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Gresham councilor appointed to portland housing authority

Mike Bennett now in a key post as city plans affordable housing policy

Gresham City Counselor Mike Bennett is poised to help the rapidly growing city influence the county's affordable housing agency.

Portland's city council officially approved his nomination to the Housing Authority of Portland's nine-member volunteer board Wednesday, March 19. HAP provides housing and rent-assistance programs to 14,000 Multnomah County households with special needs, disabilities or low income.

The city is in the midst of developing an affordable housing policy.

'The timing is pretty good,' said Bennett, who was appointed for four years. 'That's going to give the City Council, through me, some pretty direct connection to what HAP is doing. That's going to help us, I think, formulate some of our affordable housing policy.'

HAP receives most of its $80 million budget from federal Housing and Urban Development grants, and the agency has oversight in how those funds are distributed in Multnomah County.

'If we (the city) has a program that is coordinated real well with HAP, we might actually be able to provide some developers some insight and assistance into funds that might be available to develop certain properties, even though they'd be classed as low-income,' Bennett said. 'We would be able to use some of those resources to potentially improve some developments within the city.'

He said HAP has the power to buy properties and convert them to affordable housing.

'You might take what could be envisioned as a run-down property and actually provide some affordable housing through the HAP organization,' he said. 'Or if land is available, they might actually build an affordable housing project.'

The cities of Portland and Gresham as well as the county recommend HAP board members, who are appointed by Portland's mayor. Bennett will be one of two Gresham representatives on the board and the only elected official. HAP Commissioner Nathan Teske lives in Gresham and is the El Hispano Program manager for Catholic Charities.

Created in 1941, HAP is a commission authorized under state law and chartered by the city of Portland. In 1991, it expanded to serve all of Multnomah County and now assists about 35,000 people with public housing, affordable housing or rental-assistance vouchers.