Preview offered of Westside housing spending
Washington County, Hillsboro and Beaverton are planning to spend $188 million from a Metro housing bond that will produce 1,300 of the total 3,900 units projected regionwide.
More than 50 people — officials, builders, housing advocates — attended a Wednesday, Dec. 19, meeting sponsored by the Westside Economic Alliance for a preview of how the money may be spent. The $188 million, at just under $50,000 per unit, represents the largest single infusion of money for subsidized housing in Washington County in recent years.
"It is going to require a lot of trust on everybody's part to pull together and make this work," said Pam Treece, the alliance's executive director, and one of three new county commissioners who will take office Jan. 7.
"I think it's important that we give all of our partners the space and the time to be able to work together well."
• Hillsboro: $40 million, 284 total, of which 117 must be made available to households earning 30 percent or less of the average median income. (In 2016, according to the American Community Survey, median household income in Washington County was $75,634.)
• Beaverton, $31 million, 218 total, 89 at 30 percent or less.
• Washington County, including other cities that may have participating projects: $116 million, 814 total, 334 at 30 percent or less.
To be considered "affordable," housing must cost no more than 30 percent of household income, according to HUD.
The bond money must be used for new construction, acquisition or renovation of existing housing. Some money may be spent to preserve housing along TriMet's proposed Southwest Corridor MAX light-rail line, which will run from Portland to Tigard and Tualatin's Bridgeport Village.
Jes Larson, Metro's regional affairs manager, said the three metro-area counties have differing challenges from the bond.
Clackamas County has no cities eligible for separate bond allocations, but much of what the county housing authority oversees is in need of repairs.
Portland will get the largest share of the Metro bond — it has about 38 percent of the region's taxable property value — in addition to its own $258.4 million housing bond that city voters approved two years ago. But Larson said Home Forward, Multnomah County's housing agency, has more capacity to deal with a variety of housing issues.
"I think Washington County is ahead in collaboration and cooperation" of the three counties, Larson said.
Here are summaries of what city and county officials said at the WEA event, which its land use and housing committee sponsored at The Round in Beaverton.
In Hillsboro, senior project manager Chris Hartye said the city will review city-owned sites to see if any are suitable for housing projects, although some of that land was acquired for parks, streets or other purposes.
"It's not letting bureaucracy getting in the way of units built," he said.
Ground was broken Sept. 5 for Willow Creek Crossing, which when finished will supply 120 apartments on a 1.3-acre site that Washington County transferred to its housing authority. Hillsboro contributed $300,000 toward the $33.1 million project at Southwest Baseline Road and 185th Avenue.
Hillsboro chose about a year ago to administer its own federal block grants for community development, rather than let the county do it, as city population topped 100,000.
Hillsboro, unlike Beaverton, has slightly more homeowners than it does renters (52 percent to 48 percent).
Beaverton, on the other hand, will focus on projects to aid renters. The city has a separate program to promote homeownership as part of its overall housing budget of about $2 million this year.
Renters make up about half of all city residents, outnumbering owners — and 47 percent are considered "rent burdened," paying more than 30 percent of household income toward housing. About half of those (25 percent total) are "severely" burdened because they pay more than 50 percent.
The City Council voted Dec. 4 to approve the latest in a series of five-year housing plans, although its budget was prepared before Metro regional voters approved a $652.8 million housing bond on Nov. 6.
Development Division Manager Cadence Petros said Beaverton is seeking to build two projects relatively quickly. One conceptual project, known as 1st and Main, is with REACH Community Development Corp. for 54 units. The other would be with Metro on Metro-owned land near the Elmonica MAX station, although there are no specifics yet.
"We have an exciting opportunity to make it happen," Petros said.
Given Beaverton's lack of buildable land for such projects, Petros said the city may focus on offering grants for rehabilitation of older housing in exchange for owners pledging to keep rents affordable for specified periods. A pilot project is included in the city's housing plan this year.
Komi Kalevor, director of the housing authority and Washington County's director of housing services, said there is no guaranteed share of the Metro bond for other cities within the county.
But Kalevor said his agency will consider potential projects anywhere outside Beaverton and Hillsboro, which get specified shares because they administer their own federal block grants for community development.
Washington County has transferred land not needed for other purposes to nonprofit groups willing to build and maintain subsidized housing. Although Willow Creek Crossing represents one of the largest such projects, Kalevor said future developments may be more difficult given the cost and scarcity of suitable sites.
So far, he said, the public has accepted such developments.
"But we cannot do it if every single neighborhood is opposed to affordable housing," he said. "So we need people like you to step forward and put forth arguments for it."
Reports show a big gap in availability and affordability of housing.
A 2016 report by Portland State University for the county indicates a shortage of 14,000 housing units affordable by households earning 50 percent or less of the area's median income.
That shortage could be as high as 23,000 units, based on an estimated 72,000 people who commute to jobs but do not live in the county.
Kalevor said the number of people without permanent shelter in the region also contributes to the urgency of housing.
"After seven years, we still have homeless camps," he said. "We need everybody on board."