How a history of discrimination drove displacement of African-Americans in Portland

The city’s continued housing-cost squeeze could signal a worsening crisis of housing and economic security for black residents.

By Mark Kirchmeier and Camela Raymond | June 6, 2017

This story, part of an Open:Housing series exploring rising barriers to homeownership in Portland, looks at historic and current forces affecting the city’s African-American residents, and what they likely mean for the future.

PORTLAND, Ore. — As a teenager living under Jim Crow laws in the 1940s, Paul Knauls Sr. rode a bus 37 miles round-trip from his small Arkansas town to reach a school that served African-Americans.

After graduating high school in 1949, he was part of the group of black servicemen who integrated Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. As a budding Portland entrepreneur in the 1960s, he risked his savings to buy a nightclub in the section of North/Northeast formerly known as Albina, the part of town where white realtors and property owners pushed blacks to live and own businesses.

Knauls struggled against racism throughout his life. And, in some senses, he won.

He became a successful business and property owner, prospering financially and creating beloved places for Portland’s black community. He clung to his stake in North/Northeast, as the once-disinvested area was transformed, to the disadvantage of many residents, by urban renewal, then gentrification.

Knauls, 86, still lives on Northeast Bryant Street in the house that his second wife, Geneva, bought in 1965 for $28,000. It’s now worth more than $400,000. He still greets customers at the hair salon he named for Geneva on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. His son, Paul Knauls Jr., 64, manages the operation.

But Knauls also lost.

Many of his black neighbors, and most of the black-owned businesses that used to crowd commercial streets such as North Williams Avenue and Alberta Street, are gone. They’ve been replaced by a new landscape of gleaming condos, yoga studios and cafes owned and occupied, almost entirely, by white people.

Even Knauls’ son has been priced out of the neighborhood. He rents an apartment in Vancouver, Washington, for $900, about half what he’d pay for a similar place in inner North/Northeast Portland. Recently, on his highway commute to Geneva’s, he missed his usual off-ramp and found himself on an unrecognizable street as he made his way north to the salon.

“After what I saw, I never want to go to Williams Avenue again,” Knauls Jr. says. “I used to know every business owner on that street. They’d say, ‘How ya doing, Paul,’ as I’d walk in the door … It was my culture.”

Now, he says, “You feel like a stranger in your house.”

Exclusion drives displacement

As wages fail to keep pace with rising housing costs, low-income Portlanders of all backgrounds are being pushed out of desirable close-in neighborhoods where they could have afforded to live five or 10 years ago. The generic term for that population movement is “displacement.” But that term doesn’t describe the experience of the more than 10,000 African-American residents who left North/Northeast Portland over the past three decades.

Portland’s black community never had a stable home — kicked from west side to east side, squeezed and torn apart by urban renewal — but since the late 1800s, it always existed somewhere. Not anymore. The recent scattering of black residents to distant parts of the city and suburbs, which reduced North/Northeast Portland’s black population by roughly half since 1990, is a “diaspora,” a population movement that disintegrates an entire cultural community.

... Continue reading at Open:Housing

Paris Climate Agreement Stewards and Visionaries

Open letter from We Are Still In to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders

We, the undersigned mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors are joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.

In December 2015 in Paris, world leaders signed the first global commitment to fight climate change. The landmark agreement succeeded where past attempts failed because it allowed each country to set its own emission reduction targets and adopt its own strategies for reaching them. In addition, nations - inspired by the actions of local and regional governments, along with businesses - came to recognize that fighting climate change brings significant economic and public health benefits.

The Trump administration's announcement undermines a key pillar in the fight against climate change and damages the world's ability to avoid the most dangerous and costly effects of climate change. Importantly, it is also out of step with what is happening in the United States.

In the U.S., it is local and state governments, along with businesses, that are primarily responsible for the dramatic decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. Actions by each group will multiply and accelerate in the years ahead, no matter what policies Washington may adopt.

