[Posted July 20, 2020]
At their June 17 meeting the Portland City Council approved zoning code changes, dropping costly conditional use review requirements, that will make it easier for the 19 faith or community groups who applied to build affordable housing on their property. Also included in the changes are provisions to allow the approved property owners to repurpose up to 50% of their parking area for affordable housing and to add up 2,000 sq ft of nonresidential use without conditional use review.
St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Dosch Rd., applied for the zoning change to allow it to partner with a developer to build 5-7 townhomes that would be priced at about half of the going rate for most houses in Hillsdale. The new homes, proposed for what are now parking lots on the east and west sides of Dosch Rd., would be owned by qualifying individuals or households.
Habitat for Humanity and Greater Portland Bible Church also applied for and were granted zoning exceptions for an affordable housing development already under development at 2374 SW Vermont St.
John Calhoun, a congregation member who is spearheading the effort, says, “We are trying to provide modestly-priced housing to make it easier for people just starting out to buy a home in the neighborhood. St. Andrews is not interested in developing and managing rental properties.”
Amendments to the code as approved by the City Council stipulate that at least 50% of the new housing units must be “affordable” in order to qualify under the new rules. Calhoun and St. Andrews are now grappling with what the affordability requirement means for the economics of the project and how it might constrain the options for development partners.
Calhoun points out that faith group property owners must apply for the new code exceptions. He hopes that St. Andrews’ experience with this new program can pave the way for other churches in Portland to take advantage of this new opportunity to build more affordable housing.
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