More Affordable housing coming soon to PDX

In an effort to counteract an increasingly problematic housing crisis in Portland where soaring rents and housing costs have displaced thousands of residents, the Portland Housing Bureau has delivered its highest funding allocation to date to support the construction of affordable homes. Roughly $47 million in both local and federal funding was earmarked last week for eight proposed affordable housing projects.

The city expects the support to create 585 new affordable housing units, as well as preserving another 255 units through renovation. Of the renovated projects, more than 120 of them are specifically targeted for the lowest-income households, meaning those earning at most 30 percent of the median family income.oleson_woods_t580

Last fall, Commissioner Dan Saltzman ordered the Housing Bureau to dispense all of its available resources into Portland’s housing emergency, including urban renewal funds allocated for future years.

The bureau will be working with Home Forward, Central City Concern, Bridge Housing Corp, REACH, and the Meta Housing Corp on these projects, with developments and renovations spanning from north and northeast Portland all the way to the Hazelwood, Lents and Montavilla areas.

The projects were selected to align with a new N/NE Neighborhood Housing Strategy, “A Home for Everyone” plan to end homeless, and give priority to longtime and displaced residents under a new preference policy.

Additionally, the non-profit housing organization Human Solutions is negotiating with Portland housing officials on creating 40 affordable housing units for low income families in Gateway, as well some specifically reserved homes for families at risk of becoming homeless or who are already homeless, and refugee families.

“This unprecedented level of funding is helping move the needle be providing affordable housing for vulnerable Portlanders,” said Kurt Creager, housing bureau director.

The whole story can be found HERE on The Portland Observer website.

Looking in Portland’s Hot market? Here’s what you need to know

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When Caitlin and Charles Vestal began looking to buy a home in January, the search quickly felt like a full-time job…

Here’s what they found:

  • A market that posted the nation’s largest year-over-year gains in home values for four straight months between October and January.
  • Prices that have risen by double-digit percentages in the past year: 17 percent in Portland, according to Zillow, and more than 13 percent region-wide.
  • A remarkably low inventory of available homes, even in the traditionally slow winter sales months. In December, inventory hit its lowest level since at least 1999 and has only budged slightly since then.
  • Housing prices that haven’t been seen in Portland since before the recession, or, in some cases, ever.

So how to navigate such an intimidating market?

“We just kind of had to wise up very quickly to the fact that it’s an insane game,” Caitlin Vestal said. “And that list prices basically mean nothing.”

The Vestals made four offers. They were rejected three times. Another time, they walked away because of issues with the home. “We had to really emotionally unhook from every house we made an offer on,” Caitlin Vestal said. “Because it was so depressing to keep getting rejected.”

Finally, they found a home: a three-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow in North Portland’s Portsmouth neighborhood. The Vestals beat out 28 other offers with their $386,000 bid – 29 percent higher than the list price of $299,000.

They recently closed on the property, but they can’t move in until May. In an increasingly common practice, the deal was contingent on letting the previous owners rent the home, free of charge, for 60 additional days – because in this historically tight market, they were concerned about finding another home of their own.

Rising home values expand the market

… At first, buyers didn’t want to look east of Northeast 57th or Southeast 60th avenues, Brennan said. Then, it was 82nd Avenue. Now, buyers are happy as long as they’re west of Interstate 205. The same thing has happened on the city’s southern fringe.

“It used to be, don’t go south of Powell [Boulevard],” Brennan said. “And then it was don’t go south of Woodstock [Boulevard].” Buyers are still continuing to move southward, he added.

Neighborhoods like Foster-Powell and Mount Scott are particularly hot these days, according to Brennan. And the trend extends to suburban areas such as Milwaukie – where a new public transit extension opened last year – and Washington County, which will be home to massive expansions of single-family housing in Hillsboro, Beaverton and Tigard in the near future.

… It’s very common for homes to be on the market for less than a week. In Northeast Portland’s Sabin neighborhood, the median number of days on the market for the 71 homes that sold in 2015 was five, according to data provided by Redfin. The $595,000 median sale price there represented a 28 percent increase from the year before, third-highest in the region.2009-07-04-irvington-011-photo

Renting can be even tougher

… As tough as Portland’s market is for home buyers, it might be even worse for renters. The latest biannual report from the rental industry group Multifamily NW found Portland’s rental vacancy rate was below 3 percent late last year. In close-in east side areas, average units were vacant for less than 12 days.

