News Aug 9, 2012 at 4:00 am

The "Rich Block" Aims to Make Old Town More Like the Pearl


I may inject a bit of skepticism into an economic prediction from 2007.
As the developer, I'd like to clarify a few points. First, a single person making 60% of area median income earns $30,660/year. Second, Innovative Housing is a nonprofit, affordable housing developer that owns and operates over 840 affordable rental units in the Portland region, including 95 studio apartments for very low-income singles one block away from the Rich Block. Third, IHI's goal with this project is to provide attractive, conveniently located workforce housing that is affordable to a wide range of people who work and want to live downtown but are priced out of areas like the Pearl.

Innovative Housing is a member of this community (our offices are in Old Town/Chinatown) and we are very committed to helping this incredibly vibrant neighborhood develop in a balanced way that provides a variety of housing options while preserving critical affordable housing for our neighbors with little or no income. Our mission requires no less.

Sarah Stevenson
Executive Director
Yeah...The Merc screwed the pooch on this article and their tone of righteous indignation--unsurprisingly, might I add.

Are these 34 units (25.5 of which are low-income housing) displacing existing low-income housing? The article does not specify. My assumption is that this development is actually ADDING housing to the neighborhood, currently plagued by low vacancy rates.

And what is with Israel Bayer's quote? Who is the "we" that he refers to, and why is it so important for impoverished people to live in the downtown core?

The only people those (terrible) clubs attract are Beaverton douchebags. I don't see a great demand from "chicer, younger demographic".
I know this probably doesn't resonate with the vast majority of the Portlandites who don't live in downtown, and by proxy who are not surrounded by the effects of this ill conceived idea that artificially creating a "low-income" core in downtown is a good idea, but how about we just let the free market takes its course. Build and price units at a point at which people are willing to pay... I know I know... I'm a capitalist pig.
What is it with Portland and trying to preserve a neighborhood in the absolute center of the city for poor people and drug addicts? Wake Up Portland!!! Old Town/ Chinatown has amazing potential if you let it happen! It still has historic buildings, it is located in a prime area between the Burnside and Steel bridges (quick, easy access to the east side), adjacent to the riverfront park, between downtown and the Pearl, and it even has a world class Chinese Garden. It is an absolute prime area of the city, or at least it could be, if Portland wasn’t so adamant about preserving their homeless/SRO haven. It can't help any poor person or drug addict to live with all the other homeless or drug dealers. How about integrated housing spread out around the city? How about developing housing in Old Town/ Chinatown that is market rate that might bring in businesses besides night clubs for the suburban teenagers? The city desperately needs to develop this area, but not with buildings that are only 25% market rate and with only units under 350 sf. The plan as I understand it was that OT/CT housing was supposed to be balanced with a 50/50 balance of low income and market rate. The city decision makers have let the social service agencies run the show and lost sight of this goal. The entire downtown Portland area is suffering because of it.
I have never understood the resistance to projects like this. What I think is missing from the logic is this: How are the homeless any worse off after this project is complete? How is anyone any worse off if the neighborhood gentrifies?

People act like the City has a duty to dedicate some section of the downtown core to the homeless, but it's never been made clear to my why that is true. Housing is not a zero sum situation. When a neighborhood gentrifies, low income housing will still exist elsewhere. Those that can't afford to remain there will have to move. I can't afford to live in the neighborhood that I want to live in either. It's not that big of a deal.
1) Where are you getting your income data from? I believe you're conflating household income with that of individual (or per capita) income levels. Per the US Census for Portland (city):…
Median household income 2006-2010: $48,831

Per capita is about 29k...

Remember, "household" is all members including non-family in a house. Individual, is well, an individual.

2) More housing units being built = lower prices for people to pay. Simple supply and demand equation.

3) These units are just what some Portlanders need. Affordable, small, and next to transit.

4) Basic math: A person making $12 an hour can afford this unit right in the city. That's phenomenal, I think.

5) A great way to build an unsafe neighborhood is to concentrate poverty next to each other. We need to be conscious about the cost of housing while understanding we should avoid placing all income levels into one neighborhood, particularly in poorer neighborhoods. The projects built during the 50s and 60s are the best case study we have. We know it doesn't work, no reason to even bother doing it.

Gentrification is a tricky scenario, but you cannot have improvement in a neighborhood without gentrification. I think the city and non-profits (like this developer!) should strive to offer affordable housing units (like this development is doing!) without concentrating poor people together too much.

This is really a sloppy article and it bugs me because this non-profit developing these units has a great portfolio. There's too much good going on with this project to be taken down by knee-jerk cynicism from the so called "advocates" on housing policy that like to pontificate on topics rather than really look at the big picture.

Get over yourselves.
As a single person living in Portland, if I made over $55k/yr, no way in hell would I rent a 350 sq ft apartment. This is not NYC - it's Portland. Specifically Old Town. Gratned, a price point is not listed for said 200-350 sq ft apartments (apartments or small rooms??) and I'm assuming the worst. I'm all for fixing up Old Town and attracting less drug activity but at what cost? Are we going to be charging $900/mn for 200sq ft "apartments"? Blah.
the truly homeless are living in tents out in the woods, and why they would want to sooooo bad is because they love the scenery and the drugs are soooo good. And they beg in the streets and people give them money.

Please wait...

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