City News

Council may take next step in making homelessness a protected class in Salem

Salem city councilors on Monday will consider changes to the city code to make housing status a protected class under city law.


The council began the process of amending the city code in January with language saying it’s illegal to discriminate against someone in selling or renting property, public accommodation or employment simply because they don’t have housing.

Angelo Arredondo, chair of the Human Rights Commission, told Salem Reporter at the time that the change was spurred by the results of the commission’s annual discrimination survey where homeless people surveyed reported facing harassment daily. The ordinance takes an education-first approach, and allows the commission to collect reports and educate business owners, but doesn’t carry fines for violations.

The council will hold a first reading Monday of an ordinance making changes to the human rights portion of the city code. The changes would become final if the council approves them following a second reading at a later meeting.

Councilors will also consider changing the city’s tax incentive program for apartments and multi-unit housing to require projects include affordable units to qualify for a tax break. The program provides a 10-year tax break for new housing units constructed in the city’s core area. Since 1976, 11 projects in Salem have qualified for the program, including the 157-unit building under construction at the former Salem Nordstrom location.

Under the proposed changes, projects with 50 or more units would have to have 15% of those units affordable to people making 80% of Salem’s median income. Councilors will do a first reading of the proposed changes Monday.

Councilors on Monday will also hear a more detailed report on the costs necessary to restore commercial air service to Salem’s airport, and the long-term costs of operating such a service. The report says Salem would need, at minimum, $6.15 million in terminal improvements to begin commercial air service, and it would likely take through the spring of 2024 – a year after airlines have expressed interest in beginning operations.

The report comes after the city and local business groups won a federal grant over the summer intended to lure commercial airlines to Salem by guaranteeing minimum revenues during their first two years of operations.

Two budget airlines, Avelo and a second which has not been announced publicly, have expressed interest in starting flights out of Salem in 2023. The city secured a $540,000 state grant earlier this year to buy ground equipment for the airport, but has no funding identified to cover the cost of airport upgrades.

How to participate: The city council meets virtually at 6 p.m. Monday. View the meeting on YouTube or watch on CC:Media Channel 21. Submit comments on agenda items by 5 p.m. on the day of the meeting at [email protected]. Public comment and testimony may also be provided during the meeting via Zoom. Pre-register between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the day of the meeting at the following link:

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.