The Portland Housing Bureau is now requiring developers to include air conditioning in any future city-funded affordable housing project, including those funded by the affordable housing bond approved by voters.
Developers of projects that have been finalized but not yet completed are encouraged to include it within their existing finances.
Metro, the elected regional government, is considering a similar requirement for projects funded by the affordable housing bond approved by its voters.
Both steps are in response to the late June heat wave that killed at least 97 people in Oregon, including 59 in Multnomah County. Six of those death were in affordable housing units with no air conditioning.
The housing bureau notified development partners of the new requirement in a Friday, Aug. 13, memo. It says developers must have air conditioning "strategies" that range from air conditioning in every unit to air-conditioned common areas. The requirement applies to all projects currently under construction and those that will be built in the future.
"As evidenced by recent extreme heat waves, summers in Portland are growing hotter and more dangerous due to climate change," the memo reads.
Metro spokesman Nick Christensen said discussion about a similar requirement have been underway at the elected regional government since the late June heat wave and will be concluded soon.
"The record-breaking heat of June made it clear that this is not a conversation for tomorrow, it's a conversation for today. All of the 25 Metro-funded affordable housing projects in development have some sort of in-unit cooling strategy, and we are working with our partners to review those strategies to make sure they'll keep residents safe in the types of heat waves we are now seeing in our region. Because none of the buildings are open yet, it's important to have this conversation now, so that residents are safe in finished units next summer," Christensen told the Portland Tribune.
The housing bureau's Aug. 13 memo reads as follows:
DATE: August 13, 2021
TO: PHB's development partners with active projects
FROM: Portland Housing Bureau
SUBJECT: Air Conditioning Requirement
As evidenced by recent extreme heat waves, summers in Portland are growing hotter and more dangerous due to climate change. Extreme heat poses a particular health threat to vulnerable populations. In keeping with our mission to serve vulnerable Portlanders, the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) will now require in-unit air conditioning (A/C) cooling strategies in all new affordable residential buildings financed with PHB capital subsidies. PHB will be further assessing requirements for cooling strategies in existing affordable housing rehabilitation projects it funds.
PHB is asking affordable housing developers to propose an in-unit air conditioning cooling strategy that best balances the needs of their project and populations while ensuring the project's efficient use of public resources. Acceptable cooling approaches may include central air conditioning, packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs), ducted or ductless condenser or heat pump units, window A/C units, portable A/C units, hybrid, geothermal, or other emerging technologies.
This requirement is effective August 13, 2021 for any project that has not yet closed financially. Projects that are already under construction are encouraged to identify opportunities for in-unit air conditioning cooling strategies within the existing financial parameters of the project in collaboration with PHB. If you have questions regarding this new requirement, please contact the Finance Coordinator or Senior Construction Coordinator assigned to your project.
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