Tag Archives: Portland Development Commission

Review of housing set aside reveals positive results

By John Miller, Contributing Writer

As a long time advocate for affordable homes here in Portland I was very happy to discover that the city has exceeded its ‘TIF Set Aside” spending on affordable housing in urban renewal districts over the past five years. I am involved in a review panel that’s looking at the past five years’ performance and then making recommendations for the next five years.  It’s heartening to see that the city has made good, at least in large part, on this critical commitment.

Without getting too “wonky,” here’s some background. TIF stands for Tax Increment Financing, the primary source of funding for development in urban renewal areas.  In 2006 the City of Portland adopted the “TIF Set Aside” that mandated that 30% of all TIF funds in urban renewal districts be spent on affordable housing. Further, the City defined a set of income guidelines to make sure that the money was spent to meet our city’s greatest housing needs. Lastly, the city mandated that the 30% goal applied to each district, and not as a city wide goal (an important distinction  — more on that below). Continue reading

Interstate and beyond: Lessons of history resonate as the city prepares to expand Urban Renewal Area

by Jake Thomas

Roslyn Hill can no longer quite visualize the neighborhood she grew up in. Probably because it doesn’t exist anymore.

While in the third grade, in the mid 1950s, her family had to leave their neighborhood in Northeast Portland to make way for development that would become the Memorial Coliseum.

The construction of the stadium has been part of the vexed history between the city and North and Northeast Portland. But the 64-year-old African American real estate developer with greying dreadlocks seems hardly bitter when recalling how her family was forced from their home. Instead she seems more focused on the commercial properties she’s been developing in Northeast Portland since moving back to the city in 1990 after a stint in the Bay Area.

Hill has been part of a renewed economic interest in Alberta Street and the surrounding area and has developed properties into coffee shops and art galleries. Today, the once gritty and crime-ridden street that is now better known for its eateries, boutiques and the creative types that have been drawn to it in recent decades.

Called the “Queen of Alberta” by some, Hill hopes that the revitalization will help transform the area into a vibrant neighborhood that retains its multicultural character while drawing newcomers who are genuinely vested in it.

But, according to Hill, Alberta isn’t reaching its full commercial potential and large chunks of it remain “underdeveloped” and could use the help of a powerful city agency that has big plans for the street and other parts of North and Northeast Portland that have followed a similar trajectory.

The Portland Development Commission, the city’s economic development arm, has had an uneasy relationship with North and Northeast Portland, a part of town that has been the heart of Portland’s African American community and has suffered from racially motivated disinvestment in the past. Continue reading

Housing Bureau is moving

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The offices are moving, in part, due to the merger of the Bureau of Housing and Community Development and aspects of the Portland Development Commission; the combined agency will now be known as the Portland Housing Bureau. The staff of the former BHCD will be located in the same building, just moving six floors down, while the Portland Development Commission housing staff will be relocating from their Old Town Chinatown headquarters.

For inquiries about the new bureau, call 503.823.2375. There may be brief interruptions in services while the bureau moves offices during the next week.

Central city’s housing for the poor declines

The Oregon Opportunity Network, or Oregon ON, says a new report by the Portland Development Commission illustrates how affordable housing units for the poorest are slipping out of grasp for many residents. We’re still above 2002 levels, when the benchmark of “No Net Loss” was created, but nearly 1,500 fewer than where we were just 4 years ago.

Between the lines, the report foretells of even tougher times ahead for Oregonians needing housing. They already live in the state that tops the national charts in homelessness (No. 1), unemployment (No. 2) and hunger No.3). It will also be a mighty stress test for our nationally heralded 10-year plan to end homelessness. Two years ago, the feds held it up as epitomizing their prescribed cure to a social cancer. We’ll see how well it ages now.

You can download the complete report from the PDC here.

Here’s the complete statement from Oregon ON:

A recently-released report from the Portland Development Commission shows that housing affordable to Portland’s wealthiest has increased in the central city since 2005, while housing for the poorest has decreased by almost a quarter.

“Despite the City’s well-intended policies, the number of affordable units downtown continues to drop,” said Bobby Weinstock, Housing  Consultant for NW Pilot Project. “The reality is, people who need housing can’t get it.”

The report, compiled by PDC to evaluate the city’s No Net Loss housing  policy, shows the percentage of total rental units in the 0-30% and  31-50% Median Family Income (MFI) categories decreased by almost 23% in the last three years.

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Portland’s 30 percent set aside of funds for housing boasts some success, some problems and some trouble ahead


“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

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