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Bus line plan brings up displacement worries

As the Metro regional government moves forward with its planning of the Powell-Division Transit and Development project to bring better bus service between Portland and Gresham, the city of Gresham is gathering community input on development along the route.

Earlier this month, the city held a forum to gauge the priorities from residents about what they would like to see in terms of housing and economic development investment.

The new transit line would connect Portland to Gresham while providing a better route to schools including Mt. Hood Community College, Portland State University, Oregon Health & Science University and Portland Community College.

The project is being led in part by a steering committee that includes stakeholders from Gresham, Portland and Metro.

“All along during the project we wanted to talk with the committee about when the new transit line comes through,” said Brian Martin, senior transportation planner. “What would they like to see happen in their neighborhoods and commercial districts along the way ... and listing out the action that the city and its partners could take to make as many of those things happen as possible.”

Martin said a big action item for many people was upgrading sidewalks and crosswalks at transit stations to improve safety and comfort. In terms of housing, affordable rental housing continues to be a priority. Another important factor is encouraging job creation in Gresham.

One of the more important discussions while creating the new transit line is ensuring there is little displacement in the new development.

“Gresham is more affordable than other places in the region, and it does have demographically more people here that are vulnerable to displacement than other places,” Martin explained. “We’re not expecting a large amount of displacement like you’ve seen in other locations, but we do have some potential actions (against displacement).”

A report created for the transit project found that Gresham is becoming less affordable for its residents. The areas around the intersection of 182nd Avenue and Burnside Street and the Gresham Central Transit Center and near Mt. Hood Community College were neighborhoods that were seen as especially “susceptible to experiencing neighborhood change.”

The report found that a transit line does often lead to higher land values and rent along the line, but that it will not be a significant “near-term” impact on Gresham.

However, the report stated, “For Gresham, pressures associated with regional growth and changes in the regional housing market will have a much larger impact on displacement than construction of a new (transit) line.”

To mitigate some of the negative effects of transit-oriented development, the report suggests supporting new construction for mixed-income neighborhoods with incentives for developers and relaxing some zoning and permit requirements, putting in some housing stabilization tools such as changes in regulations around eviction, improved coordination of public and social service and targeted workforce development, and continuing to partner with nonprofit organizations to seek funding for affordable housing development.

— Jodi Weinberger

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