Low-income housing: Can I apply?

Life in Portland can be very expensive. The median income for a single resident in the greater metropolitan area for 2007 is $46,850, making the asking price of $875 per month (before utilities) at the swanky on-campus Southpark Square sound reasonable.

Life in Portland can be very expensive. The median income for a single resident in the greater metropolitan area for 2007 is $46,850, making the asking price of $875 per month (before utilities) at the swanky on-campus Southpark Square sound reasonable. However, most students attending Portland State live on loans or scholarships. Spending over $1000 per month after utilities—not to mention tuition, books and food—is not an option. Thankfully, Portland has a thriving low-income housing market.

Low-income housing, or affordable housing, is defined by federal standards as housing that costs its residents no more than 30 percent of their total annual earnings. One of the qualifications for residency in a low-income unit is that a tenant may not annually earn more than 60 percent of an area’s median income. For a single resident in Portland, that equates to a maximum income of $23,750 per year in order to qualify for low-income housing.

There’s another hitch for college students: according to Section 42 housing regulations (Sec. 42 housing is a bureaucratic way of saying affordable housing), students enrolled in 12 or more credit hours are ineligible for low-income units. Moreover, part-time students are generally frowned upon by low-income landlords (because they often have parents with money), so be sure to apply for your housing according strictly to income from student loans and part-time jobs if you have one.
If you plan to live with a roommate who doesn’t take more than 12 credits—student or otherwise—then you can live in any low-income housing unit that will accept your application. For students who don’t mind sharing a bedroom, or students who want to live alone and are enrolled in less than 12 credits, here is a rundown of single bedroom low-income units near campus. A very nearby apartment complex is the Jefferson Plaza, located at 1515 S.W. Jefferson St. They have single bedroom units starting at $675 per month for 550 square feet with cable and a bathtub. Smoking and pets aren’t allowed. Laundry machines are touch-and-go, according to prior tenants, so expect to hoof back and forth between your place and a laundromat. There are no income restrictions.

All apartments listed here include the cost of water, sewage and trash utilities in their monthly rent, and the costs for heating, electricity and Internet are determined by unit size and location. Also, application approval times for low-income housing are notoriously long, so submit your application soon and hope for a speedy process.

Southwest Portland

This is the most convenient area of town for a student, with PSU’s campus just blocks away. The MAX lines are very close by, as are most TriMet bus lines, so commuting is easy. It isn’t the quietest or most posh living Portland offers, but there are plenty of dining and entertainment spots nearby. Most of the apartments within a stone’s throw of campus can break a student’s meager bank, but here are some of the nearby options for students living on a budget.

Also nearby is the ultra-affordable Fountain Place, located at 929 S.W. Salmon St. The whole complex is designated affordable housing space, and it has several studios with 200 to 560 square feet for no more than $575 per month. There are also plenty of single bedrooms with 600 to 800 square feet for around $730 a month. Laundry facilities are onsite and smoking is allowed, though pets are not. Income restrictions vary by unit, though the restriction never drops below 40 percent of single-resident median income ($18,740).

South of Southwest Portland

If you don’t mind a bus ride to school, consider the Town & Country Apartments located at 4820 S.W. Barbur Blvd. The TriMet 12 bus route runs constantly between Barbur and campus, making the commute about 10 minutes in traffic. A typical 800-square-foot, one bedroom unit is $655 per month, and there is a pool for residents and guests. These apartments allow small pets and have laundry facilities onsite, as well as dishwashers in each room. It’s much quieter than the hubbub of downtown life and easier to visit, as there is more parking, but be warned: after 10 p.m. it’s hard to find entertainment or a good restaurant within several miles. There are no income restrictions.

Northwest Portland

If you want to feel like a true downtown resident without paying downtown costs, there are plenty of affordable housing options north of campus. The Victorian, located at 225 W. Burnside, is a very thrifty choice and about 15 minutes of walking time from campus. A one-bedroom boasting 480 square feet is $600 per month, and there is laundry and smoking in the building. The parking sucks, it’s right off of a very noisy street and there are no pets allowed, but you won’t find a cheaper apartment between Burnside and N.W. 23rd, arguably the hippest and most bustling area in all of Portland. The Victorian does have income restrictions, though the application approval time is much shorter than most affordable housing units.

A bit farther north is Lovejoy Station, located at 1040 N.W. 10th Ave. Single bedrooms here are between 550 square feet for $680 per month and 730 square feet for $800 per month. Again, there are low-income restrictions here, so be sure you earn less than $23,750 per year before applying. In exchange for your light annual earnings, you’ll get a dishwasher, ceiling fan, a place to park your bike, access to laundry facilities and a gym, and possibly a patio. A walk to campus includes a trip across Burnside and takes a minimum of 20 minutes, so living here requires good time management skills. It also requires being patient: this place has notoriously bad management.

Beyond Downtown

There are literally hundreds of affordable housing options strewn across our fair city, and detailing them all would take up more pages than this guide has available. Your best bet is to contact a management group like the Housing Authority of Portland, who controls most of the affordable housing units in town. The group hosts an online resource, www.housingconnection.org, which shows their property portfolio and income restriction data. Just select a neighborhood, a price range and how much space you want, and before you know it, you’ll be living cheap and easy in the City of Roses, ready to go to class and have a place to get hammered … er, study… afterwards.