Rents were rising at an annualized rate of 14 percent, the report found – in some areas of the region, such as Beaverton, prices were increasing twice that fast.

… Another bubble?

Krautter said the most frequent questions he gets from clients are, “Are we in a bubble again?” and, “Is this market sustainable?”

But Krautter doesn’t believe home values are going down anytime soon, as long as inventory remains so low.

“You don’t all of a sudden see prices go down when the market’s this tight,” he said. He thinks “we have a minimum of two years” before prices will stop rising.

Plus, nearly a quarter of home sales in the Portland area in 2015 were all-cash offers, according to the housing research firm RealtyTrac. In those cases, there’s no risk of the buyer defaulting on a loan – and bad loans were a hallmark of last decade’s housing collapse. Increased regulations surrounding mortgage lending have made it tougher to qualify for a loan, as well.

Oregon state economist Josh Lehner doesn’t see price appreciation slowing much in 2016, either. The region is still underbuilding housing relative to the growing population, he said.

“It is increasingly likely that we will not see much improvement in housing affordability until the next recession,” Lehner said. “That is when we know for sure that demand will fall. Population growth will slow considerably, as it always does in recessions, and household formation, as well.”

But right now, Lehner said, “the regional economy is going full throttle.” In January, the state’s unemployment rate hit its lowest level since 2007.

“I just do not see a big enough increase in the housing supply to hold prices down or even slow them considerably,” he said.

**Several paragraphs were omitted from the original article.  Check out the whole story HERE, on the Oregonian’s website.

 

Portland Extends ADU Incentive to increase density

blu-homes-e1357308775982Portland’s City Council has voted unanimously to extend a popular fee waiver for accessory dwelling units, according to local blog Accessory Dwellings.

The waiver of System Development Charges, or SDCs, was set to expire in July, leading advocates for ADUs to lobby for an extension.

Accessory dwelling units, which include basement apartments and backyard tiny houses, have emerged in Portland as a popular way to increase residential housing density without sacrificing the single-family character of a neighborhood.

System Development Charges, which pay for parks and other shared city infrastructure, were first waived for ADU development by city council in 2009. The waiver saves builders of ADUs between $12,000 and $20,000, a meaningful incentive to build new infill housing.

The new waiver will extend through July 2018, but another major hurdle for aspiring ADU developers lingers: tax uncertainty.12328073_653378024801402_1239109545_n

A decision last year by Multnomah County tax assessors triggered an uproar among ADU enthusiasts when the county began reassessing entire properties where ADUs were being developed. The move increased annual tax bills by as much as $6,000 for some unsuspecting homeowners.

Though the tax implications of building an ADU remain a bit unclear, Oregon’s Department of Revenue is expected to release rule clarifications sometime this year for counties to follow that should make the process more certain.

In the meantime, the city’s ADU fee waiver extension is a tangible move to incentivize much-needed infill development. Despite a recent flurry of apartment development, Portland counts a 4,000-unit shortfall in housing inventory, one factor contributing to record-low vacancy and a sharp rise in rental rates.

The Portland City Council will review potential amendments to the fee waiver extension at its May 18 meeting.

The whole story can be found here on the Portland Business Journal website.

Millennials are headed to the ‘burbs!

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It was only a matter of time. Literally. As millennials grow older, get married, have children, they are seeking out bigger houses and better schools. That means the suburbs. They are also getting tired of paying higher urban rents and watching those rents rise.

Just 17 percent of millennials bought homes in urban or central city areas, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Realtors, which sent out a questionnaire last July to roughly 95,000 homebuyers. That urban share came down from 21 percent in the previous survey.

“The median age of a millennial homebuyer is 30 years old, which typically is the time in life where one settles down to marry and raise a family,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors. “Even if an urban setting is where they’d like to buy their first home, the need for more space at an affordable price is for the most part pushing their search further out.”

Home prices have been rising more aggressively in the last six months. Bank of America just upped its forecast for prices this year, citing, “recent momentum, low interest rates and lean housing supply.” Rents have also been rising, but they have steadied of late at near record highs.

