I. Expedite funded and ready-to-go affordable housing projects
a. Establish City Affordable Housing Problem Solving Team (CAHPST) “caps team”
When it comes to the construction of new affordable housing, or the acquisition of existing housing, the city needs to be doing a much better job to identify and eliminate the barriers to moving quickly and efficiently, to make the most of the time and resources we have available. This can range from relatively minor issues like scheduling inspections or clarifying street tree regulations, or it can encompass bigger picture issues like land acquisition and the merging of housing and economic development goals within a single mixed-use building.
As City Commissioner, I would look to lead a weekly meeting of deputy directors of relevant city bureaus and Prosper Portland, to work through the punch list of things that need to get done so that we can get more affordable housing online quickly and cost effectively. We need to be doing a better job of solving problems and identifying opportunities.
After all, the city doesn’t build affordable housing directly. We fund projects through a competitive, transparent process, and then our partners build and operate the housing. These partners include Home Forward, many different nonprofits, and a few for-profit, mission-driven organizations. The city should look to our partners to let us know how we can help, and we should be constantly working to improve our processes and efforts.
Again, these challenges have always been important, but during the coronavirus emergency, they are more important than ever.
b. Create 30,000 “Ready-to-Build” Privately Financed Affordable Housing Units by 2033. [Until new post-COVID-19 data, these are placeholder numbers to illustrate the scope of the opportunity and challenge.]
An August 2019 study by Portland State University reported:
About 38,000 people experienced homelessness in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties in 2017.
$2.6 billion to $4.1 billion is the estimated cost to provide housing, support, services, operations, and administration for 10 years to all those experiencing homelessness. (Does not include what jurisdictions are already spending or the 2018 Metro and 2016 Portland affordable housing bonds, which total approximately $911 million combined.)
107,039 people were housing insecure or at risk of homelessness in the three counties in 2017. It would take an estimated $8.6 billion to $21 billion to provide rent assistance for all households in this population for 10 years. (This does not include what jurisdictions are already spending.)
Portland and Multnomah county account for about 40% of the region’s population.
An October 26, 2018 study of local housing needs prepared by EcoNW estimates that Portland reported for the region:
It will take billions in new private investment to make up for Portland’s affordable housing shortfall. It will take hundreds of new sites and reuse of thousands of existing sites in single-family neighborhoods.
The local housing market is valued at $14 billion [approximate number]. In the past two years, suburban Portland housing starts, especially those at the lower price point, are growing at a faster rate [placeholder data] than within the city of Portland boundaries. We need to reverse this trend now.
To address a significant portion of Portland’s affordable housing development shortfall:
Bring all housing stakeholders to a Housing Roundtable that is an evidence-based, equitable, inclusive, and transparent process to produce the city's first-ever comprehensive housing strategy, with goals and performance measures, in 12 months.
Identify the design, locations, private funding options, and developers for an initial tranche of privately financed affordable housing to be completed in two to five years.
Members would include stakeholders representing tenant rights and homeownership advocates, housing investors, equity and inclusion experts, housing developers, government and nonprofit housing and workforce development departments, public and private landowners, land use and planning experts, housing economists, architects and designers, neighborhood, large employers and small business leaders.
c) Renter protections
About half of Portlander rent their homes. Average wage increases have not kept up with the rising rent costs.
I want to:
Make full use of new rental housing data that for the first time allows the creation of an affordable rental housing plan as part of a citywide housing strategy. It also allows for evidence to identify any needed fine-tuning of existing policies and prioritize any new ones. To build on this, we should create and fund a biannual statistically-valid and anonymous survey of:
Renters: Rents and other property-based fees or owner-paid utilities; Affordability and ability to pay; quality of rental unit; service quality of management; socio-demographic profile.
Rental property owners: Rents and other owner-based services; rent or other increases; application fees; amount invested in updates and maintenance; ROI; socio demographic profile of manager and owner.
Actively involve renters in creating the City’s first comprehensive housing strategy.
Enforce existing affordable housing laws. For example, on the short-term rental code, we need to compare Airbnb listings to who has registered one with the City.
I propose that Portland partner with a half dozen other cities to jointly:
A partnership of cities can jointly write useful and balanced standards for rating renters and landlords. To be certified by each city, both the renter- and landlord-reviewing platforms would need to comply.
Balanced criteria for renter and landlord ratings would be useful for cities to focus their modestly-sized team of housing inspectors.
Ability of renters to see their file and insert an explanation for any adverse ratings.
Develop incentives for good renters and good landlords.
High rental application fees are ridiculous. Like the old sky-high ATM fees, cities should jointly set maximum rental application fees.
Offer a reduced cost method to both renters and landlords for settling disagreements. The City should hire nonbinding mediators that both parties agree to use for free. But, if that doesn’t work, the city can pay for hearing officers expert in renter/landlord laws, that do not require legal representation, whose rulings would be binding. This can also be used to efficiently resolve disputes over issues like security deposits, keeping those issues from clogging the courts, and providing hearings during flexible time slots, including evenings and located in neighborhood coalition offices, so that people can attend the meetings without undue disruption to their work schedule and other obligations.
d. Approve Residential Infill Project (RIP) with Additional Safeguards
I am a supporter of the new state requirements for Oregon cities to provide for more infill redevelopment in single-family zones. The Residential Infill Project (RIP) predates the new state law. I can support it if I am confident it will achieve its purpose, and its initial impacts are carefully monitored in real time for any unintended negative consequences such as neighborhood gentrification. Safeguards I suggest including:
More adequate public notice. Arguably, this is the most consequential change to Portland zoning codes in a century. But I understand that only one citywide notice has been mailed to each Portland household about it, and much about the initiative has changed.
Create specific planning performance measures of success for the plan and funds to actually monitor its impacts in real-time, not months or years after the fact. Complete baseline on key Portland neighborhood housing markets. Using baseline, establish wished-for scenarios where housing redevelopment should occur, and goals for anticipated costs to renters and owners.
e. Legalize, permit and allow financing for new forms of affordable housing
"I am a proponent of tiny house villages, yes other neighborhoods should be doing it. The key to its success is that neighborhoods pitch it and partner with a housing organization, with the city and other groups that can help with the project." Terrance Moses, Kenton neighborhood
“We worked closely with those planning the houselessness navigation center, we developed a good neighborhood agreement. It’s been up and running for 6 months, with virtually no negative impact on the neighborhood.” Stan Penkin, Pearl neighborhood
As Portland’s transportation commissioner, I was the landlord for Portland Dignity Village, which is located on PBOT’s city property. With expected ups and downs for a new start up effort, it was a successful project and a positive learning experience.
In the right place, and carefully planned, structured and maintained, non-traditional clustered villages of small houses can work, and offer a very low-cost, safe and effective way to provide shelter and a community for those sleeping outside or in tents.
For the remaining Portland Housing Bond funds and Portland’s yet-to-be-spent funds from the Regional Housing Bond funds, allow for proposals for non-traditional forms of clustered small home villages.
To assist with financing approvals, amend permitting and zoning codes, develop criteria, to allow for applicants to apply for site permits.
Develop model operating agreement and good neighbor agreements, to guide and monitor operations of clustered small home villages.
Legalize larger co-housing and boarding houses in all zones along key busy neighborhoods and transit streets. The average cost per unit in the Portland Housing Bond is an estimated $310,000 per unit. Legalize co-housing and boarding houses with an allowed occupancy up to an amount they are bankable to in all zones on major streets, bikeways, and current and future transit corridors. By some estimates, co-housing projects could cost as little $120,000 per person housed.
f. Support Regional Measure 26-210 to Fast-Track Funding for Supportive Housing Services
On Feb. 25, 2020, the Metro Council referred a Regional Supportive Housing Services ballot measure to voters for consideration on the Oregon primary ballot in May 2020.
As noted, the proposed measure was developed with community members and leaders from around the Portland region.
The proposed measure would prioritize housing services for as many as 5,000 people experiencing prolonged chronic homelessness and provide additional housing services for as many as 10,000 households experiencing or at risk of experiencing short-term homelessness.
The proposed measure would fund services like case management, mental health care, addiction and recovery treatment, job training, housing assistance and culturally-specific services.