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Poulation increases and limited housing supply pushing up costs, say panelists at Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland gathering

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek was the keynote speaker at the 2018 HBA Housing Forecast.Portland's affordable housing crisis took center stage Friday morning at the annual Housing Forecast presented by the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland.

All of the main speakers agreed the shortage of new homes for sale was driving up housing costs, including pushing up rents paid by households with the lowest incomes.

"Portland is at a critical point in its history. People are moving here from all over the country, creating challenges, opportunities and shared responsibilities to build more housing choices, including more affordable housing," said Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who delivered the keynote speech.

Kotek, a Democrat who represents portions of North and Northeast Portland, said she sees people forced to move by increasing housing costs every day in her district, especially minorities and those from low-income background who cannot afford to buy their own homes or pay higher rents.

"Hyper cost increases lead to displacement," said Kotek, adding that the affordable housing crisis prompted her to partner with homebuilders and 1000 Friends of Oregon land-use watchdog group for legislation during the 2017 Legislature. Together, they helped passed a bill to speed construction of affordable housing and increase housing choices in single-family neighborhoods.

Kotek said she will push to do more in the 2018 session. "The state has a role to play reduce barriers that lead to segregation and higher costs," Kotek said.

'Prices rising faster'

Robert Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builder, said the shortage of new homes is a national problem. He blamed it on several factors, including a shortage of construction workers, a shortage of buildable lots, and limited bank financing for construction companies and buyers.

"Prices are rising faster than incomes," Dietz told the audience. "Nationally, only 59 percent of households with median incomes can afford to buy a median-priced home. In the Portland area, the number of 38 percent."

Tim Duy, the senior director of the Oregon Economic Forum, said Portland-area price increases have finally begun to slow. But Duy also said that because land-use policies are encouraging the construction of residential towers in urban centers, more of them should be condominiums to increase homeownership opportunities.

"We need more owner-occupied multifamily housing," said Duy, who is also an economic professor at the University of Oregon.

Duy also said the many Oregonians were torn about results of statewide land-use policies intended to preserve farm and forest lands.

"The only thing Oregonians hate more than sprawl is density," Duy said to laughter from the large crowd at the Oregon Convention Center.

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