The supply of homes for sale, especially in urban areas, is also a problem, and it is particularly critical at the low end, where millennials are likely to be buying. Homebuilders are not focused on first-time buyers and smaller homes because it is harder to make a profit in that segment.

In addition to high home prices, debt continues to plague buyers across the spectrum and is, in fact, delaying home buying more acutely. “While debt delayed saving for a down payment for a median of four years for all buyers, the number of years postponed increased from three years for Millennials to six years for older Boomers,” the NAR survey said.

The majority of millennials cited student loan debt as a barrier to saving for a down payment, while credit card debt was more of a problem for Gen Xers and younger baby boomers. Without stronger wage growth, debt will continue to be a burden for all buyers.133aaa92f6d038d3ff600ae5ad6d3109

“While the country continued to create more jobs, wage growth was limited. Until we see a real boost in income, rising home prices will continued to deter aspiring home buyers,” JPMorgan analysts said following the February employment report.

The desire to own is growing among the millennial generation; 48 percent of those surveyed said it was their primary reason for buying, up from 39 percent a year ago. The desire for a larger home was the highest among Gen X buyers (16 percent), and older boomers (at 20 percent) were the most likely to buy because of retirement, according to the NAR survey.

The whole story and a short video can be found here on the CNBC website.

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Portland to start foreclosing on “zombie houses”

 

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No one can say exactly how many properties in Portland have sunk to the status of the now-boarded-up home at 7926 SE 75th: vacant, abandoned by owners, unclaimed by banks, and attracting problems.

They’re called “zombie houses,” or “vacant and distressed properties” in the parlance of city staff. Either way, they’re not available for legal habitation in a white-hot housing market that’s trying to add thousands of new homes as soon as possible. Now the City of Portland says it’s time to reanimate the dead.

Mayor Charlie Hales’ office is proposing the city dust off a foreclosure process that hasn’t been used in more than four decades, snatching homes away from owners who’ve abandoned them. Another proposal would place zombie homes in the hands of local housing nonprofits, to be fixed up and put back into use.

“We’re in a housing crisis in which we have unhoused people and people desperate to stay in the housing market,” Hales said at a work session on the proposals Tuesday. “So, what a disconnect: We have houses that are zombie houses, which are an enormous blight on their neighborhoods.”

The initiative is the latest housing proposal from the mayor, who earlier this year saw a more unique idea for reining in Portland’s housing market, a $25,000 demolition tax on Portland homes, fail amid widespread outcry.

This one’s not so controversial—and far less novel. In recent decades, cities around the country have established formal programs to help refurbish vacant properties that have become eyesores or worse. Baltimore, San Diego, Philadelphia, and many others have programs in place. Portland, despite having tools on the books that can combat the issue, hasn’t had a comprehensive effort.

There’s no easy way to identify zombie homes as they sprout up. And it’s often not until things get really bad that someone calls the city.

For the whole story, check out the Portland Mercury’s website here.

A Community Energy Project offers free classes on lead based paint

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Lead poisoning has hit the headlines during the past few months because of the situation in Flint, Michigan, where citizens have been overwhelmed by a huge, toxic-water problem. Portland, fortunately, does not have problems with lead in its water, but its denizens should be aware of lead-based paint.

Lead-based paint was for all practical purposes the only kind of paint used on homes throughout the United States until 1978. About 80 percent of homes in Multnomah County were built before 1978. Those are two of the many facts you will learn when you listen to a presentation by Ryan Barker on lead poisoning prevention.

Barker is a community educator who works for the Community Energy Project, a non-profit organization that teaches Portlanders how to maintain healthy, livable homes; control utility costs; and conserve natural resources.

Barker gives workshops about the hazards of lead poisoning. The workshops, offered throughout the Portland metro area, are free of charge and open to everyone.

Read the whole story here on the Hollywood Star News website

Citizens try to save SE Belmont’s oldest buildings from demolition

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As SE Portland continues to be split at the seams by development, residents along historic corridors like Belmont are learning the hard way that the City currently lacks tools to keep intact the beloved blocks that define their neighborhood.

More than half of Portland’s buildings are more than 50 years old. Most lack any type of landmark protections. Portland’s rampant demolition is legal if it follows current zoning.

To deter the demolition epidemic, citizens are learning that an update of the City’s historic inventory list is critical. Identifying buildings with significant history and architectural heritage would slowdown, if not stop altogether, the teardown of the buildings and bungalows that make Portland unique.

