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City offers homeownership help as rents continue rising

The Portland Housing Bureau is offering homeownership assistance to former and longterm North and Northeast Portland residents.

Applications are being accepted as Portland rent increases remain the highest in the nation.

The bureau is preparing to accept applications for rental assistance, too.

The home ownership applications are being accepted under an Affordable Housing Preference Policy adopted by the City Council that recognizes past city actions have displaced many residents in the rapidly gentrifying area.

The applications will be taken from May 2 to May 13. Applications are already online and will also be available by mail or at designated application locations.

According to the city, whenever PHB housing in North and Northeast Portland becomes available, the bureau will advertise an open application round for households to apply to receive preference for those openings.

Top priority will be given to households (and their descendants) who owned property that was taken by Portland government during the building of Memorial Coliseum or the expansion of Emanuel Hospital, for example. These are “priority status” households.

For more information and to apply for the Portland Housing Bureau’s home ownership assistance program, visit tinyurl.com/jf42xf6.

Applications can also be requested by writing to: N/NE Preference Waitlist, P.O. Box 28289, Portland, OR 97228.

In the meantime, Portland rent increases are slowing as more new apartment buildings are completed. But the increases are still the highest in the country, according to the biannual Apartment Report released by Multifamily NW on April 26.

The report says rent increases dropped from 13 percent over the past year, the highest in the country then. They increased at an annualized rate of 10.7 percent in the first quarter of 2016.

That's still the highest in the country. Only Sacramento rents increased as fast. First quarter rent increases were less in all other cities.

The report was presented at a Tuesday breakfast held by Multifamily NW, which represent multifamily housing owners in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The first quarter rent increases were included in a presentation by Mark D. Barry, MAI. The small decline corresponds to a slight increase in the rental vacancy rate in Portland from 2.9 percent last fall to 3.5 percent.

The new apartment construction does little to ease the burden on low-income renters because they cannot afford them. In fact, according to Norris Stevens brokerage firm, the new apartments have not kept pace with all the additional people moving to Portland. As a result, rents have risen in older inner city apartments as well, forcing their lower-income tenants out.

"Over the last 3 years, property owners have benefited from one of the most aggressive cycles of rent increases we have seen due to tremendous increases in demand for apartments," Norris Stevens wrote in its Spring 2016 newsletter. "As Oregon and Washington emerges from the economic recession, central neighborhoods have become "magnets for growth." This has forced lower income renters into lower quality and older construction, as their previous residence have been sold and upgraded, and rents increased far beyond the average renter's ability to pay."