In the absence of leadership from Washington, states, cities, colleges and universities, businesses and investors, representing a sizeable percentage of the U.S. economy will pursue ambitious climate goals, working together to take forceful action and to ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.

It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses. Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.

Click here to read full press release.

Companies, investors, mayors and governors wishing to add their name to the statement can do so by registering here. Colleges and universities wishing to add their name can do so by registering here.

http://wearestillin.com

The full text of Mayor Landrieu's Speech upon removal of Confederate monuments

The soul of our beloved City is deeply rooted in a history that has evolved over thousands of years; rooted in a diverse people who have been here together every step of the way — for both good and for ill. It is a history that holds in its heart the stories of Native Americans — the Choctaw, Houma Nation, the Chitimacha. Of Hernando De Soto, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, the Acadians, the Islenos, the enslaved people from Senegambia, Free People of Colorix, the Haitians, the Germans, both the empires of France and Spain. The Italians, the Irish, the Cubans, the south and central Americans, the Vietnamese and so many more.

You see — New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling caldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e pluribus unum — out of many we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So when people say to me that the monuments in question are history, well what I just described is real history as well, and it is the searing truth.

And it immediately begs the questions, why there are no slave ship monuments, no prominent markers on public land to remember the lynchings or the slave blocks; nothing to remember this long chapter of our lives; the pain, the sacrifice, the shame... all of it happening on the soil of New Orleans. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.

For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.” So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other. So, let’s start with the facts.

The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.

After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city. Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous ‘cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

Now, with these shocking words still ringing in your ears... I want to try to gently peel from your hands the grip on a false narrative of our history that I think weakens us. And make straight a wrong turn we made many years ago — we can more closely connect with integrity to the founding principles of our nation and forge a clearer and straighter path toward a better city and a more perfect union.

Last year, President Barack Obama echoed these sentiments about the need to contextualize and remember all our history. He recalled a piece of stone, a slave auction block engraved with a marker commemorating a single moment in 1830 when Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay stood and spoke from it. President Obama said, “Consider what this artifact tells us about history... on a stone where day after day for years, men and women... bound and bought and sold and bid like cattle on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over a thousand bare feet. For a long time the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history with a plaque were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men.”

A piece of stone — one stone. Both stories were history. One story told. One story forgotten or maybe even purposefully ignored. As clear as it is for me today... for a long time, even though I grew up in one of New Orleans’ most diverse neighborhoods, even with my family’s long proud history of fighting for civil rights... I must have passed by those monuments a million times without giving them a second thought. So I am not judging anybody, I am not judging people. We all take our own journey on race.

I just hope people listen like I did when my dear friend Wynton Marsalis helped me see the truth. He asked me to think about all the people who have left New Orleans because of our exclusionary attitudes. Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too? We all know the answer to these very simple questions. When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth.

And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, this is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once.

This is however about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and yes with violence.

To literally put the Confederacy on a pedestal in our most prominent places of honor is an inaccurate recitation of our full past. It is an affront to our present, and it is a bad prescription for our future. History cannot be changed. It cannot be moved like a statue. What is done is done. The Civil War is over, and the Confederacy lost and we are better for it. Surely we are far enough removed from this dark time to acknowledge that the cause of the Confederacy was wrong.

And in the second decade of the 21st century, asking African Americans — or anyone else — to drive by property that they own; occupied by reverential statues of men who fought to destroy the country and deny that person’s humanity seems perverse and absurd. Centuries old wounds are still raw because they never healed right in the first place. Here is the essential truth. We are better together than we are apart.

Indivisibility is our essence. Isn’t this the gift that the people of New Orleans have given to the world? We radiate beauty and grace in our food, in our music, in our architecture, in our joy of life, in our celebration of death; in everything that we do. We gave the world this funky thing called jazz, the most uniquely American art form that is developed across the ages from different cultures. Think about second lines, think about Mardi Gras, think about muffaletta, think about the Saints, gumbo, red beans and rice. By God, just think.

