Assessment: Not enough affordable housing in Tigard to meet demand
Some of the housing strategies from the 1990s and 2000s have lapsed, a Community Development staff member told the City Council.
When it comes to affordable housing, Tigard is lagging behind.
That's what Hannah Holloway, Tigard's project planning assistant, told members of the City Council in a presentation last month. Although the city developed an affordable housing program in 2002, she noted, the Great Recession knocked it off-course later that decade and Tigard now is well below its target for low-income housing units.
"Simply put, there are not enough units in Tigard to meet demand," Holloway said. "In 1997, Metro projected that Tigard would need to add 3,200 units of housing to meet the needs just of people at 50 percent of area median income or below. … In 2015, they found that Tigard had approximately 700 units of (affordable) housing total."
The housing market in the Portland area has boomed in recent years as the effects of the recession have worn off. But wage growth has not grown as fast as housing prices, leaving many residents with few options as to where to live.
"We are well below projections from even the 1990s of units we would need to meet demand in the city," Holloway said.
Many of the funds created and policies formulated in the 1990s and early 2000s, by which the Tigard City Council hoped to address the affordable housing and homelessness situations in the city, have fallen by the wayside, Holloway reported — an affordable housing fee assistance program to offset development costs was ineffective and ultimately defunded, a development code update failed to contribute toward more low-cost housing, and efforts to maintain Tigard's stock of rental units "have been underutilized or discontinued."
Holloway said the program was "successful" when it was implemented in 2002, but that it has "diminished in success" since then. "If we're talking about right now, how successful are we, I would say there's a lot of room for improvement," she told the council.
She spelled it out in her written report: "Were all of the strategies from the 2002 report in effect today, with robust support from the various City departments, Tigard would have an effective affordable housing platform. As it stands, the housing needs of half of the renters in Tigard are not adequately addressed, and City support is not sufficient to draw affordable housing developers and operators to Tigard to the degree necessary."
Marland Henderson, who was attending his last meeting as a Tigard city councilor, owns a commercial construction company.
"I think in 2002, life was pretty good," Henderson said. "There wasn't the focus. However, in 2008, a new problem existed where there wasn't the ability to do that work. And so we are coming out of that now … and so the money is now available again. However, things cost a lot more than they did in 2008 and 2002. So I think it's pretty sensible that we haven't paid a lot of attention to it. … I think there's an explanation of why we have not been able to keep up with the 2002 plan."
The affordable housing situation in Tigard is not entirely stagnant. Metro provided the city with a $50,000 grant last month for what Tigard Community Development Director Kenny Asher described as "predevelopment work on specific sites that we think may be able to be a future location of affordable housing projects in downtown." The regional government also awarded a $100,000 grant to Portland last month to study the affordable housing situation along the Southwest Corridor, the major transportation routes between Portland and Tigard, where Metro is planning a MAX light rail line.
In other projects, an apartment building is under construction at Burnham Street and Ash Avenue downtown, and the Portland-based nonprofit group Community Partners for Affordable Housing has plans to build an affordable housing complex off 68th Parkway in the Tigard Triangle.
Still, the changing face of the local housing market has had an impact.
Last fall, a low-rent apartment complex on Greenburg Road booted out its residents and doubled rents amidst its remodeling and rebranding as the higher-end Tigardville Apartments.
Holloway, one of the Tigard city employees, who worked with the tenants of the former Walnut Tree Apartments, suggested in her report to the council that the city "should consider adopting a local ordinance that protects vulnerable residents, like the former Walnut Tree occupants, from rapid eviction processes" and also consider whether to restrict the amount by which landlords in Tigard can raise tenants' rent.
While Tigard does provide some property tax exemptions for low-income housing, there are a number of other strategies Holloway said the city could implement to encourage more affordable housing development, including selling or leasing public land at a discount — or even donating it — to nonprofits or businesses that will provide affordable housing. That would require a change to Tigard's municipal code.
The city also could waive or reduce system development charges, fees that developers must pay to the city, on affordable housing projects. Holloway suggested it should also provide a yearly donation to Community Action of Washington County for emergency rent assistance to Tigard residents who are struggling to avoid eviction.
Holloway said Tigard has "an exciting opportunity to reconsider (discontinued) strategies and new ones that other cities have sort of done the hard work of testing out for us."
Tigard is far from alone in the region in terms of its limited affordable housing strategies. Holloway noted that nearby cities like Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie and Tualatin also offer few of the policies and programs she described to the council as options to spur the development of low-income housing.
By Mark Miller