Over the last decade or more, it sometimes felt like Portland was on a pathway toward Seattle real estate prices - with Boise salaries and wages. Which, of course, makes for some real affordability challenges.
And while the 2008 real estate crash brought some prices closer to earth, salaries and wages stopped growing. Now, as the real estate market starts to show signs of life, the big worry is that affordability will become an ever-more-distant mirage.
And our region's affordable housing troubles aren't just about the market for owner-occupied homes. It's also about affordable rental housing, too. Those are separate issues, but ones that are inextricably intertwined. The Oregonian recently did a fascinating multi-part series on affordable housing. Its author, Brad Schmidt, concluded that "taxpayer money meant to help break down segregation and poverty is instead reinforcing it."
Sam Chase has long been an affordable housing advocate, both inside and outside government - from serving as a housing policy advisor to City Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury to serving as the executive director of the Oregon Opportunity Network (a statewide association of community development organizations and housing providers.)
In May, Sam received 60% of the vote in a five-way race for the Metro Council seat currently held by Rex Burkholder. Metro, of course, is responsible for planning growth in the region such that it meets numerous goals - among them, affordable housing. In an op-ed published today by the Oregonian, Councilor-elect Chase suggested some solutions, writing that it is "time to hold me and other regional leaders accountable":
Reduce or eliminate system development charges on certain housing developments. System development charges are fees paid by new projects to cover the impact they have on city infrastructure, such as roads and sewers. The problem is that those fees are charged indiscriminately, even if the project provides important benefits -- such as housing that includes affordable units, housing located next to a MAX line or infill housing that reduces pressure to expand our urban growth boundary.
Consolidate permitting across jurisdictions. Builders of affordable housing currently face a complicated and costly set of regulations. With more than two dozen jurisdictions in the Portland area, a regional permitting strategy could make it easier to build affordable housing and save taxpayer money.
Create "inclusionary housing" incentives. Oregon's land-use system helps keep our air clean, water safe, and protects vital farm and forestland. But it shouldn't result in a livable region that is unaffordable to those working hard to make ends meet. Zoning, financial or permitting incentives to "include" affordable housing units in new development areas have proved successful from Maryland to California.
Read the rest. What do you think?