Check out this tag on the Albert Apartments construction site on North Williams:


Eighteen of the Albert's 72 apartments are supposed to be priced for low-income folks, but the tag gets at a big question that's been in the news this week: Where should the city build affordable housing?

The Oregonian dug up an alarming stat last weekend: 93 percent of the city's new affordable housing is east of 82nd. That indicates that the way we handle affordable housing in Portland is making the city more economically (and racially) segregated.

Yesterday, affordable housing group Home Forward responded in the editorial section. Their basic argument is that if they continue to fund affordable housing projects in more expensive parts of town—like downtown and the inner eastside—they would have to serve fewer people. And isn't the most important thing to get as many needy people as possible into housing?

A hot rental market has driven rents skyward. This is an economic problem for a program designed to subsidize moderate rents. Before the housing bubble, rents in every area of Multnomah County were affordable for [Section 8] voucher holders. By 2009, rents in downtown Portland were out of reach. For the first time, we raised subsidy levels in a submarket. We did so again earlier this year after market data showed the inner eastside was becoming unaffordable to voucher holders. When we raise subsidies in some areas to preserve choice, we do so at the expense of serving fewer people. With thousands of families, seniors and persons with disabilities on our waiting lists, this is a very difficult decision for us.

This is exactly the issue on Williams. The area has gentrified, with many long-time African-American residents moving out to East Portland as rents increase. What role should local governments play in helping lower-income residents share in the benefits as neighborhoods get safer and nicer to live in? (I have no idea)