Advocates for renters say developer using affordable housing law loophole
A developer's plan to construct two apartment buildings in North Portland is drawing fire from advocates for renters, who say the owner is taking advantage of a legal loophole.
The city says no laws are being broken but critics are concerned the apartments won't be as affordable as they could be because of the number of units planned for each building.
In February 2017, a new law went into effect aimed at increasing the amount of affordable housing in Oregon. It has an inclusionary zoning policy that requires developers to provide low-income housing in buildings with 20 or more units.
On a plot of land on the 6700 block of North Maryland Avenue in Portland, a property owner recently obtained a permit to build two apartment buildings with 15 units each. That means the owner, a company called 1340 North Dekum LLC, won't have to follow the inclusionary zoning policy because neither building will hold 20 or more units.
That doesn't sit right with Katrina Holland, executive director of the Community Alliance of Tenants.
"It's disappointing that that is a very easy loophole to get through is what it looks like," Holland told a KATU reporter Monday. "From my understanding that policy does have a lot of room for improvement."
A spokeswoman for the city's housing bureau sent a KATU reporter a report on the inclusionary zoning program that was published on Sept. 26, 2018. It says since going into effect the number of permitted buildings with fewer than 20 units has been relatively normal, with just 13 percent of permits filed in 2017 falling into that category.
And the report says the number of permitted multi-family units spiked to a historic high of more than 6,000 in 2017.
"I'm excited to hear that people are still interested in the market," said Holland. "It's a good place to build."
A KATU reporter reached out to the owner of the property on North Maryland Avenue through their lawyer around noon Monday and they did not immediately respond.
Both Holland and the group Portland Tenants United said they'd like to see a lower requirement for units per building under the inclusionary zoning program. They also believe the rent the housing policy considers "low-income" is too expensive for many low-income people.
The president of the Portland Area Rental Owners Association did not immediately respond to two emails and a voicemail seeking comment.
Anthony Bencivengo, organizer for Portland Tenants United, sent KATU the following statement:
"The problems with Portland's current Inclusionary Housing program are far deeper than a single loophole. Most of the working families who are most vulnerable to displacement make significantly less than the $48,840/year required to afford the cheapest Inclusionary Housing units*. What we need is an Inclusionary Housing program which mandates deep affordability, paired with strong rent control and bold investments in public housing."
KATU learned about the planned development on North Maryland Avenue from this tweet by Iain MacKenzie, an architect and blogger: