News | Oregon

Portland Audit: Urban Renewal Areas Paying Dividends

OPB | Dec. 13, 2012 3:08 p.m.

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A new audit suggests Portland’s Urban Renewal Areas weathered the recession a bit better than other parts of the city.

Certain blighted parts of Oregon cities are designated Urban Renewal Areas,  or URAs.   City leaders extend a complex tax diversion in those areas to help them spruce up. Local property taxes are diverted to neighborhood improvements. And when prosperous times come, the tax money must be used to pay off the cost of the improvements, plus interest. 

Office of the City Auditor, Portland

Drummond Kahn with the Portland Auditor’s office says several different indicators are positive in the URAs.  “Just as an example, in the URAs we studied, the number of private sector jobs was up 18 percent, wages up by 29 percent. And that compares to citywide numbers of job losses, of 10 percent during that period.”

Wages and real estate values were generally higher as well, compared with three control group neighborhoods outside urban renewal areas. 

Office of the City Auditor, Portland

But Kahn says the Urban Renewal Area designation is not necessarily the reason the areas have thrived. The audit also suggests that the success of urban renewal should not be judged solely by these indicators. 

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