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Deal could bring affordable housing to South Waterfront


A tentative deal has been struck at City Hall to foster more affordable housing in the South Waterfront area, which could end a standoff that's blocked Mayor Charlie Hales' overhaul of urban renewal.

The deal could bring at least 200 new affordable housing units, perhaps atop a future grocery store on 2095 S.W. River Parkway.

"If it all comes together, this will be a big win for low-income families in North Macadam," said Commissioner Nick Fish.

Hales has been working for months on a proposal to shrink two urban renewal districts, pull the plug on two other ones and expand two others, including the North Macadam Urban Renewal Area that includes the highrise-dominated South Waterfront area.

Affordable housing advocates have complained the city was backing off its still unmet goals to include a healthy share of affordable housing as it redevelops the South Waterfront area along the Willamette River, a signature city effort that includes several residential and office towers plus the aerial tram to Oregon Health & Science University. Only 209 affordable apartments have been built in the urban renewal area, leaving the city 579 units shy of its goal. The Portland Housing Bureau recently suggested the city should pare back its goal, which prompted a group of affordable housing activists to spring into action, pressing the city to meet its past commitments.

Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz were sypathetic, and reluctant to approve the expansion of North Macadam until the city recommitted to its original affordable housing goals for North Macadam. They got more clout when Commissioner Dan Saltzman announced some weeks ago that he'd abstain on that expansion because his family owns property in the district. Hales suddenly lacked the three City Council votes needed, prompting him to reschedule a final vote on his urban renewal redo until Jan. 29.

Hales' urban renewal overhaul includes many inter-related pieces, and the North Macadam expansion is pivotal. Hales also plans to nix the Education Urban Renewal Area surrounding Portland State University, but fold some PSU-related properties into the expanded North Macadam district.

"Unless there's a clear road map for meeting the existing targets, this particular amendment will not move forward," Fish said.

Now a deal appears close.

The Portland Development Commission on Wednesday will discuss using the two-acre parcel on River Parkway for affordable housing. The agency will have more money to spend on the urban renewal district once it's expanded, generating more property taxes for urban renewal. The expansion also will bring an additional $32 million for affordable housing.

Steve Law can be reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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