By Representative Rob Nosse

Portland’s Housing Crisis

With the 2016 legislative session approaching, I thought it was a good time to write another column and discuss an issue I hope will be addressed during the legislative session – Portland’s housing crisis. This is especially important for those of us who live in SE Portland. The housing issues have gotten so bad that, in October, the Portland City Council declared a housing emergency. What are the causes?

People are moving here, and the cost of renting an apartment or owning a home is rising too fast. Part of the solution is building additional housing. We need more available housing and apartments to keep pace with the growth in our population and to help get the cost of a house or the rent on an apartment down to something affordable for a working and/or middle class people and their families.

I’ve watched as new housing is constructed and affordable units are demolished or remodeled. I have seen a number of new housing developments particularly on Division and Belmont come in, but unfortunately with nothing affordable for lower and middle income families to either buy or rent.

But the problem is not just high costs and a lack of available housing or apartments. Too many tenants are dealing with large increases in their rent and/or no-cause evictions making it even hard to continue living in this area of town.

Like many of you, I have been personally touched by this problem. In August, Mary Gabelsberger, a 77 year old woman who lived in an apartment not far from the Safeway on Hawthorne Blvd. was given a no-cause eviction. She was featured in a Sunday Oregonian story in October. She had to find a new place to live after living there for 14 years. Luckily, she found a place to live but her rent was over $200 more a month. She attended St. Phil Neri church – the same church I attend.

The city of Portland has proposed steps to manage these problems by instituting 90 day notice for rent increases of more than 5%, and 30-day notices for no-cause evictions.

I appreciate that our city is taking action, but the legislature needs to do its part and help out as well.

One way the legislature can help our city ensure that affordable housing is prioritized is to remove the statewide ban on inclusionary zoning. Allowing for inclusionary zoning would give the city the ability to require housing developers to build some housing or apartment complexes with some units that are more affordable when new developments are contemplated. Oregon and Texas are the only states in the United States that do not allow municipalities to have inclusionary zoning programs.

Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer and Senator Michael Dembrow are working on legislation that would repeal this statewide ban and I plan to support it.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think housing is a problem the legislature should help to address?  Please contact me at 503.986.1442 or at rep.robnosse@state.or.us and share your thoughts. Better yet, attend the Housing Emergency Forum for Portland Metro Area Legislators happening on Saturday, January 9, from 3 to 5 pm located at 10301 NE Glisan St.

Legislators from around the region will hear invited testimony from speakers chosen by community groups working on housing issues. There will be time for the public to speak with legislators and share written comments at the end of the program. I would love to see you there.