PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) – The Portland Housing Bureau has opened a record number of government-supported housing units for families earning less than the area median income. But Portlanders who do not qualify for such housing are having a harder time finding an affordable place to live.

This is the main takeaway from the “2022 State of Housing in Portland” report released by the bureau on Wednesday, March 22. It found that despite unprecedented growth in the construction of so-called affordable housing projects, most Portlanders are having a harder time meeting increasing rents or mortgage payments.

“This year’s report comes at a critical time in Portland’s housing landscape. While the city continues to grapple with the lingering effects of the pandemic, an affordable housing shortage, deepening disparities and a housing market that continues to leave nearly half of all renters cost-burdened, the city also faces a ‘perfect storm’ of market conditions that are making housing less affordable, including rising inflation and interest rates,” Housing Commissioner Carmen Rubio said in a release accompanying the report.

According to the release, since the City Council first declared a Housing Emergency on 2015, the bureau has opened and preserved more than 4,300 units of affordable housing, providing homes to an estimated 8,720 low-income Portlanders. The bureau currently has more than 3,400 additional units in the pipeline, which will house another 6,300 people in the coming years. And since 2017, nearly 1,000 affordable units, open or in permitting, have been created in the private market through Portland’s Inclusionary Housing Program that requires a certain number of units in qualifying new apartments to be affordable to lower-income households.

“I am encouraged to see how we as a city have responded to these issues with the urgency they demand,” Rubio said, “and that we have continued to set ambitious goals to meet these challenges head on.”

At the same time, from 2021 to 2022, average rents increased by 3.7 percent, and median home sale prices citywide increased 17 percent from 2016, reaching $525,000 in 2021. Meanwhile, rental vacancy rates have decreased from 6.4 percent in 2021 to 6 percent in 2022.

“No neighborhood in Portland is affordable to an average Black household seeking a two-bedroom unit for rent. Other BIPOC groups fare somewhat better, but several neighborhoods are out of reach for all ethnic groups, including white households. Very few neighborhoods are affordable to senior households, and none are affordable for households led by single mothers. Half of all Portland renters are cost burdened, paying over 30% of their income in rent. One in four pays over half their income in rent,” the release said.

The release said the report is only one step in efforts by Rubio’s office and various bureaus “to better understand and address the complex issues contributing to Portland’s housing crisis.” During this calendar year, they will be conducting studies and issuing reports on: the overarching cost-drivers in housing; local cost-drivers compared to other cities; the performance of the Inclusionary Housing policy; and the types of housing Portlanders will need. This foundational work will build into the development of a housing production strategy led by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability later this year.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 media partner.