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Update on Gentrification in Old Town Chinatown

When I wrote my February 1, 2018 blogpost on gentrification and sent out an email, it was one of my most popular posts, garnering a 40% click through rate. I don't send this blog to many people - just 50 or so. I aim at reaching decision-makers I have met here in the neighborhood and in City agencies.

At that time I wrote about Prosper Portland's (then referred most often as the PDC) Five Year Action Plan for Old Town (2014-2019) that called out on Page 9 "Priorities for property redevelopment includes the addition of market rate housing to create a balanced mix of residential income..."

All this was a year before the declaration of a housing emergency in 2015. Although not much of the plan was implemented and $53M of the $58M of the money budgeted was left unspent, there were several new market rate properties developed and unrestricted units in buildings with both market rate and affordable units were also identified. New properties with existing properties actually brought the real estate market in balance with 22% market rate housing units and 21% affordable units. See the Guide, Attachment C for list of properties.

Development didn't stave off gentrification. Portland is part of the national trend resulting in market rate being mostly high end housing units.

What's Next?

Now there is action to extend the Action Plan to 2019-2024 and bring back at least some of the monies not spent, but budgeted.

An effort on the part of residents (there was a survey), an update by the Community Association that contained a recommendation for affordable housing, and at least one new member of the Board of Directors of the Old Town Community Association expressed a strong desire to change the wording in the extension from market rate housing to Affordable Housing at 60% to 80% AMI to attract residents with moderate incomes, many of whom may already be working in our neighborhood. Presently 73% of affordable housing is at 60%AMI with many of us able to stay here by the skin of our teeth as there is really no place else available. Rent burdened and trapped.

Well, we are now on our way to another phase of gentrification, a more intense one this time, but, if you listen to the folks advocating market rate housing they offer assurances it doesn't automatically mean luxury apartments. A representative of the Mayor's Office, Prosper Portland staff, and the Community Association Board assure us residents that this neighborhood, blighted as it is, will never get any more affordable housing, even on the property owned by the public, because we already have too much.

What we have too much of is a healthcare industry specializing in getting the homeless and/or substance abusers off the street. Centralization of services in this poorest, most blighted of all neighborhoods started in the late 1970's and continues today.

The new Oregon Harbor of Hope navigation center with 100 beds will bring the number of shelter beds in this neighborhood to 700. I might be off on the number, but I give a list in the Guide to the Housing Landscape, and if I am wrong, please write me with corrected information.

The City has assured us, however, that Old Town remains the perfect place to put a shelter or two especially when to de-centralize housing for the homeless to the West is for the City staff a walk through hot coals chased by angry, privileged white folks shouting abuse and for elected officials a ticket out of office, maybe even town. Just no new affordable housing. Residents have been most concerned about the future of Block 25, owned by theCity, as it recently came on the market after having been freed up from a 99 year lease as a surface parking lot and that too stipulates in the RFP market rate housing. Some cities have mandated that public property that is appropriate for housing must be used to build affordable housing. Not Portland.

Please do me the favor of downloading V2 of the Guide to the Housing Landscape in Old Town. The first edition was published in 2017.

To download, click on the cover image below.

Apologies in advance for sounding a tad bit frustrated at how efficiently the system works to keep the income and rent imbalance wheels turning, not to mention even during a housing and drug crisis, but there are big big plans for this neighborhood and money is what will make it all possible.

It will not be made in the image of a caring community, but an extension of the entertainment and cultural heritage tourism industries. Why that is inconsistent with affordable housing is beyond me.

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