If you’ve been to a Fred Meyer store on Barbur Boulevard (in South Burlingame) or Tigard (on 99W) you probably saw pictures of the area and the store sites before Barbur was even paved.
A few Model Ts and horse-drawn carriages can be seen in the foreground as the dirt road carves a path to the south. Elsewhere, other old photos show robust dense neighborhoods with lots of housing in Lair Hill and where Duniway Park now sits. In some photos, you can even see the vestiges of an old streetcar line.
Barbur Boulevard circa mid-20th century (left); 1920s Lair Hill, before urban renewal and the Markham Bridge resulted in housing loss (right)
Fast forward to the 21st century.
Planning is underway for a light rail line in the region’s SW corridor, located along I-5 and 99W. Over the next 25 years, this area will experience the most growth of all the region’s major corridors. But it is currently underserved by transit, so light rail service will provide a reliable and affordable way to get to existing and future jobs, educational opportunities, as well as more places to live in the corridor.
This multibillion-dollar infrastructure investment will attract additional private and public investments, bringing more jobs and businesses, improved community services, and housing choices to the area.
The benefits of these once-in-a-lifetime improvements should be available to everybody.
The cities of Portland and Tigard as well as Metro have partnered to align this major public investment in transit with our values – inclusion, equal access to opportunity, and diversity in our region. Building on the work of the SW Corridor Plan and Barbur Concept Plan, which identified possible station areas and models for mixed use development along the transit corridor, project partners will create an Equitable Housing Strategy to preserve and create more housing opportunities for households of all types and incomes.
Housing for Everyone
It’s no secret that, as Portland and the region grow, more people are having difficulty finding housing, much less a home or apartment they can afford. People of color and immigrants are affected the most as they are pushed farther away from desirable neighborhoods with amenities and access to transit.
So we have an opportunity with the SW Corridor light rail line — and the accompanying investments in infrastructure, street improvements and land acquisition — to parlay them into benefits for those who have traditionally been under-served and even harmed by major transportation projects (think neighborhoods demolished to build I-5 or North Williams redevelopment efforts).
At the end of a year-long process, the project team will deliver a unified, strategic approach to housing for the entire Barbur corridor, with a set of recommendations that the cities can take action on, including:
- Housing targets to guide action and track progress: Long-term targets for the preservation and new construction of housing along the corridor.
- Proposals for affordable housing financing and development tools: Preservation and stabilization tools along with land acquisition for new construction to meet the corridor’s affordable housing goals. Recommendations to capitalize these tools.
- Recommendations for the organizational structure(s): Strategies to support housing organizations working together to champion and implement the housing strategy.
- Prioritized opportunity sites: A number of opportunity sites identified for the City and its partners to acquire and develop or preserve.
Timeline and Schedule
The planning for the transit route and station locations is underway. Final decisions by Metro, TriMet and the local cities are scheduled for 2018, when they approve the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). The Equitable Housing Strategy will be adopted by City Council when they vote on an LPA for the transit route from outer SW Portland to Downtown.
From Vision to Action
There will continue to be plenty of visioning about the future of the SW Corridor. Now we need to think about ways to ensure housing options are available to everyone. We have lessons from housing strategies along Interstate Avenue and in the N/NE Quadrant of the Central City and successful housing strategies from other cities to help us develop a meaningful and actionable strategy
But how can we do that?
- Anticipate the needs of vulnerable communities. We want to better understand where households vulnerable to displacement live and how to meet their needs, especially low-income households and communities of color. Housing-focused nonprofit partners will ensure the project is informed by the experiences of vulnerable communities in the corridor.
- Act strategically. We want to expand the funding sources needed to both preserve existing affordable housing and build more. Purchases of land early on allows us to get ahead of the anticipated rise in property values once light rail plans are finalized. Planning for market rate housing and commercial development near the future stations will also help provide the full range of housing options as well as goods and services to the area.
- Engage partners and community. The Equitable Housing Strategy is a joint effort between the cities of Portland and Tigard, tightly coordinated with Metro’s SW Equitable Development Strategy. We’ve pulled together an advisory group from government, community, finance, philanthropy and development sectors (see sidebar). These valuable partners will provide leadership as recommendations are developed and vetted through an inclusive planning process that reflects the diversity of voices in the corridor and region. See the project's Equity Advisory Group page for more details.Community-based nonprofit housing organizations will engage underrepresented and marginalized populations. A series of open houses will bring together the broader public to provide input on the project. See the project's Equity Page for more details.
- Address issues of race and equity. We are committed to maintaining a focus on race and social equity in all aspects of the project — from community engagement and decision-making to addressing racial disparities in displacement and fair housing. This means providing resources that support engagement of low-income households and communities of color in the corridor. It also means looking at anti-displacement housing strategies for existing residents vulnerable to escalating rents and increasing housing options for those that may choose to move to the corridor.