"I remember one of the times in my life when things felt very economically insecure. I pulled up to a stop light and made eye contact with a woman holding a sign asking for money. I still remember the thought that crossed through my mind at the moment we looked into each other’s eyes: “I could be her. I am her. The only thing that separates us is one paycheck.”
As a housing advocate I’ve spent 25 years working with many others in the Portland metro area, in Washington County and in Oregon to solve the problem of homelessness and housing insecurity.
To put the problem simply we aren’t building enough affordable housing for those whose incomes are less than 50% of the medium family income (MFI). In the metro area there is a 40 thousand housing gap.
As market driven gentrification moves on more and more low income Oregonians in the metro area will be pushed out of their rental units and even their homes as property values and along with it local property taxes go up.
The housing crisis is getting a lot of headline attention from the local media, advocates and the city council in Portland thanks to Mayor Charley Hales who has now bowed out of an upcoming race for mayor.
Hale’s decision which surprised everyone is eerily similar to LBJ’s decision to drop out of the presidential race in 1968 to focus on ending the War in Vietnam which sadly didn’t end until the second term of the Nixon presidency.
Oregon’s former state treasurer, Ted Wheeler is probably the reason why Hale’s is dropping out. Wheeler is a formidable candidate who has put our housing crisis on his campaign front burner.
My question is why did it take Wheeler so long? As Oregon’s Treasurer he could have stepped up to this issue years ago!
Wheeler wants to use $50 million of Portland’s urban renewal money to finance the building of affordable housing in Portland. Like Nixon in ’68 he has a “plan.” But like Nixon's “secret” plan to end the war will it be enough?
And what of the other two counties in the Metro area, how are they addressing this issue? Portland does not sit in a bubble. Without collaboration on this issue on a Metro level, Wheeler’s plan could be derailed.
If Washington County and Clackamas counties do little to stem the tide of homelessness and housing insecurity Portland could become magnet for the poor and working poor – making Wheeler’s idea even more daunting.
And about the “other Oregon?”