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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lents Stadium Budget: Affordable Housing vs. Small Business

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Sat, Jun 6, 2009 at 4:36 PM

The Portland Development Commission released some numbers yesterday that neighbors have been waiting for - three budget scenarios for the Lents Beaver's stadium deal. The power is in the hands of the Lents Urban Renewal Committee to decide whether they should delay $42.3 million in planned projects and use the money to fund one big, hopefully catalytic project for the neighborhood, the new Triple-A stadium. Now, at least, they have some semi-solid numbers to work with.

One of the most controversial parts of the budget is cutting the area's required 30 percent set-aside for affordable housing. Deal supporters point out that the neighborhood already has a large amount of affordable housing, critics say funneling money from homeowner and rent-assistance programs to the stadium will hurt seniors and other low-income people.

So the PDC wrote up three draft budget ideas. The budget spells out exactly what services Lents would lose by funding the stadium and essentially asks the neighbors to choose between funding affordable housing or partially funding all other urban renewal projects.

If the urban renewal committee decides to fund the stadium and its current rate of affordable housing, its will have to slice all parks projects, street paving projects and storefront improvement plans. "PDC would likely have no tools to assist small businesses or do business recruitment and retention," the budget says. Yikes.

That budget is especially alarming because major economists agree that stadium projects only revitalize neighborhoods when coupled with overall neighborhood development projects — exactly the kind of projects the city would be cutting.

More on the budget below the cut.

You should really check out the short budget report for all the details, but here's the three budget scenarios in brief:

1. Pay $42.3 million for the stadium and keep the 30% funding for affordable housing, but cut all other urban renewal programs for five years. After five years, some amount of the small business and neighborhood development projects would start up again.
2. Pay $42.3 million for the stadium, but only keep 15% of the budget toward affordable housing. All other programs would be cut by 72 percent and partially restored after five years.
3. Pay $42.3 million for the stadium, keep only 15% of the housing budget and get a $15 million loan. All other programs would only be cut by 43 percent and eventually partially restored.

Commissioner Randy Leonard and Mayor Adams say they can reduce the 30% of the urban renewal budget Lents is supposed to set aside for affordable housing by bending the law — other urban renewal areas could build more affordable housing to make up for Lents building less than its required amount.

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