“Homeless Giant” by Eric Drooker. His graphics have appeared on countless posters, books and CD covers and his paintings are often seen on covers of the New Yorker Magazine. He makes his work available to social-justice nonprofit organizations at no cost.
From the Dec. 12 special affordable housing edition, “In need of a new deal.”
In October of 2006, the Portland City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that created what is known as the 30 percent Urban Renewal Tax Increment Set Aside. The new ordinance mandated that the Portland Development Commission (PDC) redirect 30 percent of all money projected in nine Urban Renewal Areas through a complex bond system to be spent on affordable housing serving people earning below 80 percent median family income over the next five years.
The move by the city was seen as an historic victory for housing advocates who for decades had struggled to correct years of urban renewal-fueled gentrification and displacement that continues to radically change Portland’s demographics, specifically those with little to no income and minority communities.
For years, advocates and loosely built coalitions had worked to create city-sponsored programs to balance affordable housing against higher end development. Despite the creation of unit goals for specific urban renewal areas, the city struggled to create the affordable housing needed due to lack of available funds after competing public priorities for urban renewal dollars — such as transportation, business recruitment and store front improvement — consumed renewal funds.
In response to the lack of units being built, organizers began to explore a California policy in 2002 that mandated set percentages of urban renewal funds to be dedicated to affordable housing. The set aside strategy was chosen because of its proven track record in California and regardless of competing priorities; unmet housing would finally have a dedicated funding stream.
Four years later, that strategy became a reality when the ordinance passed. Today, a little more than two and half years into program’s 5-year projected goals, the city and the PDC find itself struggling to stay above water in a shrinking economy and swimming to find a formula that works for affordable housing in a sea of bureaucracy.
On Tuesday, Dec. 9, the PDC released a two-year status report on the progress being made in the nine urban renewal areas. Updated revenue forecasts for 2009-10 and beyond will be presented to the public later in the month or in January.
Street Roots obtained a draft report of the 5-year projected goals produced by the Portland Development Commission from September of this year. Representatives from Nick Fish’s office, Portland’s Housing Commissioner, chose not to talk about the 5-year projected goals outlined in the draft or the specifics about the nine URAs – choosing rather to wait until a final analysis is released by PDC later this month.
A public meeting is scheduled for Dec. 19 with both Commissioner Fish and a PDC representative co-chairing a work-session with several developers, along with public and private finance partners and advocates to review the up and coming set aside annual report and to brainstorm strategies to assure that the goals that lead to the establishment of the set-aside are met.
According to Chief of Staff Sam Chase, “The key will be to bring the right partners together and focus on specific solutions that ensure the set aside dollars get out the door.”
The Nine Urban Renewal Areas