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PDC Hearts the Poor

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For months, city council has blasted the Portland Development Commission (PDC) for not doing enough to build housing for poor people, who are being pushed out of the city by gentrification. PDC has finally responded with a proposal, but housing activists say the agency is still coming up short.

Wednesday, October 11, the PDC's board of commissioners will consider a proposal put together by its housing department that will attempt to meet city council's goal that 30 percent of all urban renewal dollars be spent on affordable housing.

Affordable housing advocates, however, see the PDC's recommendation as still lacking in a few places. "Their proposal isn't everything we wanted," says Sam Chase, head of the Community Development Network. Specifically, he pointed out that the PDC hasn't included income guidelines in their plans—advocates want to see the PDC focus their affordable housing dollars on residents who make zero to 60 percent of the median family income. Without those guidelines, the fear is that PDC will spend the money on higher-margin projects focused on people who make 80 percent or more of the median. For its part, PDC says it will include those guidelines in a later report, and City Commissioner Erik Sten says he's willing to give the agency 45 days to come back with a proposal.

Additionally, Chase is concerned that the proposal doesn't include any enforcement measures. Currently, if the PDC misses the 30 percent, nothing happens.

But Sten points out that, as it stands, the council has no final authority over PDC's budget, limiting its enforcement powers. As with the income guidelines, Sten says he's confident that the details can be worked out after city council officially approves the 30 percent set aside.

"This is a huge win that we're going to get next week," Sten says. "And then we can push on these issues later."

Regardless of the outcome of this week's PDC meeting, city council is set to approve the 30 percent set aside on Wednesday, October 18. Three of the five commissioners are on record as supporting the strict requirements.

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