With housing affordability at the forefront of the Nov. 7 elections in Portland, a City Council subcommittee on Thursday will review a new report that details the city’s ongoing efforts to address housing issues and recommends additional steps, such as providing more funding for affordable housing and tightening up rules for converting apartments into condominiums.

The report, which says there is “no silver bullet” for Portland’s housing woes, was prepared by city staff and comes less than two weeks before voters consider a citizen initiative that would regulate rent increases, make it more difficult for landlords to evict tenants and establish a rent board to mediate landlord-tenant disputes.

The Housing Committee and its leader, Councilor Jill Duson, have been under fire from some activists who say the city has not done enough to protect renters amid an influx of market-rate housing and rising rents.

Duson is up for re-election next month and both her opponents, Joey Brunelle and Bree LaCasse, have criticized her leadership of the committee. Duson and LaCasse oppose the voter initiative, while Brunelle supports it.

“I want to thank city staff for their hard work in creating this report so that we can have a comprehensive look at the things we have been doing, what’s been working, and what new things we may want to try,” Duson said in a statement.

The report includes 15 new policy recommendations for future consideration. Two were offered by Mayor Ethan Strimling earlier this year, while the others have emerged from the committee’s two years of work.

One recommendation would establish a “Housing Advisory Board” of housing professionals, renters and landlords to inform city decisions on housing policy.

Several changes are being proposed to the city’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, which requires at least 10 percent of the units in developments of 10 units or more be set aside as so-called work-force housing for middle-income earners. That income bracket is defined as up to 120 percent of area median income, which currently ranges from $68,950 for a single person to $98,500 for a family of four.

Developers can avoid building those affordable units by paying $100,000 for each unit not built, with the money going into the city’s Housing Trust fund, used for affordable housing projects.

Strimling has proposed decreasing the income limit, which would reduce housing costs, as well as doubling the percentage of mandated units to 20 percent.

Staff recommendations include requiring hotels to pay an impact fee that “accounts for offsetting the increased housing demand generated by their need for low-income employees.”

Other proposals include increasing the fee charged to property owners who convert rental units into condominiums. That money could be used to increase funding for the Housing Trust or the city’s Tenant Based Rental Assistance, which provides short-term assistance to low income people for security deposits, rent and utilities.

Currently, that program has an income limit of 60 percent of area median income, or $34,500 for a single person to $49,260 for a family of four. But staff is recommending the income level be raised to as much as 100 percent of area median income.

The Housing Committee will review the report Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in room 24 at City Hall.

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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