Portland Housing Bond: After 5 years, only 2 apartment buildings open, 6 more coming this year


Portland’s $258 million housing bond, which voters approved in 2016, promised city residents struggling to find affordable housing a ray of hope: 1,300 affordable apartments by 2023.

However, in the more than five years since its approval, only 314 apartments in two buildings have had tenants. But nearly 1,200 more are on the verge of becoming their home this year or next to people in financial difficulty, city council officials said. Wednesday.

This year, 683 apartments in six buildings are expected to open, they said. The first of them is expected to welcome residents this month, and the rest will mostly complete construction by late summer or early fall, according to a bond update presentation to council. . And in 2023, 493 units in four apartments are expected to come online, housing officials said.

Although this exceeds the original target of 1,300 units by just under 200 additional units, the planning does not stop there, they said. Three other projects received approval for bond financing earlier this year, which are expected to add an additional 369 homes, although the timing for opening these is unknown, they said.

Commissioner Mingus Mapps commended the city’s housing office, nonprofit housing organizations and construction crews for exceeding the bond’s original goal.

But Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said the general lack of accessible housing in the city still gnaws at her.

“When I see the need versus what we’re able to provide, I don’t know how to tap into my well of optimism,” Hardesty said. “I feel like we’re drowning… I feel like unless we do something really big and soon this year, we won’t have a path forward for all levels of income can thrive in the city.”

In addition to focusing on people who are currently homeless and those on the verge of becoming homeless, Hardesty said the city needs to create affordable housing for those in extreme poverty to middle incomes. Otherwise, she said, more city residents could fall into homelessness.

The housing obligation provided housing for 826 people in the 314 flats, with a typical household size close to three people, city housing officials told the council. Of those 826, 312 are children and 82 are elderly or disabled, they said.

More than 50% of the new residents are black, 25% are white, and 10% are Native American or Alaska Native. However, only 5% of residents are Latina — which is an underrepresentation of need in this community, said Susan Emmons, who serves on the housing bond oversight committee. According to census figures, Portland’s population is approximately 70% white, 10% Latino, 8% black, 8% Asian and 1% Native American, although a significant number of people identify themselves as having more than one of these identities.

The Las Adelitas building, which will provide 141 apartments in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood this year, will not just provide homes but has helped revitalize an entire neighborhood, said Ernesto Fonseca, director of Hacienda CDC, the organization constructing the building.

“Not everything was so great (in this corner)” where the resort is going up, Fonseca said. “Now it’s a massive transformation project for this area. It’s no longer a strip club but it will be 141 units instead. It will transform the lives of the people who live there and transform the neighborhood for the people who already live in the neighborhood… I’m very, very grateful (for the bond financing).

While the city is on track to meet the requirements of the bonds, residents have consistently expressed concern that progress was not fast enough to address the escalating homelessness crisis. However, no members of the public showed up to speak during Wednesday’s bond update.

Initially, the delay in building and opening affordable housing was caused by the city’s failure to obtain approval for a provision in the state constitution that prevented it from spending money. bond money in housing complexes that she did not own. Voters changed that in November 2018.

Now the city can raise funds on properties it does not own. While the city owns the two apartment complexes that were the first to open, all remaining projects will be owned and operated by a local nonprofit housing association, officials said.

Additionally, city officials said building new complexes with public subsidies requires a lengthy process, especially since there is often a tangle of funding streams that must be brought together before a project can go ahead. be fully funded.

Portland needs about 22,000 more affordable homes to meet current demand, according to a 2020 Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This means the city needs to nearly double its cache, which currently sits at around 23,500, according to a 2017 report from the Metro regional government agency.

Nicole Hayden reports on homelessness for The Oregonian/OregonLive. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Nicole_A_Hayden.


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