What is equitable housing?

Answers to frequently asked questions about the equitable housing strategy in southwest Portland.
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What exactly is an “equitable housing strategy”?

Aligning values, policies and investments. A housing strategy is a process that aligns public investments in transit with housing infrastructure in order to build efficient, transit-oriented neighborhoods that reduce traffic, spur economic development, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. An equitable housing strategy, however, takes it one step further: it incorporates our values of inclusion, equal access to opportunity, and diversity in our communities. This strategic approach will help leverage affordable housing investment dollars, services and protections, ensuring that all people – regardless of race, ethnicity, family status or disability – have a range of choices for where to live now and in the future.

Why a housing strategy in the SWC?

Growth is happening. The Southwest Corridor will experience some of the Portland Metro region’s highest growth over the next 25 years. 75,000 new residents are estimated to live in the SW Corridor by 2035 – in Portland, Tigard and Tualatin. The area is expected to receive a multibillion-dollar transit investment, which will attract additional private and public investments, more jobs and businesses, improved community services, and housing choices.

Displacement risk threatens existing diversity. Increasing numbers of communities of color is creating a more racially integrated and diverse population in the SW Corridor. These communities now make up 21 percent of the population in the area. And they increased 2.5 percent per year between 2000 and 2015, three times faster than the increase in the White population. As this corridor grows, more people are having difficulty finding housing, and people of color, immigrants and renters have been disproportionately displaced from their homes. We want to get ahead of speculation and market pressures to help ensure there are still housing choices available when the light rail comes.

Who created this?

The cities of Portland and Tigard. The Equitable Housing Strategy is a joint effort between the cities of Portland and Tigard, nested within Metro’s SW Equitable Development Strategy. It was informed significantly by an advisory group of leaders from government, community development, finance, philanthropy and real estate development sectors. These valuable partners provided leadership as recommendations were developed and vetted through an inclusive planning process that reflected the diversity of voices in the corridor and region. Community-based nonprofit organizations also engaged underrepresented and marginalized populations resulting in a community event in May and a set of “Community Solutions.”

Who will implement it?

Government partnering with community. The City of Portland (mostly Portland Housing Bureau and the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability) will partner with the City of Tigard, Metro and TriMet to implement much of the strategy through an affordable housing memorandum of understanding. Community-based organizations will also continue to engage low-income households and communities of color throughout implementation and evaluate the progress of the strategy.

How many affordable homes could potentially be built or preserved if the strategy were fully implemented?

Minimum goal of 850, stretch goal of 2,300. The strategy has a 10-year stretch goal for the corridor of 2,300 affordable homes, if new resources are secured. These would be located close to future light rail stations for households with incomes at or below 60 percent median family income. This would include newly constructed homes or existing apartments acquired with public subsidy and those built through inclusionary zoning or other regulatory agreements. Achieving this goal will help increase the geographic distribution of affordable housing in Portland and stabilize many existing households at risk of displacement.

How many market rate units are needed to be built?

Minimum of 1,700. Most of the 3,000 additional new households projected to move into the corridor in the next 10 years will find housing in market rate homes without rent restrictions. To accommodate this, a minimum of 1,700 new market rate homes will need to be built to provide enough housing for new residents, recognizing that these new homes will not likely meet the lower-income households’ immediate affordability needs.

How long will it take to fully realize the strategy?

The strategy is designed for a 10-year period (2019-29) though much of the new construction will likely be completed afterwards.

What happens if the housing strategy is not implemented?

Displacement will occur. If the housing strategy is not implemented, many low-income households in the area could be displaced. There are 8,300 renters and 4,400 low-income homeowners with household incomes that are less than 80 percent of the median family income (MFI). These people are vulnerable to rising housing costs that will displace them outside of the corridor if services, protections and affordable housing are not available.

Older apartment buildings will flip. There are over 300 older, unregulated affordable apartment buildings in the corridor containing more than 11,000 apartments – or most of the apartment stock. The average sale price of these buildings has risen considerably since 2010. As housing costs increase, many of these unregulated affordable apartment buildings will be purchased, likely raising rents.

New housing will be unaffordable. Newly constructed market rate housing will not meet the needs of low-income households moving into the corridor. Many of the 3,000 projected new households moving into the corridor over the next 10 years may be lower-income and will not be able to afford to live in the area unless new affordable housing is built.

What is affordable housing?

There are two types of affordable housing: regulated and unregulated. Regulated affordable housing has a regulatory agreement tied to the deed that restricts rents for an established income level over a set time frame. Unregulated affordable housing, however, has no regulatory agreement tied to it. Furthermore, it may be rented at a lower cost due to age, condition or landlord’s discretion.

What is unregulated affordable housing?

Unregulated affordable housing is lower cost market rate housing that is unsubsidized by the government and has no regulations restricting rent levels or maximum income requirements. They are often older and provide affordable rents to lower income households. As investments are made to improve amenities (like light rail) in neighborhoods with these older buildings, they become attractive to new owners intending to raise the rents beyond what current residents can afford.

How many people live in the area and how many are moving in?

According to the U.S. Census and American Community Survey 2011-15 estimates, 103,000 people now live in the SW Corridor, up 14 percent since 2000. Up to 3,000 additional new households are projected to move into the corridor over the next 10 years.

What are the demographics, income levels, etc.?

The corridor is diversifying, especially in some areas. While the area is still predominantly White (79 percent), the growth of communities of color is creating a more racially integrated and diverse community (now at 21 percent). Most of the growing diversity has occurred in the census tract surrounding West Portland Town Center and Downtown Tigard, where 31 percent of the population are people of color.

The annual median household income across the corridor is $73,000. This is primarily concentrated among White and Asian households. Black and Hispanic/Latino households, however, have approximately half the income of their White and Asian peers. In the more racially and economically diverse census tracts, the household income is lower and has decreased from $54,000 in 2010 to $51,000 in 2016.