All we hold dear is created by throwing everything in the pot; creating, producing something better; everything a product of our historic diversity. We are proof that out of many we are one — and better for it! Out of many we are one — and we really do love it! And yet, we still seem to find so many excuses for not doing the right thing. Again, remember President Bush’s words, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.”

We forget, we deny how much we really depend on each other, how much we need each other. We justify our silence and inaction by manufacturing noble causes that marinate in historical denial. We still find a way to say ‘wait’/not so fast, but like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “wait has almost always meant never.” We can’t wait any longer. We need to change. And we need to change now.

No more waiting. This is not just about statues, this is about our attitudes and behavior as well. If we take these statues down and don’t change to become a more open and inclusive society this would have all been in vain. While some have driven by these monuments every day and either revered their beauty or failed to see them at all, many of our neighbors and fellow Americans see them very clearly. Many are painfully aware of the long shadows their presence casts; not only literally but figuratively. And they clearly receive the message that the Confederacy and the cult of the lost cause intended to deliver.

Earlier this week, as the cult of the lost cause statue of P.G.T Beauregard came down, world renowned musician Terence Blanchard stood watch, his wife Robin and their two beautiful daughters at their side. Terence went to a high school on the edge of City Park named after one of America’s greatest heroes and patriots, John F. Kennedy. But to get there he had to pass by this monument to a man who fought to deny him his humanity.

He said, “I’ve never looked at them as a source of pride... it’s always made me feel as if they were put there by people who don’t respect us. This is something I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It’s a sign that the world is changing.” Yes, Terence, it is and it is long overdue. Now is the time to send a new message to the next generation of New Orleanians who can follow in Terence and Robin’s remarkable footsteps.

A message about the future, about the next 300 years and beyond; let us not miss this opportunity New Orleans and let us help the rest of the country do the same. Because now is the time for choosing. Now is the time to actually make this the City we always should have been, had we gotten it right in the first place.

We should stop for a moment and ask ourselves — at this point in our history — after Katrina, after Rita, after Ike, after Gustav, after the national recession, after the BP oil catastrophe and after the tornado — if presented with the opportunity to build monuments that told our story or to curate these particular spaces... would these monuments be what we want the world to see? Is this really our story?

We have not erased history; we are becoming part of the city’s history by righting the wrong image these monuments represent and crafting a better, more complete future for all our children and for future generations. And unlike when these Confederate monuments were first erected as symbols of white supremacy, we now have a chance to create not only new symbols, but to do it together, as one people. In our blessed land we all come to the table of democracy as equals. We have to reaffirm our commitment to a future where each citizen is guaranteed the uniquely American gifts of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

That is what really makes America great and today it is more important than ever to hold fast to these values and together say a self-evident truth that out of many we are one. That is why today we reclaim these spaces for the United States of America. Because we are one nation, not two; indivisible with liberty and justice for all... not some. We all are part of one nation, all pledging allegiance to one flag, the flag of the United States of America. And New Orleanians are in... all of the way. It is in this union and in this truth that real patriotism is rooted and flourishes. Instead of revering a 4-year brief historical aberration that was called the Confederacy we can celebrate all 300 years of our rich, diverse history as a place named New Orleans and set the tone for the next 300 years.

After decades of public debate, of anger, of anxiety, of anticipation, of humiliation and of frustration. After public hearings and approvals from three separate community led commissions. After two robust public hearings and a 6-1 vote by the duly elected New Orleans City Council. After review by 13 different federal and state judges. The full weight of the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government has been brought to bear and the monuments in accordance with the law have been removed. So now is the time to come together and heal and focus on our larger task. Not only building new symbols, but making this city a beautiful manifestation of what is possible and what we as a people can become.

Let us remember what the once exiled, imprisoned and now universally loved Nelson Mandela and what he said after the fall of apartheid. “If the pain has often been unbearable and the revelations shocking to all of us, it is because they indeed bring us the beginnings of a common understanding of what happened and a steady restoration of the nation’s humanity.” So before we part let us again state the truth clearly.

