents and provides a clear roadmap to stave off displacement and increase fair housing choices for all households. However, our city has a long history of infusing equity language into plans and setting aspirational goals but failing to follow through. This time must be different. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past. We need our political leaders to champion this work to make it real.

In the letter responding to the DEIS to the Federal Transit Administration, Metro and TriMet, Chair Schultz urged transit planners to more carefully analyze the potential for economic displacement of a new light rail line on low-income households and communities of color. The letter also urges the agencies to leverage housing and transportation investments to benefit the most transit-dependent households and those currently burdened by rising housing costs.

City Council work session on SW Corridor Light Rail Project

On September 4, the Portland City Council heard from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, PBOT and the Housing Bureau, who presented information about the proposed new light rail line. Staff described the need for new transportation infrastructure to move the 23,800 daily commuters to and from Portland and Tigard. They also listed the additional benefits of the project, including more reliable travel times, improved access to OHSU and PCC, enhanced stormwater management, bike and pedestrian improvements, as well as catalyzing investments in affordable housing and commercial development.

A striking figure was the amount of land that can be recouped with the removal of Ross Island Bridge on- and off-ramps, which would be replaced with new access ramps away from the neighborhood streets. Of the roughly 3,000 new housing units projected to be built around a new Gibbs Street station, 350 – 400 of them would be built on the land currently occupied by the bridge approach ramps. The Gibbs Street station area would be one of the busiest stations on the new line.

The Barbur Transit Center, near the intersection of Barbur Boulevard, Capitol Highway and the I-5 freeway, would be reconfigured and redeveloped with parking commercial uses, and housing. Transformation of the transit center site could help stimulate investment in the surrounding West Portland Town Center.

Watch the Council work session on the SW Corridor Light Rail line

Next steps

City Council will consider adopting the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy on October 4, after hearing public testimony from 2 – 3 p.m.

Council will also consider adopting the light rail route on October 10, from 2 – 3 p.m., when there will also be opportunity for public testimony. 

SW Corridor communities propose housing solutions for elected officials

Nearly 200 residents gathered to show their support for and concern about housing affordability and stability at Markham Elementary School in SW Portland.

On Mother’s Day this year, a group of renters – led by a group of mostly Somali women living in Southwest Portland and Tigard – hosted an event at Markham Elementary School. It was the last Sunday before Ramadan, and some 200 community members gathered to feast together.

They also came to share a set of community solutions to housing affordability and stability, which they had crafted.

Their audience included elected officials who were invited to the meeting, including Metro Councilor Bob Stacey and City of Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. The gathering was supported by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), an advocacy group for low-income tenant protections in Oregon.

Learning how to organize and advocate for housing justice

This community event was the culmination of a months-long process where tenants organized, learned and collaborated as a single cohort around a common goal of housing justice in the Southwest Corridor. In the process, they learned about housing policy and advocacy techniques they could use to amplify their voices.

The event kicked off with several focus groups of 15-20 people, who discussed community housing solutions developed over the past several months.

Asking questions about tenant protections and other renters’ issues

Then the cohort posed questions to keep elected officials accountable for housing policies as planning for the Southwest Corridor light rail project continues. The questions directed to Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Metro Councilor Bob Stacey addressed topics such as:

• Tenant protections and rights in both Tigard and Portland.
• Housing discrimination by landlords against Somali immigrants.
• Amount of affordable housing investments made ahead of the new MAX light rail construction.
• Purchasing of market rate apartment buildings to preserve affordability and cultural communities.

Others expressed concerns about meeting housing goals and needs in SW. "What will you do to ensure that the affordable housing you plan for actually gets built?" asked one cohort participant.

SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy

To take advantage of opportunities and investments in and around the potential new light rail line in SW Portland and Tigard, the cities of Portland and Tigard are creating the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy. The stretch goal is to build and preserve 2,300 affordable units near future station areas along the entire corridor in the next 10 years. Strategies to provide anti-displacement services and strengthen tenant protections like those solutions presented at the Mother’s Day event are also included in the corridor’s housing strategy.  

New partnerships and funding sources will be required to meet these goals. And events like this one on Mother’s Day are one way to create and strengthen those partnerships.

Learn more about the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy process and read the public discussion draft. 

Equitable housing strategy will create more housing choices and opportunities in the SW Corridor

A draft of the strategy will be shared at a community-led event on May 13; come learn about transit and housing issues.

The Portland Metro area’s transit system is expanding to better connect the SW Corridor with the rest of the region — during a housing crisis. The current crisis and lack of transportation options in the corridor are hindering people’s quality of life in the area. These conditions also create obstacles to achieving the region’s long-range growth plans.

The multibillion-dollar investment in light rail will attract additional investments in housing, providing an opportunity to address this housing crisis and the long-standing racial disparities and underlying income inequality that exacerbate it. As the region prepares to invest in light rail along Highway 99 in SW Portland (or Barbur Blvd) and through downtown Tigard, it's the right time to take advantage of this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A vision of equitable growth must reflect the realities of the current housing crisis while also planting the seeds for a future where everyone can reach their true potential. Where people have the capacity to strengthen their communities and determine their own future and that of their neighborhoods.

Fulfilling the promise of complete communities with housing choices and opportunity

Over the past year, the cities of Portland and Tigard and their community partners have been planning for more housing choices and opportunity in the SW Corridor. The result is a discussion draft of an equitable housing strategy for the SW Corridor. The goals of the strategy are to:

  1. Commit early financial resources to address the near-term housing crisis and long-term needs.
  2. Prevent residential and cultural displacement.
  3. Increase choices for new homes for all household types and incomes.

Read the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy Discussion Draft

Project staff and partners will present this draft to the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission on May 8 at 4 p.m. A proposed draft will then be submitted to Portland and Tigard city councils this summer. 

Community-led event offers chance to learn more about transit and housing issues

As part of the review process, community-based organizations participating in the development of the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy are hosting a community meeting in May for residents of SW Portland and Tigard. Come learn more about transit and housing issues along the corridor so that you can be informed and engaged as decisions are being made. Free food, childcare as well as Somali and Spanish interpretation will be provided.

  • Where: Markham Elementary School
  • When: Sunday May 13, 2018
  • Time: 4 – 7 p.m.
  • More info: or 503-460-9702 x129

The SW Corridor Equity and Housing Advisory Group has guided the development of the strategy over the past year. Their final meeting is June 7 from 1– 3 p.m. at the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, 1900 SW 4th Ave, 7th floor.

For more project information visit the project website or contact Ryan Curren, 503-823-4574,  

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

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.


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 ( 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