Commissioner Nick Fish thinks 30 percent should be minimum urban renewal requirement

Portland's City Council will consider reaffirming Wednesday its commitment to spend a large share of urban renewal funds on affordable housing.

The discussion will occur as urban renewal funds are drying up, a development expected to launch a search for other affordable housing revenue sources in the near future.

• Click here to read the City Council ordinance on affordable housing.

Already, Portland Housing Commissioner Nick Fish and Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury are planning to appoint a committee to review potential sources, including those that might be included in a ballot measure to help fund future affordable housing projects.

'The question is, what is the right source for the times that the voters will accept,' says Fish, who is sponsoring the ordinance that will be considered by the council on Nov. 9.

The council has already approved a policy of spending 30 percent of urban renewal funds on affordable housing project. The requirement applies to nine of the 11 urban renewal areas administered by the Portland Development Commission. It does not apply to the two industrial-oriented areas.

Questions have recently come up about whether the requirement is meant to be an average of all nine areas or a requirement for each one. Fish says the council always meant the 30 percent requirement to be an average for all nine areas, and his ordinance specifically states the requirement is an 'aggregate.'

'Some areas can accommodate more affordable housing than others. That's always been understood,' says Fish, who is in charge of the Portland Housing Bureau.

The ordinance also says the 30 percent requirement is the minimum that can spent on affordable housing, not the maximum.

'There's been some discussion over whether it's a floor or a ceiling. I think it should be the floor,' says Fish.

In fact, during the past five years, the PDC has spent 33 percent of its urban renewal funds on affordable housing projects, says Fish. A total of $152 million has gone to help funds such projects as:

• Bud Clark Commons in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood of the River District URA, where $29.5 million helped create 209 housing units.

• The Admiral Apartments in the South Park Blocks urban renewal area, where $3.7 million helped preserve 37 housing units.

• The Block 49 veterans housing project in the North Macadam urban renewal area, where $23 million is helping creating 209 housing units.

• Pardee Commons in the Lents urban renewal area, where $900,000 helped build 10 affordable houses.

• The Ramona Apartments in the Pearl District neighborhood of the River District urban renewal area, where $20 million helped create 175 housing units.

• The Madrona Studios in the Oregon Convention Center urban renewal area, where $7.6 million helped create 176 housing units.

A hearing will be held on the ordinance beginning at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Council approval could come as early as next Wednesday.

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