Portland is Producing Lots of Affordable Housing—but Not for the City’s Poorest Residents

Mayor Ted Wheeler highlights real progress in a massive report.

The Generations Project in Lents. (Sam Gehrke)

The Portland Housing Bureau this week released its 154-page "State of Housing in Portland" report. In the document, Mayor Ted Wheeler highlights real progress: "The city's affordable housing production has reached an all-time high, with more than 800 newly affordable units opened in 2018—the largest number ever."

It's still proving difficult, however, to produce units affordable to the city's poorest residents.

The report shows three components of the city's subsidized "pipeline": a phased-out tax-subsidy program and its successor, the new inclusionary zoning program, and a direct cash subsidy. Each has about 2,000 units pending.

The first two won't produce a single unit for people most likely to be homeless, those earning 30 percent or less of area median income.

Matthew Tschabold, the Housing Bureau's interim assistant director, says such units are achievable only when the city provides a direct cash subsidy to developers. That program will produce 248 units for people in the 30 percent bracket.

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