Proposal calls for more landlord tests, enforcement, affordable housing and mitigation for gentrification

Despite the controversy surrounding a Fair Housing Audit released earlier this year, the Portland City Council will consider an ambitious plan to end housing discrimination in Multnomah County this week.

The audit conducted last year by the Fair Housing Council found that minority test renters were treated different by potential landlords in Portland 60 percent of the time. After the results were released in February, a subsequent analysis raised questions about the accuracy of the findings, noting numerous internal mistakes and dubious testing procedures.

• Click here to read the city's plan to end housing discrimination.

In spite of these shortcomings, Housing Commissioner Nick Fish has submitted a comprehensive Fair Housing Action Plan to the council. The plan calls for an end to discrimination in rental and owner-occupied housing. It will first be heard on Wednesday.

'In Portland, we will not tolerate discrimination in housing. We will not cure this disease overnight. It will take persistence, collaboration, and creativity,' the plan reads.

Among other things, the plan calls for the appointment of a county-wide permanent Fair Housing Advocacy Committee by the end of the month. It will review the progress made on the plan and report its findings to the county and the cities of Portland and Gresham.

'Working with our partners, we are committed to enforcing the federal, state and local fair housing laws that prohibit discrimination based on a person's race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, source of income, familial status, marital status, military status, and physical or mental disability. In addition to enforcing fair housing laws, the city and its partners will work to address practices, programs, and behaviors that have the effect of restricting housing choice for protected classes,' the plan reads.

The plan also calls for landlords and the public to be routinely educated about fair housing laws and for the discrimination complaint system to be streamlined and made easier for renters who feel they have been illegally discriminated against.

Some of the most ambitious parts of the plan call for more accessible, affordable homes and steps to address the unintended consequences of gentrification, such as the increased housing costs that have led many longtime Portlanders to leave their historic neighborhoods.

'Make public investments that mitigate the effects of displacement and that encourage diversity through mechanisms including, but not limited to, "community agreements," housing development linked to schools/transportation/employment, mixed income housing, and rental assistance tied to market rate units,' reads one recommendation.

The plan also encourages the renewal of the requirement that 30 percent of all Portland urban renewal funds be spent in affordable housing. The council is reviewing whether the requirement should be citywide or applied to every urban renewal area administered by the Portland Development Commission.

'The city of Portland is dedicated to removing barriers to housing choice in our community. We believe our city, county, and state are strongest when everyone has equal access to a safe, affordable place to call home,' reads the plan, which is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

To help gauge progress, the plan calls for more discrimination audits conducted by an organization approved by HUD. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sept. 14.

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