In February 2017, the City of Portland implemented a strong tool for housing justice which OPAL and a team of local housing experts helped design: Inclusionary Housing. OPAL’s expertise, rooted in our deep engagement of low-income communities and communities of color, informs our housing advocacy. Inclusionary Housing, given time, can reduce racial and economic segregation and make new developments accessible to our communities. But before Portland won Inclusionary Housing, developers rushed more than 19,000 units of housing into the permitting queue, exempting them from the new protections and placing them out of reach for communities of color. This contrasts with the 5,000 units in an average year leading up to the policy.
We knew that developers would try to deceive the public about Inclusionary Housing, and we’re seeing those dirty tricks now. Some developers, blinded by greed, don’t see any responsibility to create housing for people at all income levels. They point to low numbers of permits this last year to claim inclusionary housing made new building impossible. But the thousands of units already in the queue from the previous year mean developers didn’t need to file in this last year in order to keep building and making money. It’s dishonest, plain and simple.
We’re asking City Council to preserve Portland’s Inclusionary Housing ordinance. A single year of the policy, with an intentional, calculated effort to create a backlog of development applications clouding the analysis, has only begun to demonstrate the effectiveness of Inclusionary Housing in Portland. Some developers have filed permits to build Inclusionary Housing units, proving it is possible to follow the law, develop a mix of affordable and market rate units, and earn a profit. We must let the policy work as intended and lead to more affordable housing development. We reject the false claims of profit-driven developers.
Most housing advocates recognize that low-income people deserve housing options Inclusionary Housing ensures those options exist. Anyone committed to providing housing for multiple income levels and ending the state housing crisis should work to ease statewide restrictions on the tool, involving the many experts who weighed in on the original policy at the state and city. Until then, Portland City Council must maintain Inclusionary Housing’s effort to instill strong protections to secure economically and racially diverse communities.