Equitable housing strategy for the SW Corridor moves forward

News Article
Advisory group and Tigard City Council give thumbs up for the strategy to preserve and create more affordable housing in the corridor.

Over the summer, the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy gathered momentum, with votes from the SW Corridor Equity and Housing Advisory Group and Tigard City Council.

The Equity and Housing Advisory Group endorsed the recommended strategy at their final advisory group meeting in June. This group of leaders from the nonprofit, finance, philanthropic, government, and housing development sectors brought diverse perspectives on housing and transit policy to help develop and vet recommendations over the past year.

Many members will continue to be involved in ongoing planning for the corridor through Metro’s Southwest Equitable Development Strategy. They will also contribute to some of the early implementation activities of the housing strategy, such as station area planning as well as continued engagement of low-income households and communities of color.

In July, the Tigard City Council acknowledged the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy. Before the vote, members of the Equity and Housing Advisory Group spoke to the Council in support of the strategy.

Steering Committee chooses Locally Preferred Alternative

And in August, the SW Corridor Steering Committee (a Metro-led committee) voted unanimously on a 12-mile alignment for the new light rail line. They chose the center of Barbur Boulevard for most of the Portland portion as the “locally preferred alternative (LPA), citing better, more visible station access as an important factor.

Planning and Sustainability Commission weighs in

After a briefing in the summer, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) crafted two letters: one supporting the housing strategy; the other commenting on the light rail project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS).

In a letter to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler addressing the housing strategy, Katherine Schultz, PSC Chair, stated:

"[The SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy] centers the needs of our most vulnerable residents and provides a clear roadmap to stave off displacement and increase fair housing choices for all households. However, our city has a long history of infusing equity language into plans and setting aspirational goals but failing to follow through. This time must be different. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past. We need our political leaders to champion this work to make it real."

In the letter responding to the DEIS to the Federal Transit Administration, Metro and TriMet, Chair Schultz urged transit planners to more carefully analyze the potential for economic displacement of a new light rail line on low-income households and communities of color. The letter also urges the agencies to leverage housing and transportation investments to benefit the most transit-dependent households and those currently burdened by rising housing costs.

City Council work session on SW Corridor Light Rail Project

On September 4, the Portland City Council heard from the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, PBOT and the Housing Bureau, who presented information about the proposed new light rail line. Staff described the need for new transportation infrastructure to move the 23,800 daily commuters to and from Portland and Tigard. They also listed the additional benefits of the project, including more reliable travel times, improved access to OHSU and PCC, enhanced stormwater management, bike and pedestrian improvements, as well as catalyzing investments in affordable housing and commercial development.

A striking figure was the amount of land that can be recouped with the removal of Ross Island Bridge on- and off-ramps, which would be replaced with new access ramps away from the neighborhood streets. Of the roughly 3,000 new housing units projected to be built around a new Gibbs Street station, 350 – 400 of them would be built on the land currently occupied by the bridge approach ramps. The Gibbs Street station area would be one of the busiest stations on the new line.

The Barbur Transit Center, near the intersection of Barbur Boulevard, Capitol Highway and the I-5 freeway, would be reconfigured and redeveloped with parking commercial uses, and housing. Transformation of the transit center site could help stimulate investment in the surrounding West Portland Town Center.

Watch the Council work session on the SW Corridor Light Rail line

Next steps

City Council will consider adopting the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy on October 4, after hearing public testimony from 2 – 3 p.m.

Council will also consider adopting the light rail route on October 10, from 2 – 3 p.m., when there will also be opportunity for public testimony.