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Hales drops $25,000 demolition tax

PORTLAND TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Mayor Charlie Hales has not been able to find the votes to pass his $25,000 demolition tax.Mayor Charlie Hales admits his proposed $25,000 demolition tax is dead.

Hales had promised to bring the tax back to the City Council after failing to win enough votes to pass it at a Dec. 2, 2015, hearing.

But on Wednesday, Hales' communications director, Sara Hottman, said he has not been able to round up enough votes to pass it.

"Despite support from neighborhood groups, the mayor couldn't find consensus on Council for a demolition tax. But he is resolved to continue to work on the issue, including advancing two other proposals to help mitigate issues associated with demolition: new infill development standards to better ensure compatibility of new homes built in existing neighborhoods, and a proposal to require deconstruction of some homes," Hoffman said in an email.

Hales has proposed the tax to slow the so-called demolition epidemic that many residents claim is destroying the character of their neighborhoods. Hundreds of older homes have been demolished in rent years and replaced with one or more larger, more expensive ones. Lawn signs protesting the demolitions are appearing in many neighborhoods, with some reading, "Stop demolishing Portland."

Hales proposed taxing the demolition of viable older homes $25,000 with the intent of slowing the pace of such residential infill projects. He also wants to dedicate the money raised by the tax to affordable housing.

The proposal has been controversial from the start, however, with both developers and neighborhood activists complaining it will only raise the price of new homes. When it was last heard by the council, Novick offered an amendment to reduce the tax for less expensive replacement homes. It was not supported by a majority of the council, however.

Hales had originally proposed waiving the tax if a single home is replaced with two or more homes to encouraging density increases. Some neighborhood activists said that would only encourage more demolitions. Others supported it, however.