The Land Use Leadership Initiative Explores the topic of Affordable Communities

Tara Sulzen
Mon, 04/08/2013 (All day)


Our Land Use Leadership Initiative (LULI) took a tour of North Portland and Cully neighborhoods on Thursday, March 21. LULI Program Coordinator Tara Sulzen reflects on what we learned and discussed. 

As members of the 2013 Land Use Leadership Initiative (LULI) prepared for our affordable housing tour on a recent blustery March afternoon, we began by considering what is considered “affordable” for people of different ages, income levels, cultures and family sizes. This particular tour was for the LULI cohort to consider how housing supply, availability and affordability are planned for at the state, regional and local level, and to visit neighborhoods where significant change in the range of housing options and amenities available has occurred (or is likely to occur in the future), and how that impacts different communities. Professor Lisa Bates of PSU and Jeri Williams of the Office of Neighborhood kicked off our tour by sharing some of what we already know about the significant shortage of affordable housing supply in our region and in Portland, and some thoughts on what can be done about it. Specifically, paying attention to ways to slow displacement and ensure that there is access to housing for people who need it most.

Goal 10 of Oregon’s land use planning program requires all cities to plan and zone land, and take other land use and transportation actions, to meet the housing needs of all citizens.  However, the land use program can provide only some of the tools necessary to ensure affordable housing and communities. In reality cities don’t always have a full range of housing available to meet the need of current and future residents, and therefore they usually need to be more aggressive in their implementation of land use, transportation, and other investments,  and other available tools. 

1000 Friends has successfully advocated for Oregon cities to include land zoned for the full range of housing types and in appropriate locations in their comprehensive plans, including considering location and transportation costs together when evaluating affordability affordable.  1000 Friends also successfully advocated for Metro to adopt this strategy, which  now uses it to determine which areas of the region are most affordable or vulnerable.  This work is backed by the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s Housing + Transportation Affordability Index and studies showing the significant household savings  from locating housing close to transit.

We headed to Legacy Emmanuel Hospital’s exhibit “Acknowledging the Past, Embracing the Future” on the history of neighborhood change and displacement in the Eliot neighborhood. The exhibit (reviewed here by Casey Parks with The Oregonian) powerfully told the story of how urban renewal and the hospital’s expansion plans divided the community and displaced thousands of long-time residents. 

Next Jeri led us through the Mississippi/Albina district, pointing out homes where long time renters had to leave because of rising costs, houses that had been sold at very low cost during a time of blight, later to be redeveloped into expensive apartments. While in North Portland, we heard from Candace Jamison, 2013 LULI member who works with Home Forward. She discussed the ways the city is working to provide affordable housing, prevent foreclosures, and provide rent assistance so residents can stay in their homes or receive new housing if needed.

This provided some important context for our final stop in the Cully neighborhood with Hacienda CDC and Alderwood Community Planning, a student group working with Living Cully. On our tour of the recently redeveloped Villa de Clara Vista with Hacienda CDC, we were all impressed by the deliberate strategies Hacienda employs to prioritize green buildingand family-oriented design and to prevent displacement. As we explored the Cully neighborhood, our cohort discussed how public investments to spur job growth could impact housing affordability and considered opportunities for communities to respond. The Alderwood Community Planning student group talked with us about their project to work with Cully residents to develop a set of strategies for slowing displacement and gentrification in the Cully neighborhood. 

We wrapped up our tour with reflections on how state level policy impacts affordable housing, and the importance of coalitions such as Neighborhood Partnerships and Connecting Communities Oregon to advocate for policy reform to ensure access to affordable housing for everyone. This new coalition is bringing together groups impacted by a lack of affordable housing, and organizations committed to repealing the ban on Inclusionary Zoning, including 1000 Friends.  Here you will find the testimony of 1000 Friends on HB 2890, which would remove the current ban on Inclusionary Zoning.

In the coming months, the Land Use Leadership Initiative cohort will head to Aloha-Reedville and to East Portland to continue exploring the relationship between investments in job growth, transportation infrastructure, and new housing and find ways to effectively advocate for policy solutions to support vibrant communities across our region.



·         Learn more about the Land Use Leadership Initiative program, and read bios of the participants in the 2013 program.

·         Learn more about the Inclusionary Zoning Ban here