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Biking and walking advocates testify at inclusionary housing hearing


(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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