City Council is disappointed by $20 million program's lack of progress since it was approved in 2014.

CITY OF PORTLAND - The City Council received the 2017 annual report on Wednesday.The City Council is falling far short of the goals it set several years ago to fight displacement caused by gentrification in North and Northeast Portland.

The council dedicated $20 million in urban renewal funds to the North/Northeast Portland Housing Strategy in 2014. But the funding has only helped a relatively small number of lower-income households stay in their homes and move back into the area so far, according to a report presented to the council by the Portland Housing Bureau on Wednesday.

"We have a long way to go," said Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who was in charge of the housing bureau when the program was approved. Mayor Ted Wheeler assigned the bureau to himself when he became mayor last year.

The 2017 annual report of the North/Northeast Portland Housing Strategy documents how many parts of the program are falling short. Among other things, it says that although more than 500 new rental units have been built in the area, too few have been set aside for lower-income households. For example, 735 applications were receive for just 31 units in the recently completed Garlington Place Apartments at the corner of Northeast MLK Jr. Boulevard and Monroe Street.

In addition, only five households have purchased a home with the help of a $100,000 down payment subsidy though the program. It was originally predicted that 65 households would have taken advantage of the subsidy by now.

"I don't see how I can sit here with a straight face and call it anything other than an abject failure," Wheeler said.

And just 18 families used a multi-million program that offers zero-interest loans for home repairs — down from 40 in 2016.

On top of that, the advisory committee has not yet approved a plan to help fund accessory dwelling units in the area, even though they potentially the least expensive form of new housing.

Interim housing bureau director Shannon Callahan told the council that the advisory committee has recommended several changes to increase participation in the program, including increasing the amounts of the down payment subsidies and zero-interest home repair loans. She also noted that multiple additional apartments are either under consruction or being planned that will incease the number of affordable units in coming years.

"We are convinced, that providing long term solutions for individuals and families can be accomplished. What is in front of us is going to require a greater willingness from both PHB and the community partners to communicate issues, work through those issues and come to agreement," the report says.

You can read the report here.

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