Letters: Create opportunity and housing
Regarding "Affordable unit costs questioned" (Dec. 7 Tribune article): Rob Justus offers the tantalizing prospect of building affordable housing units at a lower cost, asking, "Do we want to build the most affordable housing units at the lowest cost?"
It is tempting to think of that question as rhetorical, given the dearth of affordable housing in American cities. However, in fighting the affordability crisis, our goal must be to provide real opportunity and mobility to low-income Americans, not simply to create the greatest number of affordable housing units.
As Harvard's Equality of Opportunity Project has shown, concentrated poverty wreaks havoc on education, economic development, and public health and safety. As a result, cities must resist the urge to maximize "efficiency" by building affordable housing where land costs are low.
Instead, cities should expand inclusionary zoning, give priority in affordable housing lotteries to households living in concentrated poverty neighborhoods, help Section 8 voucher holders find housing in mixed-income communities, ban discrimination on the basis of lawful source of income (as in New York City), and invest in building new affordable housing in neighborhoods of opportunity, as Portland is doing in the Southwest waterfront.
There's no easy answer to solving the affordable housing crisis. However, building homes without regard to building opportunity will leave us all worse off.
Another reason for nonaffiliation
Your Dec. 5 article on nonaffiliated voters, although accurate, missed almost entirely one of the main reasons for that to occur ... that of the breathtakingly ineptness of the corrupt buffoon now splitting his time between the White House and Mar-a-Lago. I was a proud, loyal Republican for 60 years, but fearing "guilt by association," decided that I no longer want to be embarrassed by the man who now heads the GOP.
Lot splitting is allowed
As a longtime Irvington resident, and the volunteer administrator of the Irvington Historic District (IHD), I must correct several inaccurate statements by Tom Christ in his recent My View piece, "Historic districts worsen housing crisis." Christ says the intention of historic districts is to stop any new development, no infill in my back yard, no lot splitting, no ADU development, and no internal conversions.
To the contrary, lot splitting is allowed in single-family zones. The IHD has had at least half a dozen. Currently, city code allows one accessory dwelling unit (ADU) for every site in single-family zones, including those in historic districts. Indeed, the IHD has supported density via ADU development, detached, internal, and garage conversions. ADU developments that meet relevant code requirements can be built. With one exception, the IHD has approved every ADU application, which have been running about one a month for the last two years. The one not approved by IHD was approved by BDS and will be built. Another one, a garage conversion, was approved this past week. Internal conversions can be accomplished by developing an internal ADU. An approval last year and resulting construction created a new 800-square- foot ADU in the basement of an historic resource. My best estimate is that at least 25 new ADUs have been added to the IHD since its formation. In short, my Irvington back yard is filling up with new housing and density, well-designed, using quality materials — real and welcomed additions to an historic neighborhood.
Business owner supports soda tax
As the owner of Verona PDX, a food cart here in Portland, I'm proud to support a tax on high-sugar drinks in Multnomah County and to stand with countless other small business owners who know this tax is right for our community. The opposition's arguments in the Tribune's Nov. 26 article on the tax simply aren't true. In other cities with soda taxes, local businesses have not been hurt — because local people are simply switching to healthier beverages and spending the same amount on their grocery bills.
We are facing an epidemic of nutrition-related diseases in kids and adults caused by sugar — and sugary drinks like soda are the worst culprit. High-sugar drinks are the worst kind of sugar you can put in your body, far more harmful in liquid form than sugary foods. If we do nothing and consumption continues, 40 percent of today's kids will develop diabetes in their lifetimes.
This measure is a powerful way to fight back against health problems connected to sugar. It'll reduce the amount of soda and other sugary drinks our kids are consuming while also funding preschool and programs that promote the health and wellbeing of kids. It's the right thing to do — for our kids and for our community.
Tobacco tax can save lives
There are current proposals at the state to increase the cigarette tax by up to an additional $2. This amount may seem high, but is less than the taxation in Washington and California. Tobacco taxation is a policy-level change that has the power to save lives.
We have known for decades about the dangers of smoking, yet tobacco-related illness remains the number one cause of preventable death in our state. My father smoked for 47 years and quit only after a debilitating stroke kept him in the hospital, where he had to kick the habit cold-turkey. This stroke has been an extreme challenge for our family that perhaps could have been prevented if there were additional programs in place to help prevent tobacco use throughout his lifetime.
Traditional smoking-cessation programs work better in conjunction with larger policies to create a greater barrier for the unhealthy behavior. Evidence shows that each 10-percent increase in tobacco taxation will reduce smoking by 5 percent. Should this matter make it to the next legislative session, Oregonians should show their support for this evidence-based effort to help our state to become healthier.