AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOUSING for the poorest people in Portland's downtown core has decreased 23 percent in the last three years, despite a city policy aiming to preserve it—according to a report just issued by the Portland Development Commission (PDC).

The report is issued every three years to check the progress of the city's "No Net Loss" affordable housing policy. It shows that housing for people earning zero to 50 percent of the "median family income" has fallen considerably—in Oregon, median family income is $67,500 for a family of four, or $54,000 for a family of two. Meanwhile, housing for those at 50 percent or more of the median income has remained relatively stable.

"The way the report is worded, it only says that the city is on track to meet its affordable housing goals," says Michael Anderson with the Oregon Opportunity Network. "But the statistics don't bear that out, if you look beneath the surface."

Anderson says PDC has historically been defensive on the issue of affordable housing because of its primary role as an economic development agency—he hopes the city's new housing commissioner, Nick Fish, can push the issue more aggressively over the coming months. "It's fair to say that in the past, PDC staff have been given two sets of opposing directives on this issue," says Anderson.

"There's some good news and some bad news," says Fish, about the report. "Clearly, the need for affordable housing is growing, especially in this recession and following the housing boom of the last few years."

Fish says his office is working to build 550 "No Net Loss" housing units in the downtown core over the next two years, including 130 units above the planned Resource Access Center for the homeless, 138 units in the Pearl District, and 176 units in the Rose Quarter. "Let's look back in two years and see the progress on those plans," says Fish.