1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: alan@teleport.com
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 14:40:00 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: RE: [CPEO-BIF] Urban-Growth Boundaries & Housing Affordability:=20
[Alan Hipolito from the Urban League in Portland asked me to forward this
to the Brownfields Internet Forum]

Interesting stuff.  I'd like to lay a couple of things out for your=20
consideration, although I'll preface these remarks by saying that I've not
read the report, and am familiar only with the quotes in your email to Joey
Lyons.  I am not going to deny that we have a shortage of affordable
housing in POrtland;  it is a very serious problem. =20
HOwever, my understanding is that most cities in the country are=20
experiencing severe shortages in affordable housing (I recall reports of
the long waiting lists for HUD/Section 8 Housing).  So, the issue is not
whether POrtland lacks affordable housing; rather, it is to what degree
does the Urban Growth Boundary bear responsibility for that shortage. As I
said, I've not read this report, but earlier ones (I believe) were
inconclusive -- maintaining that the boundary likely has some effect, but
in concert with the other, possibly more significant factors that influence
housing affordability in other areas. =20
Additionally, I think it is important to look at the source of data.  For
example, Portland (and other Oregon cities) are often included at or near
the top of an annual ranking of housing affordability.  Upon closer
examination, one discovers that the publishers of that annual ranking are
homebuilders associations.  Indeed, there are other reasons to be skeptical
of the rankings' accuracy, as (for example) cities with very similar
housing costs and median area incomes (e.g., Portland and Salt Lake City)
somehow achieve very different rankings.
Again, I'm not saying we don't have a housing affordability problem in=20
Portland; we really, really do.  And, it's reasonable to presume that an
artificial constraint on the availability of land -- such as an Urban
Growth Boundary -- can have a negative impact on housing=20
affordability.  The difficulty arises when a focus on the Boundary serves
to deflect attention away from other factors also known to have this
negative impact.
Finally, there is another aspect of this picture that is incomplete.
First, let us recognize that other types of smartgrowth efforts -- infill
development, lightrail construction, brownfields cleanup, and other
reinvestments in low income communities -- can dramatically inflate housing
values and rents and displace low income people and people of color.  A
challenge is also an opportunity.  Correspondingly, a great deal of the
non-profit sector's Smartgrowth efforts in POrtland have endeavored to use
the regional planning process as a solution to affordable housing problems
(and, in our case, an anti-gentrification tool), and these regional
solutions could be more effective than the "stick all the affordable
housing in one place" approach utilized elsewhere.  These groups have had
some successes.  Initially, METRO's (our regional government) 2040 Plan
(meant to guide the growth of the region until that date) contained no
reference to affordable housing.  Because of collaborative advocacy from
the COaltion for a Livable Future and others, the 2040 Plan now devotes an
entire chapter to affordable housing as a regional issue, including such
things as setting fair share targets for each of the region's
jusrisdictions, thereby trying to avoid the situation where a person of
lesser means cannot afford to live in the area that otherwise sees fit to
allow them to work at the stores, offices, etc serving those people who do
live that area.
As I've said before to you and Tori, I think that Smartgrowth is the key
environmental justice issue for the foreseeable future; accordingly, I'm
not out to minimize the real risks that Smartgrowth presents to
environmental justice communities.  If Ej groups and other traditional
civil rights organizations meaningfully engage this process, and in doing
so create opportunities for low income people and people of color to access
and impact the that process, then a real potential exists to correct the
disproportionate, negative environmental impacts suffered by inner city
residents and prevent those residents' displacement from that valuable
inner city land.
Thanks for letting me rant.
Alan Hip=F3lito
Director, Environmental Programs
Urban League of Portland
10 North Russell
Portland, OR  97227
Ph: 503/280-2628
Fx: 503/281-2612

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