The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered. As a community, we must recognize the significance of removing New Orleans’ Confederate monuments. It is our acknowledgment that now is the time to take stock of, and then move past, a painful part of our history.

Anything less would render generations of courageous struggle and soul-searching a truly lost cause. Anything less would fall short of the immortal words of our greatest President Abraham Lincoln, who with an open heart and clarity of purpose calls on us today to unite as one people when he said: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds...to do all which may achieve and cherish — a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Thank you.

Justices Reject Two Gerrymandered North Carolina Districts, Citing Racial Bias

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts on Monday, ruling that lawmakers had violated the Constitution by relying too heavily on race in drawing them, in a decision that could affect many voting maps, generally in the South.

The decision was handed down by an unusual coalition of justices, and was the latest in a series of setbacks for Republican-led legislatures. In recent cases concerning legislative maps in Alabama and Virginia, as well, the Supreme Court has insisted that packing black voters into a few districts — which dilutes their voting power — violates the Constitution.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE at THE NEW YORK TIMES

Many missed the home ownership boat (Open:Housing)

In a Q&A with Open: Housing, scholar Thomas Shapiro talks about how low-income people and people of color have been shut out of wealth-building opportunities, and what can be done about it.

By Mark Kirchmeier/Open: Housing | May 9, 2017

Housing insecurity wasn’t something that white, middle-income Portlanders used to have to worry about. Twenty years ago, a modest income, a willing lender and maybe some down payment help from your parents were all you needed to own a spacious Mississippi Avenue bungalow — and with it, a claim on substantial economic and social privileges.

Most white Portland households could jump that bar. Most black and Latino households couldn’t.

A host of factors, including a compounding history of racially discriminatory housing and lending practices, put the basic keys to homeownership out of reach for many Portlanders of color. Those shut out of homeownership began fleeing to cheaper rental markets, as housing-price increases outpaced income and wealth gains. As a result, roughly a third of African-American and Latino Portlanders own their homes, compared to two-thirds of white Portlanders.

We didn’t call it a housing crisis then. Now, we do.

As Portland enters a new phase of growth and economic stratification, a new group of residents — many white, many earning incomes at or above Portland’s median — find that they, too, are priced out of the inner city’s homeownership market.

Visiting the City Club of Portland this Friday, author and scholar Thomas Shapiro brings a timely message to America’s whitest big city, laying out a compelling argument in support of policies that widen, rather than narrow, homeownership access — including greater access for those long ago left behind.

He recently spoke with reporter Mark Kirchmeier, of the Open: Housing Journalism Collaborative, about his research and what lessons it has for the Rose City.

Open: Housing: Society has usually measured poverty by studying someone’s income, but your book emphasizes measuring both “income poverty” and “wealth poverty.” What do you mean by “wealth poverty”?

Thomas Shapiro: The government has long defined the poverty line as an income line, and it’s a very archaic way to accurately measure poverty. When I started to research my book, it became clear that a family’s income did not adequately show a family’s financial capability to buy a home, attend college and get opportunities. I think of income as a stream that passes by you, whereas wealth is more important, a reservoir you can draw upon.

If you lack wealth, you are closer to the cliff. Nearly one-half of low-income families have less than $500 in savings. If your car breaks an axle, you can be wiped out.

OH: “Toxic Inequality” states that many historic liberal achievements, such as Social Security, federal housing programs and the GI Bill, helped create the white middle class, but didn’t create a similarly large black middle class. Why not?

Shapiro: Those programs were and are wonderfully successful in helping many families achieve economically secure middle-class status, but Social Security coverage excluded farm laborers, Pullman porters and domestics who were overwhelming Latinos and blacks.

 

Thomas Shapiro directs the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and is the Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy at The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University.

One historical interpretation says those exclusions were a very intentional tactic to get Southern senators’ support for passage of the Social Security Act in 1935. That’s a massive act of exclusion that prevented a whole generation of Latinos and blacks from accessing retirement security, disability coverage and all of the things Social Security helps cover. History is really important when we talk about family financial wealth.

