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Posted on: September 22, 2017

Council’s Housing Committee to Discuss Potential New Policy Tools at September 26 Meeting


The City Council’s Housing Committee will hear a presentation from staff at its Tuesday, September 26 meeting regarding new housing policy tools to help address affordability of the housing market and housing policy in general. The package being proposed entails a comprehensive approach to both the rental and homeownership sectors. While they will need further vetting, they are intended to provide a solid basis for housing policy going forward. The agenda will include an overview of the proposed concepts followed by Q & A and potential requests to develop additional information. The Committee will not take action on the proposals and does not plan to take public comment at this preliminary discussion. The meeting begins at 5:30 PM in Room 209 of City Hall. 

“Our Housing Committee has moved forward new policies related to housing insecurity, short term rentals, and affordable housing zoning incentives,” said Councilor Jill Duson, Chair of the Housing Committee. “At the same time, staff has been researching additional concepts. We are now ready to roll these ideas out for review and discussion. The goal being to expand the tools we have available to impact the safety, affordability and availability of housing throughout the city. We hope residents will take a look at the staff memo on the City website and join the Committee for this preliminary exploration of a whole host of potential new tools to address our housing challenges.” 

The tools related to home ownership include:

  • Development of a strategic homeownership assistance program through a public-private partnership to address impediments to first time home buying, such as private mortgage insurance. 
  • A foreclosure prevention program that might provide emergency grants to those low-income homeowners in risk of foreclosure. 

The tools related to rental housing include: 

  • Enhancing the successful Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA), using a combination of City funds and federal funds. The current TBRA program is funded with HOME funding. The program provides security deposits, short-term rental assistance and utility allowances for individuals and families, at or below 60% of the AMI, who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. The use of new local funds would enable the City to provide assistance to those households that do not meet the household income limits established in the federal programs, and provide assistance to additional households. 
  • Funding housing programs such as TBRA and the City’s Housing Trust in part through an increase in the Condominium Fees. While the exact fee would be set through additional study, it would potentially represent a significant increase.
  • Review the Condominium Conversion Ordinance to assess whether the tenant notice and relocation assistance requirements are being followed and increase tenant notice times. 
  • Development of a hotel linkage fee to fund city programs such as TBRA and the Housing Trust. Following a model used in other New England cities, there would be an impact fee developed for new hotels that would account for the demands they place on workforce housing need. Since 2013, Portland experienced a roughly 39% increase in the number of hotel units. 

Other policy ideas include exploring the formation of a Portland Community Land Trust that would get consideration for surplus property for housing development; revisit the City’s existing housing rehabilitation programs to make sure they are working effectively; and consider getting a Housing Advisory Board, based on models in other cities, consisting of housing professionals with tenant and landlord representation, to help City staff and Councilors make informed policy decisions. 

The memo with the full details on these housing policy tools can be found here

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