20 Sep

We need a Portland that people can afford to live in

Lately, the only thing that’s shot up faster than Portland’s reputation for cool has been its rents. In every part of the city, housing costs are soaring, until people end up on the city’s far fringes – or its streets.

Portland has a major housing shortage, especially in rental housing. We’ve seen how this works out in other West Coast cities – San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle – where the people needed to make the city work can’t afford to live there. That means teachers, policemen, firemen – let alone waiters, health care workers and retirees. The city and the state need to help with this.

Already, both governments have begun work on the problem. After they’ve spent hundreds of millions creating places for people to work, it’s worth spending some money on places for people to live.

That’s why major projects such as South Waterfront are planned to include affordable housing, as well as market-rate housing. That part has come around too slowly, and we need to pick up the pace.

The market by itself won’t supply those spaces. Using the attractions of the market to piggyback affordable housing onto new projects can work.

We need to let people who aren’t rich live in the city.

Land-use planning shouldn’t produce the Hunger Games.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 9/19/15.

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