OH: What about federal housing loans?

Shapiro: FHA loans were indispensable in helping whites finance their first home but did little for blacks who generally lived in low-income neighborhoods where FHA wouldn’t lend.

The GI Bill was great for veterans with high school degrees and the family support to go to college, but fewer black veterans were in a position to similarly benefit from it.

OH: Your book is a sweeping indictment of the popular federal mortgage interest deduction, which allows the richest homeowners in the country, who are disproportionately white, to deduct their mortgage interest payments from their tax liability. Why is that important?

Shapiro: Over the past six years more than $1.2 trillion in federal money went to subsidizing homeownership, mostly through the mortgage interest tax deduction. That is five times more public money going toward homeownership for families that can afford to buy homes than toward decent, affordable housing for those who cannot.

Homeownership is the key to economic opportunities, because if you can buy a home you will likely access a stronger neighborhood that will have stronger schools, and will further secure your family’s stability.

OH: Have any states begun to cap the mortgage interest deduction for high-end homeowners, who don’t need the deduction?

Shapiro: Oregon is off to a great start in raising the issue at your Legislature. Massachusetts now allows renters to claim a deduction for rent on their state income tax, which brings renters onto a more level field with homeowners.

OH: You point out in recent years that stock and bond indices have grown faster than the Gross National Product. Who benefits? Who loses?

Shapiro: The gap is there. Thomas Piketty’s study, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” points out that we’ve entered an era in which gains from wealth — whether in the form of stocks, bonds or property — outpace economic growth. This is driving the extremes in wealth. If you dig into the data, most of the wealth gains are going to the top one-tenth of the 1 percent, who tend to be invested in hedge funds and speculation. Speculation is more profitable than building things, and the wealthy have gotten all sorts of tax incentives and favors from recent Congresses.

One of the prices we all pay for that is the black-white racial wealth gap. Low-income people, who are disproportionately black, are losing out.

OH: Donald Trump campaigned as a populist who supported the working class. In what ways will his tax proposals help or hurt the working class and poor?

Shapiro: His proposals are stupendously bad policy. Period. Full stop.

I’m concerned about the Trump administration not enforcing existing laws protecting the working class and the poor.

A lot of American capital is parked offshore. U.S. corporations are not repatriating profits earned in overseas markets, because they would pay a higher corporate income tax here in the United States if they did. A lot of those corporations are now drooling over Trump’s proposal to reduce the corporate income-tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent.

OH: How do policies at the U.S. Treasury affect this?

Shapiro: I’m concerned about any new Treasury Department regulations that would shift more of Wall Street investors’ risk onto the public and the poor, as well as new Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regulations that would create more obstacles for homeownership. For example, proposed regulations would require poor families receiving FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loans to make larger down payments, which closes homeownership access for many, and disproportionately affects families of color.

A key is the disposition of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Proposals to make these agencies more “independent,” inducing more private equity and competing companies — all this means less risk for mortgage banking and more risk for private homeowners, a classic shifting of risk from business to families. And again, it chokes off homeownership access for low-income families and families of color. Your U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, who is on the Senate Finance Committee, needs to be on top of those issues.

OH: It’s hard to save money for a down payment when your rent is rising faster than your income. The Oregon Legislature is currently considering bills to overturn a state ban on rent control. What types of rent control work best in keeping rents down, without inhibiting investment in new apartment construction?

Shapiro: Your rising rents need to be tackled from both the supply and demand side. Landlords want stability. If you guarantee them a minimum stable profit, many landlords will accept limits on how much rent can be raised in a year. If they choose to use it, cities can have lots of leverage over landlords and developers.

OH: In addition to more public investment and subsidies to help lower-income buyers afford homes, what else can be done to curb rising home prices, and bring them within buyers’ reach?

Shapiro: You can invest in better transportation systems that reduce reliance on cars, so that new housing units can reduce parking spaces, thereby lowering costs. That’s hard for me to say because I grew up in southern California loving cars, but to keep costs down in urban areas, our goal ought to be to move toward one car per family.

