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Biking and walking advocates testify at inclusionary housing hearing

Posted by on December 14th, 2016 at 7:26 am

(Photos: City of Portland)

(Photos: City of Portland)

The first hearing for the City of Portland’s Inclusionary Housing Zoning Code Project took place at city council today and biking and walking advocates showed up to support the proposal and urge council to pass it.

As we’ve reported for years now, there’s a clear intersection between affordable housing policy and cycling: The most bike-friendly neighborhoods are also the ones where we’ve seen tremendous market pressure exerted — and many of them are now unaffordable to many low and even middle-income Portlanders. And according to the National Household Travel Survey, low-income households drive much less than those with high-incomes.

One way to make neighborhoods more affordable is to require developers to build affordable housing units in their new buildings. Otherwise they’ll sell the units at whatever price the market can bear — and that happens to be a lot of money in Portland’s red-hot housing market. The result is a sort of forced migration of people with lower incomes into neighborhoods further away from the city center.

Portland wants to stop this trend by passing a set of code changes that will require developers to offer a portion of their units at a lower price and then set them aside for qualifying renters or buyers.

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“We are creating a segregated city when it comes to access… Walkable and connected communities are a privilege in this city.”
— Noel Mickelberry, Oregon Walks

Yesterday city council held the first of two hearings on the proposed code changes. Among the people to testify were Oregon Walks Executive Director Noel Mickelberrry and outgoing CEO of the Community Cycling Center Mychal Tetteh.

Tetteh’s organization held a ride this past summer called Gentrification is Weird that educated people about how communities of color have been displaced throughout Portland’s history. “Over the past three years alone,” he said, “We have seen rents in Portland’s neighborhoods increase by as much as 10% per year. That is weird.”

Mickelberry had strong words for council. “Because of skyrocketing rents and history of underinvestment in parts our system, walkable neighborhoods are only available to those with the money to afford living there,” she said. Mickelberry added that she believes Portland’s current policies (or lack thereof), “Are creating a segregated city when it comes to access.” “Walkable and connected communities are a privilege in this city,” she continued, “as you are twice as likely to hit and killed while walking in our low-income neighborhoods.”

Council is expected to host another hearing on this issue and then vote on the new code changes next week. You can stay updated on the proposal and learn more at PortlandForEveryone.org. Yesterday’s council session featured several expert panelists and is very enlightening. You can watch it on YouTube.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Mike
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Mike

Portland’s housing crisis is a bubble waiting to burst. Portland is no longer a desirable city to live in given the congestion. political mismanagement (poor schools?), and a faux high-tech economic base. Then there’s the BIG ONE lurking out of sight just around the corner. Yes, the Big One will be the final decider. Stay tuned!

J_R
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J_R

Requiring developers to build some affordable units in their buildings will result in them raising the prices on the other units or constructing their buildings elsewhere.

Think about all the components of a building that are fixed. The foundation; the structure; the sprinklers; the roof; the elevators. Do you think you can make those cheaper for affordable units? Think about the things that are required regardless of the unit’s cost, like lots of insulation, energy efficient windows. Those don’t change.

The only things that can be cheapened are some of the finishes like flooring, countertops, and appliances.

The only way for a developer to make his project pencil out if some affordable units are required is to increase the price or rent of his other units.

If you think being a developer is the road to riches and that rents and sale prices are excessive, maybe you should become a developer and rent your units for less. If you don’t have the funds to become a developer, you can at least put your IRA money into a stock or exchange traded fund that is a developer, contractor, or real estate investment trust. There are plenty of choices from the large mutual fund families. You can start your investment with less than $1000.

I’m not a developer, just someone who majored in economics and has a business.

m
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m

People who advocate for rent control almost always have never actually lived in a city with rent control.

Matt S.
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Matt S.

Affordable housing is great, but it means nothing if the city can’t get the wages up. Pretty dire for someone that has a college degree and makes $12.50/hr with 20k in college debt, I meet people like this all the time. Sure, we’re at 5.0 unemployment—some economists say full employment—but do you really consider 32 hours in the service industry without benefits full employment? Or you can do warehouse/manufacturing for $15/hr, but work out in Beaverton or Tigard. Great, now you have to have a car or spend two hours commuting via Trimet and bicycle because you live in a 400 sqft studio on Williams st. But wait! You’re within walking distance to a tasty $6 pint of beer! How wonderful.

I can’t imagine what it’s like when you have dependents…

Snowden
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Snowden

The success of this policy all rests in the details and implementation. The basic premise is that the City will offer various incentives to developers in exchange for including low income units in their projects. If the right balance of incentives aren’t provided, then developers will pull up stakes and not build at all, which could actually worsen the current situation.

