Demonstrators call for city to protect affordable housing

As the city embarks on what is expected to be a ugly budget process, supporters of affordable housing programs gathered outside of City Hall Thursday calling for a renewed commitment by the city.

While the call was for affordable housing commitments across the board, the demonstration focused on the preservation of the city’s Neighborhood Inspections Program, which protects against unsafe housing conditions in low-income units. Other cuts are expected, with both the Portland Housing Bureau and the Portland Development Commission under the gun to make their budgets conform to current economic stranglehold. And Housing Bureau’s big income generator, tax increment financing, is expected to take a nosedive.

This week, PHB Director Margaret Van Vliet issued a statement to stakeholders on the tough times to be expected:

“I am writing to let you know of an important change at the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB). The City of Portland is facing unprecedented financial challenges, due to the continuing economic crisis. At PHB, our biggest challenge is a steep decline in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) in the coming years, as TIF availability drops from a short-term bubble of spending. TIF is forecasted to decline from $70 million in 2010-11 to $26.1 million in 2011-12, and $16.4 million in 2012-13.
“To maintain critical programs and services as we deal with shrinking resources, we needed to make a change in program offerings. Effective immediately, we will no longer offer first mortgage loan products through the Neighborhood Housing Program. We will honor any current applications that we have received. We will continue to offer downpayment assistance and home repair funding in the Lents Town Center and Interstate Corridor Urban Renewal Areas. However, because the City budget process is still ongoing, amounts allocated for homeownership assistance programs have not yet been finalized. We anticipate having more specific information on funding availability by late May.”

Departments are compiling their budgets now, and we’ll know more by the end of May when the mayor releases his proposals.

Posted by Joanne Zuhl

5 responses to “Demonstrators call for city to protect affordable housing

  1. Nero fiddles, while Rome burns.

    Soccer, Tram, Bike Boxes, South Waterfront…the list of projects the city has pissed insane amounts of money on is huge.

    For Amanda to say “there is no money” is disingenuous at best. There WAS money.

    And it SHOULD have been spent on housing. Next to water and sewage there is nothing more vital for a city.

    Shame on you Amanda.
    We had hoped you’d be something different. Maybe you hoped that as well.

    But in the view from the cheap seats, you are looking more like a replaceable widget in our rotating Gang Of Five.

    That makes me profoundly sad.

  2. Israel Bayer

    Amanda is w/us in the long-term. I believe she cares about housing. I think she is stressed, and overwhelmed, and yes, was a part of some bad decisions.

    Saying that. No more excuses.

    Housing levy/bond is a must. 30% set aside along w/regulations that guarantee the dispersal of funds from Urban Renewal, a must. Local pressure on state, and federal agencies to prioritize housing, a must.

  3. Israel,
    I agree that Fritz’s heart is in the right place, (as is Fish’s)

    But good intent is not nearly good enough. Fish and Fritz were both elected to be change agents.

    They have not been.

    “Caring” might cut it at a PTA meeting, but we are talking a major city here, with big-league problems.

    Listening and facilitating dialogs is great, and Amanda is really good at that.

    What she is not good at is getting anything done.
    She has been the biggest disappointment on the council since Sten resigned mid-term. She was elected with our money to speak for the people, she has not done so.

    In a way I feel bad for harshing on Fritz. It’s because she is the one that I actually had a bit of hope for.

    Here’s my take on the rest…

    Sam Adams:
    Pathetic beyond belief. An admitted liar, who also admitted he told his staff to lie. He has never done a single thing for Portland that was effective and affordable.

    Screw that he’s America’s first openly gay mayor of a major city, He sucks at his job! (and his interns).

    Randy Leonard:
    He is crazy. Sometimes he’s with us, sometimes against, and we never ever know why. I’ll take his vote when I can get it, but never depend on it.
    (because he really is crazy)

    Nick Fish:
    Does anyone, anywhere, have frakkin clue what Nick believes in or stands for??

    I surely do not. He came to the council with the best policy and advocacy chops we’ve seen in years. He’s done precisely nothing with those skills. He has been a cipher…keeping his head down, slippin’ through the cracks.

    Has he done ANYTHING worthwile?

    Dan Saltzman:
    Ahhh Dan!

    Dan is hands-down the smartest person on the council, and the only one who really “gets” municipal government.

    He is also, in my mind, a spawn of Satan. He is completely in the pocket of the PBA, and has been for years.

    Any time I’m unsure on a particular issue, “the opposite of Saltzman” is a good place to start.

    And he is without a doubt the smartest, most competent person on the council.

    Is that just sad, or what?
    (and that’s probably WAY more than anyone wanted to know about my thoughts on city concil)

  4. Richard and Israel,

    This message will sound like it’s written in the defense of the politicians, but isn’t. My intention is to remind everyone that Commissioner Fish, Commissioner Fritz and the head of the Portland Housing Bureau, Margaret Van Vliet (who hasn’t even been on the job for a year), are not responsible for the mess in South Waterfront, the Tram or Soccer. If you trace the history, they’ve been speaking out against those projects and/or, they weren’t in power when the critical decisions were being made. The crapstorm that exists is a series of decisions that we are all responsible for.

    From my vantage point, we need to hold politicians accountable for the decisions they are responsible for. It’s time to be realistic about the cataclysmic change Portland Housing Bureau and PDC have undergone. It’s time to recognize that the economic downturn has severely crippled the housing market, and be completely realistic about what TIF can do for us.

    A levy, yes! Do we need a considerable amount of money to conduct a legitimate levy campaign to win the hearts and minds of people who care more about bike boxes than housing that is affordable? Yes.

  5. Julie,

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Each council members knows they have SR utmost respect and that we work hard for solution and outcomes, and recognize they work hard too…

    Saying that, I personally can’t be realistic about bureaucrats (or their personal feelings) at any one place in time when the trenches hold no logic— and we got brothers and sisters being beat to shit out here. All we have is our voice, and knowledge. We’re going to continue use it…

    Saying that… 🙂 I do get playing smarter, and believe we are walking that tightrope now…

    – Israel Bayer

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