Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



The housing emergency to be considered by the City Council on Wednesday is set to last a year and can be extended every six months after that.

Among other things, the ordinance submitted by Mayor Charlie Hales would suspend some city regulations preventing “mass shelters and other short-term housing options from being located in appropriate zones.”

Kurt Creager, director of the Portland Housing Bureau, says such time is needed to open shelters and get housing options underway.

“Even if we suspend regulations, it takes time to act,” Creager says.

The declaration of a housing emergency is just the most recent action that city and county leaders have taken to address chronic homelessness and an increase in rents and no-cause evictions. Housing officials say the problems are exacerbated by more people

moving to Portland to take advantage of the economic recovery, helping to push rents 30 percent over the past five years.

Vacancy rates are at 2 and 3 percent, which is about half of where they should be, says Martha McLennan, executive director of Northwest Housing Alternatives, the largest provider of affordable housing in Oregon.

“We need 100,000 more housing units in Oregon,” McLennan says.

During the past two weeks, city and county officials have announced around $90 million in additional funds for shelters and affordable housing. Of that amount, $30 million was pledged during a press conference last Wednesday attended by Hales, city commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, and a number of housing officials. Portland will contribute $20 million and the county will add $10 million, much of it in next year’s budgets.

“We’re not rolling in money — we don’t have 30 million dollars in a desk drawer. But what we do have is the ability to reprogram some of the money in our general fund now that it’s healthy,” Hales said.

That same day, the housing bureau announced $60 million is available for affordable housing projects. The money is coming from a variety of sources, including $5 million from the city’s General Fund, $2.5 million from the county’s General Fund, and $46.1 million from various city urban renewal areas administered by the Portland Development Commission.

Also on Oct. 7, the council will consider an ordinance submitted by Saltzman to require landlords to give 90 days notice to tenants for non-cause evictions and when increasing rents by more than 10 percent a year. That is more than the 30- and 60-day requirements in the state’s Landlord-Tenant Law. Tenant advocates have called for a moratorium on no-cause evictions and rent increases. Organizations representing tenants say longer city requirements are preempted by the state law.

Hales says it’s time for bold action.

“When I came into office, the single-night count of homeless told us we had 1,800 Portlanders sleeping unsheltered. That same count, two years later, barely budged. And yet we had spent millions of dollars and countless staff time,” Hales said. “We’ve tried slow-and-steady. We’ve tried by-the-book. It’s time to add the tools we currently lack.

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