City doubles budget for affordable housing grants

The Portland Housing Bureau received 19 applications from developers for funds to construct affordable housing.

The city will award a total of $26 million in grants as well as a vacant parcel of land near the Oregon Convention Center in the annual process.

The figure is more than double the $11 million available a year ago, a result chiefly of the vagaries of tax increment financing generated through the city’s urban renewal districts.

The city will award $2 million in federal funds, which may be invested anywhere in the city. The balance will be split between projects targeting the Oregon Convention Center urban renewal district and the River district urban renewal district. The housing bureau will also award a development site at Northeast Second and Wasco. Known as the “King Crusher” site, it is two blocks north of the Oregon Convention Center, next to the Calastoga Terrace retirement center.

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Karl Dinkelspiel, program coordinator for the housing bureau, said the city will spend about two months evaluating the projects according to strict criteria. The money targets projects catering to Portland residents earning 60 percent or less of the area's median family income, or $41,600 for a family of four.

It will take six to 18 months to close a deal and start construction.

City grant funds typically serve as a catalyst, helping developers secure additional state, federal and nonprofit grants as well as bank loans and other funds to complete projects.

The tax increment funds are part of a city policy to set aside a portion of the Portland Development Commission’s budget for affordable housing.

City Commissioner Nick Fish said he was pleased the amount more than doubled in 2012.

“We believe that everyone deserves a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home. These public dollars will support our number one investment priority: funding new affordable homes and preserving our current inventory,” he said in a statement.

Portland Business Journal subscribers can read more about what the increase in funding means for affordable housing in Friday’s paper.

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