OH: Any final advice for Portland-area residents?

Shapiro: Independent of the federal Trump administration, your state government and cities can do a lot.

 

Owning home getting harder for minorities (PMG–Portland Tribune)

By Jim Redden | March 15, 2017

Rent increases are taking a well-recognized toll on Portland’s minority communities, pushing them out of their traditional neighborhoods to the edges of the region. Increasing home prices also are disproportionately hurting minorities by further reducing their chances to build wealth.

According to Portland State University Urban Studies Professor Lisa Bates, the wealth gap between white and African-American families is 20-to-1 — far greater than the wage gap. She blames much of that on the longtime inability of African-American families to buy homes.

“Owning a home is the easiest way to access housing stability and build wealth,” Bates told the City Club of Portland last Friday, March 10.

Bates spoke as part of a Friday Forum series titled “We Call This Home: Talking About Wealth, Home Ownership and Race.” The March 10 presentation focused on how Portland is becoming increasingly unaffordable to those wishing to buy a home, but especially for minorities who have even more trouble saving up for a 20 percent down payment. Although some mortgages only require 5 percent down, their monthly payments are higher because the principal is larger.

“That forces those families who can only afford 5 percent down to search for lower-priced homes, where the competition is the greatest,” Bates said at the presentation, called “Pushed Out: No Affordable Homes in Portland.”

Sylvie Jensen, a kindergarten teacher who recently bought her first house, also spoke. She was helped by the Portland Housing Center, a nonprofit organization that matched the $2,000 she saved for a down payment and provided other assistance. Jensen said she was desperate to buy after experiencing repeated rent increases, but bought in Beaverton because she could not afford anything in Portland.

“If trends don’t change, a family of four earning the region’s median income of $73,000 a year will not be able to afford a home in Portland by 2020,” said Lorelei Juntunen, partner at the economic consulting firm EcoNorthwest. It recently partnered with the Portland Housing Center on an analysis of Portland homeownership trends.

The analysis was summarized in a series of maps based on U.S. Census and real estate data that show where families earning the median income can afford to buy a home within the urban growth boundary set by the Metro regional government. The statistics start in 2001 and are projected to 2020, just three years from now.

Affordable housing advocates argue that homes are not affordable if monthly payments cost more than 30 percent of family income. By that standard, most of the region within the UGB already was unaffordable by 2001 to familes who could only afford a 5 percent down payment.

Only large parts of East Portland, North Portland and east Multnomah County included many homes that cost less than 30 percent of the median family income at that time. A few affordable homes also could be found in small portions of Washington and Clackamas counties.

By 2015, the most recent year for which information is available, the areas where many affordable homes could be found had shrunk to much smaller areas of East Portland, North Portland and east Multnomah County. Homes in about one-third of the area within the UGB cost more than 40 percent of the median family income.

And by 2020, ECONorthwest projects that virtually no families earning the median income will be able to buy an affordable home within the UGB. In fact, homes in roughly half the area within the UGB will cost 50 percent or more of the median family income to buy.

According to the Portland Housing Center, the run-up in home prices has hit minority households especially hard because they have historically earned less than the median family income — much less, in many cases. For most African-American and Latino families, owning a home in the Portland region already is out of reach, and the situation will be even worse by 2020.

The situation is a little brighter for those families that can afford a 20 percent down payment. For them, affordable homes will still be found in parts of east Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties in 2020.

Originally published at www.pamplinmedia.com.

 

Portlanders shut out of chance to own a home

Created on Thursday, 18 May 2017 | Written by Mark Kirchmeier

"I was on the edge of a cliff, hanging by my fingernails, fearing that my kids and I would have to leave Portland," Roscoe Ryan remembers. 

The 41-year-old single mother had been renting a home in Portland's St. Johns neighborhood for three years when the bad news came. "The landlady told me she wanted to sell the house, and I would have to move," she recalls. 

