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October 9, 2019

Affordable housing challenges loom large in Portland, report says

Portland has made progress in creating affordable housing, but large gaps remain between the cost of renting and owning property in the city and the income of residents.

That’s the conclusion of a report issued Tuesday in advance of a meeting tonight by the city council’s Housing Committee. The draft report will be discussed at the meeting before being finalized, according to a news release.

The report summarizes some of the work Portland has done in making housing available to residents of all incomes.

For instance, the city’s Planning Board approved the creation of 2,300 units of housing from 2014 through August 2019. This equates to about 383 units per year, which is greater than the city’s Comprehensive Plan goal of 256 units per year.

Since 2015, 59 inclusionary zoning units have been approved by the Planning Board and $826,500 has been collected as fees. The fees have been deposited into the city’s Housing Trust Fund and to subsidize the creation of 492 units of affordable housing. 

In 2018-2019, the council approved recommendations to commit $13.8 million in affordable housing tax increment financing and $4.2 million in other funding to create or renovate 418 affordable and market-rate housing units and a 40-room women’s lodging house.

But the report also cautions of the challenges that still face Portland.

One example: To purchase the median priced home in Portland of $316,000, a household would need an income of $102,173, which is almost double the actual median income in Portland of $51,799.

The report also shows that 47% of renter-occupied households and 29% of owner-occupied households pay 30% or more of their income towards housing costs. 

Increased demand and limited homebuilding activities have contributed to a significant decline in available housing inventory, the report notes. 

“The information presented in this biennial review of the state of housing provides us with a report card on progress and the data to support planning and implement actions into the next biennium,” said City Councilor Jill Duson. “We remain focused on making real progress to meet the crisis in affordable housing.”

The Housing Committee meets Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Portland City Hall, 389 Congress St.

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