I’ve talked with several of my developer clients about this and they are all taking a very cautious, wait and see attitude. Word is that there is a flurry of activity to get projects submitted to the City in advance of this change. Beyond that, no one is really certain what will happen. I strongly suspect implementation will result in a significant decrease in the number of building applications in the first 12-24 months, until the impacts are really understood by developers.

Because of these uncertainties, this policy may or may not be successful. Support from this constituency shouldn’t be a kneejerk reaction.

Matt S.
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Matt S.

Where do you think affordable housing should be built? Say, along Williams, Alberta, Mississippi, Dekum, 28th and Glisan, Belmont, Hawthorn, Stark, The Pearl? These are all desirable places to live within walking distance from many amenities. Not to mention you’re close in from the downtown center making for an easy commute on bike. But here’s my question that kind of breaks it all apart, why would you want to live in an area where the services around you are so expensive? Maybe St. Johns is still affordable for the lower income family of four to go out for dinner or go see a movie. But to go out on Alberta, you’re looking at a min. 35 bucks for just burritos and soda at one of the cheaper Mexican restaurants. Without tip.

Travis
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Travis

St. Johns experiences this within the neighborhood. Close-in St. Johns has high bike/walk scores. TriMet options and ease are far better too. Schools are walkable. Outer St. Johns is severed from the business district and transit mall by Fessenden, Columbia Blvd, and distance. The outer reaches lack services beyond convenience stores. Family car dependence is a reality — especially without bike knowledge and personal comfort.

The fear and what we’re watching: With improvements eventually coming to Fessenden in 2018 (calming, pedestrian medians/crossings, lights, etc), the corridor is ripe for re-development. BUT it is the perfect place to consider (and protect) affordable housing (and bring the 16 back out). I envision a small grocer, diners, community music spaces, day cares, hardware, bike shop, etc (trying not to think too white). There are many large vacant lots and abandoned buildings.

Meanwhile, us closer-in folks put on our privilege hats and gripe about more distant neighbors using their cars on ‘our’ residential walkable paradise streets to access Fred Meyer, Safeway, and our swanky boutiques. What real options do they have (or that they could possibly feel they have)?

While I mention distance above, it is actually the lack of distance that threatens the possibilities for Fessenden. Something to watch.

rick
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rick

What if Irvington and Ladd’s Addition had high-density zoning?

chris
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chris

Gentrification is good.

Stephen Keller
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Stephen Keller

“…those who live north of Columbia…”

John Liu
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John Liu

In recent months there has been a huge rush to get permits in before the inclusionary zoning requirements take effect. I understand there are 15,000 units now in the development pipeline, all pre-IZ. Therefore, we won’t see significant numbers of IZ units hitting the market for 3+ years.
http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2016/11/developers_race_to_beat_portla.html

IZ is essentially a trade-off. In return for some affordable units (20% is proposed), the public receives less tax to fund infrastructure and services (developers get tax breaks) while the neighborhood gets more people using that infrastructure and services (developers get additional units, no parking requirement).

Champs
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Champs

I don’t normally say this, but the block east of SW 2nd does look like the the perfect application for a protected bike lane.

An island-style bus stop would also make sense, but of course it did on the Hawthorne viaduct, too. Hopefully the city has different ideas than the county?

Greg Spencer
Guest

While I think it’s a worthy cause to support affordable housing in close-in neighborhoods, I’m skeptical. Portland is fighting natural economic forces here and that’s a tough battle to win. I think the city should rather focus on improving transit, walking and cycling conditions in outer neighborhoods where the hard-pressed are already living.

SD
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SD

Uniformly lower speed limits throughout the city and stop pretending that poor people don’t live in “residential” areas.

John Liu
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John Liu

All that new housing supply is finally starting to bring rents down.

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/336371-216011-pdx-rents-go-down-renter-incomes-up

Mike Sanders
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Mike Sanders

I live in Sellwood, where gentrification is rampant, and rents are going up. I’ve been in the same 1BR apartment for almost 17 years. My rent will go up into the four digit range next March. That makes three increases within a two year period. Mike’s Restraurant (no relation to me) will close at year’s end to be replaced by a three story housing complex. Another went up two blocks from me last summer. The new units being shoehorned into this area by developers are sending rents upward at a never before seen pace. The rumor is that you can’t find affordable housing anywhere in Portland. Something has to be done. Incoming Mayor Wheeler, who takes office on New Year’s Day, will have his hands full dealing with the mess the outgoing mayorship left to him.