City News

AGENDA: City council to finalize affordability requirement for apartment tax breaks

Salem city councilors on Monday will consider requiring that developers build affordable apartments in order to qualify for tax breaks from the city.


The council will vote on a resolution to revise the city’s Multiple Unit Housing Tax Incentive Program standards and guidelines.

The program provides a 10-year tax break for new housing units constructed in the city’s core area. Under the proposed changes, projects with 50 or more units would need to make 15% of those units affordable to people earning 80% of Salem’s median income.

Previously, the program did not require a specific number of affordable units to qualify.

Since 1976, 11 projects in Salem have qualified for the program, including the 157-unit building under construction at the former Salem Nordstrom location.

Councilors previously considered the changes at their Oct. 10 meeting.

Councilors will also hear an updated report on the minimum renovations needed to bring commercial flights back to the Salem Municipal Airport. Previous city estimates put the cost of such renovations at over $6 million. A new staff report says the design and permitting process so the airport can meet minimum requirements for the Transportation Security Administration would cost between $129,500 and $195,000.

Those changes would not expand the terminal, which could create building occupancy issues, the staff report says.

“Managing admission to the building may be needed to control the number of people in the holding room as well as the baggage claim and security line areas, as too many people will create space conflicts and exceed occupancy limits for these areas. This option may result in extended wait times between flights to allow passenger processing within a constrained physical environment,” the report says.

The city also plans to finalize an amendment to the city code that will make it illegal to discriminate against someone in selling or renting property, public accommodation or employment due to an actual or perceived lack of housing.

The ordinance will make changes to the human rights portion of the city code, adding housing  status as a protected class. 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.

Councilors will also hold a public hearing about proposed zoning changes along Southeast Commercial Street. If approved, the changes would designate land along both sides of the arterial as mixed use, allowing for both retail and commercial uses, as well as apartments to be built.

The changes are part of the city’s recent revision to its comprehensive plan, called Our Salem, which councilors adopted earlier this year. Councilors would finalize the Commercial Street rezoning at a future meeting.

How to participate: The Salem City Council meets virtually at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24. 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:

Correction: The airport improvement costs presented to the council include design and permitting for the terminal upgrades only, not actual construction costs. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

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.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.