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Portland City Council voted this afternoon to support the creation of new incentives for affordable housing construction. Under the new incentive program, developers seeking to build to the maximum density currently allowed in the Central City would provide affordable housing within their project, or pay into a fund for the creation and preservation of affordable housing.
“Too often, we have to make tough decisions about how to slice the pie with our limited public dollars,” said Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the Portland Housing Bureau. “We have an opportunity now to expand the pie by bringing the private development community to the table to be part of the solution to our affordable housing crisis."
An incentive bonus system allows for additional square feet in a development project that provides a public benefit.
“Portland has been missing a major tool in our toolbox. This is a best practice that many other major cities employ to develop affordable housing,” Saltzman said.
Last year, City Council charged the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) to develop new zoning recommendations to better incentivize affordable housing development. To earn up to the maximum 3:1 floor-to-area ratio bonus, developers must either construct units on-site as part of a project that are affordable to households at 80 percent of the median family income (currently $58,800 for a family of four), and maintain the affordability of those units for 60 years, or pay into a public benefit fund for the production and preservation of housing affordable to households below 60 percent of the median family income (currently $44,100 for a family of four).
Based on average levels of development activity in the Central City, the bonus could result in as many as 60 additional units per year, or $120-200 million for affordable housing development and rehabilitation over 20 years.
Following today’s hearing, BPS staff will work with project and public stakeholders to propose changes to the zoning code. Final decision-making and recommendations will be made in public forums as part of the overall Central City 2035 planning process, outlined below:
“Access to good jobs, transportation options, and strong schools are the building blocks for family success,” Saltzman said. “By creating more affordable housing in our most amenity-rich areas, we're committing to a better, more prosperous future for the people of Portland.”