In housing, ‘different ways to define affordable’

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As rent prices in the Portland area continue to skyrocket, many new affordable and low-income housing complexes have started popping up all over the city.

But even these new, low-cost housing alternatives are still too expensive for some.

Now, many are wondering what the term ‘affordable’ actually means.

“There’s different ways to define affordable,” Alysa Rose, CEO of Portland Habilitation Center Northwest said. “Of course, what’s affordable to one person may not be affordable to the next.”

Alysa Rose, CEO of Portland Habilitation Center Northwest, says 'affordable' has a different meaning for everyone. (KOIN)

Affordable housing is defined in several ways: One is cost relative to income. Another is cost relative to the market rate of a similar apartment.

But a majority of people agree, if you have to spend more than 30% of your monthly income on rent, then where you’re living is not affordable.

Developer Rob Justus says new apartments on SE 171st and Division qualify as affordable because they are priced well below market value.

“What we call ‘minis’, that rent for $395, something like that would be twice as much,” Justus explained.

For a similar studio nearby, Justus says renters pay $700 or more every month.

A 1-bedroom unit at the new affordable housing complex goes for $625 a month, and a 2-bedroom unit rents for $775.

New affordable housing complex complex requires tenants make no more than 60% the median family income. (KOIN)

While those may be cheaper options for some, is it fair to consider them ‘affordable’?

“People do have access to other vouchers through services and we do accept those vouchers,” Rose said.

According to PCH Northwest, the complex requires tenants make no more than 60% the median family income, which is around $50,000 a year. That comes out to around $30,000 a year, or $2,500 a month, in income.

A family who brings in that much money would be expected to pay $750 a month for rent, just under what a 2-bedroom goes for in the new complex.

While the PCH Northwest apartments may not be affordable for everyone, the complex is being built by Central City Concern for families vulnerable to homelessness.

“The families we focus on are much lower income levels to no income, and that’s what we mean by affordability,” Central City Concern Executive Director Ed Blackburn said.

While the definition of affordable is subjective, the bar continues to rise in the Portland area as the supply for housing continues to lag behind demand.

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