TERESA L. HEASLEY was stuck for a year on the Housing Authority of Portland's (HAP) long waitlist for affordable housing. She, her husband, and their two kids squeezed into Heasley's mother-in-law's house in Southeast Portland, sharing the packed space with eight other people. Finally, a letter from HAP arrived, asking her to choose her very own three-bedroom apartment off their list of low-rent properties.
"It was wonderful," she recalls outside the Dekum Court apartment in Northeast Portland she chose. Heasley and her family have lived there for seven years now.
HAP's 2,600 affordable apartments throughout the city are in such high demand that the group closed its waitlist to new applicants two years ago, after the average wait for a home grew to more than 24 months. Now, HAP is opening its waitlist again for a brief window of time.
The waiting list opened last Wednesday, June 18. Within four days, over 2,000 hopeful households signed up, according to HAP Director of Real Estate Operations Dianne Quast. At that rate, Quast estimated the list might close again at the end of the month, perhaps for years. Families and individuals must have good references from former landlords as well as income less than 80 percent of the area median (or less than $54,300 total for a family of four) to qualify for HAP's housing. The wait for a three bedroom apartment can be two years.
The opening of the waitlist is "both good news and bad news" says Michael Anderson, policy director for affordable housing nonprofit Community Development Network. "It's good for those who are in immediate need of housing, but it's also a reflection of the bad state of affairs that the housing infrastructure is in."
Anderson blames the housing shortfall on the high price of real estate and the fact that federal funding for affordable housing has decreased precipitously over the past 30 years. In Anderson's estimation, Portland needs to build 16,000 more affordable apartments and houses in the city.