The 3300 block of Belmont is the kind of streetscape that lures newcomers to Portland’s vintage neighborhoods with main streets even Disney might envy.

Behind the storefronts is a rich historical narrative that residents are plumbing in hopes of saving the block from a planned multi-story glass and steel structure. At a special landuse presentation in March, residents said that the planned demolition of the midblock building threatens the entire block. A petition circulating has more than 5,000 signatures.

The building is perhaps the least architecturally interesting on the block, but residents believe that saving the weakest link, may save the entire block from eventual destruction.

Residents are pinning their hopes on research neighbor Meg Hanson presented indicating that several prominent early Oregonians were among the original owners of the property. Onetime mayoral candidate T.S. McDaniel was chair of Willamette University for 8 years at the turn of the Century and influential in politics.

Hanson’s research is intended to make a case for additional protections of the building. “ We’ve been able to develop a deep and meaningful historic narrative for the building’s original owners, businesses, and tenants from 1895 through 1940.”

City representatives praised her research but said there is no easy way to save the building – or others on the block that lack historic designations. Current zoning allows structures up to 45 feet tall along Belmont. That means one and two-story buildings are likely to come down as four-stories of glass and steel go up.

Read the whole story here on The Southeast Examiner’s website

New project to keep SE Portland bike-friendly!

 

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Neighborhood Greenways are streets that prioritize bicycling and are the backbone of Portland’s bicycle network. SE Clinton has been a Neighborhood Greenway for over 20 years. PBOT is testing traffic management tools to better address auto volume and speed issues that affect the greenway’s safety and comfort.

Phase I of the test is to temporarily place median diverters at 17th and 29th to block east-west auto traffic on Clinton while allowing north-south traffic at those intersections for six months.

This is an attempt to reduce auto traffic volumes on SE Clinton St to meet guidelines for Neighborhood Greenways (less than 1,500 cars/day) and to reduce auto traffic speeds on SE Clinton St to meet guidelines for Neighborhood Greenways (20 mph).

SE Clinton at 17th

SE Clinton at 17th

A Citizens Advisory Committee will review before and after data and community comments to recommend modifications to the Phase I improvements and potential additional traffic calming measures to be implemented in the summer of ‘16 as part of Phase II.

The whole story can be found here on the Southeast Examiner website.

Old school building may help with our homeless population.

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First it was declaring a housing state of emergency last fall, then it was converting unused buildings into temporary homeless shelters.

Now, the city of Portland has taken its creative approach to chipping away at Portland’s homeless problem to a new place, this time to Portland Public Schools.

According to Willamette Week, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is negotiating a deal with PPS Superintendent Carole Smith to turn a school district owned building in Southeast Portland into a homeless shelter. In exchange, the city would continue to provide funding for “school security and student bus passes.”

The building under consideration is a storage building on the campus of the former Washington High School at 1300 Southeast Stark Street. The latter facility underwent an extensive renovation and is now home to the music venue Revolution Hall, as well as business tenants such as New Seasons and Copious Creative.

Check out the whole article here at the Portland Business Journal website.

Tests at OHSU show low health risks related to soil pollution.

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Testing done by officials on Portland soil after high levels of cadmium and arsenic were found in the air show a low risk for residents, officials announced Wednesday.

The Oregon Health Authority, the Department of Environment Quality and the Multnomah County Health Department held a media briefing at 11 a.m. to give an update on the issue.

The officials said that an analysis of soil samples, cancer rates and urine tests show that residents in SE and North Portland, areas where testing showed high levels of toxics, are at low risk for health problems.

Samples of soil from around Bullseye Glass Co. in SE Portland were generally below naturally occurring or “background” levels of heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium and chromium 6, the DEQ said.

As well as the soil showing low levels of metals, lab tests show few cases of cadmium exposure. In a study done, there weren’t elevated rates of metals-related cancers in North Portland.

During testing, the OHA analyzed 247 urine cadmium test results and found that seven samples had detectable levels of cadmium. Two were in children and three of them were at levels requiring clinical follow-up.

“The data released today are very reassuring, but our work is not done,” said Lynne Saxton, OHA Director. “We will continue to gather and report data going forward.”

Read the whole story here