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JAIME VALDEZ - When her landlord decided to sell her North Portland rental home, Roscoe Ryan couldn't see how she could come up with a down payment that exceeded her annual salary. But she got help to stay in her home.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JAIME VALDEZ - When her landlord decided to sell her North Portland rental home, Roscoe Ryan couldn't see how she could come up with a down payment that exceeded her annual salary. But she got help to stay in her home.

Then the owner offered to sell the 800-square-foot house to Ryan for $290,000. Ryan, who earns $30,000 a year working at an organic grocery store, initially was hopeful. But when lenders told her she'd need to make a $35,000 down payment to qualify for a mortgage, she balked. Scraping together a down payment bigger than her annual salary seemed impossible. Ryan began scrambling for alternatives. 

In Portland's runaway housing market, residents without the means to own homes face three options: shell out ever-larger portions of their paychecks for rent; move from familiar, amenity-rich neighborhoods to less expensive, less desirable suburbs; or both. 

A surge of policy responses — from a locally approved bond measure that will fund development of affordable rental housing units to a proposed bill in Salem that would overturn Oregon's ban on rent control — have focused on subsidizing and regulating the rental housing market. 

While these measures have brought some comfort and hope, they've brought little relief to residents wanting a surer defense against the risks of spiraling housing-cost inflation and displacement: homeownership. Fifteen years ago, less-wealthy Portlanders more easily crossed the homeownership threshold. But today's homeownership market is shutting out lower-income residents like Ryan, forcing middle-income residents to make tough compromises, and kicking historically disadvantaged residents of color further to the curb. 

This series, part of the Open: Housing journalism project, will look at causes, impacts and solutions to the rising — and unequal — barriers of entry to Portland's increasingly exclusive homeownership class. 

READ THE FULL STORY in the PORTLAND TRIBUNE.

Next in the series: The effect of housing costs on Portland's minority residents. A longer version of this story and other parts in the series can be found at www.OpenHousing.net

http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/359186-238933-portlanders-shut-out-of-chance-to-own-a-home

Life Off the Highway: A Snapshot of Rural America (Community Commons)

This article was written by Alison Fields, Kelly Ann Holder, and Charlynn Burd, Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division. It was originally published to the Census blog, Random Samplings, on December 8, 2016.

We are a nation of communities. The 2011-2015 American Community Survey statistics released earlier this year helps tell the story of us all — each city, town and neighborhood. This year we are taking a detour down a road driven by only one in five Americans. We are exploring what the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics can tell us about the 60 million people who live in rural America. Rural areas can take on varying characteristics affected by regional differences across the country. The rural population is not the same everywhere except in its distinction of not being urban. American Community Survey statistics are the only source of annual data for some rural residents, and are vital for local decision making by elected officials, city and county planners, and businesses. Recently, the Census Bureau released several products highlighting selected characteristics of the rural population of America.

Read the full article at Community Commons.

How Integrated Voter Engagement Builds Power and Changes Policy (NCRP)

Written by: Kristee Paschall | Date: February 28, 2016

With a collective membership of more than one million families working through 54 local federations, PICO National Network is the nation’s largest network of faith-based community organizations. A growing majority of the communities we organize are predominantly communities of color, and our clergy and grassroots leaders have strong representation from African American, Latino, white, Asian Pacific Islander and other ethnic groups. As part of the larger social justice movement, PICO is bringing thousands of new people of faith into political life to make fundamental changes in our economy and society.

As Pastor Kenneth Sullivan of New Direction Church, a member of PICO’s IndyCAN, said:

“People are tired of this polarizing political climate. Inspired by Pope Francis’ call to end a ‘throwaway culture,’ we made a conscious choice to make [the 2014 midterm elections] about reaching out to those who feel most overlooked in our society and to working families typically ignored by partisan politics to say, ‘Your lives matter. Your vote matters.’”

PICO’S HISTORY OF INTEGRATED VOTER ENGAGEMENT

In 2012, PICO embraced Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE), a year-round program that connects voter engagement to issue-based organizing to build power, sustainability and impact over multiple election cycles. By contrast, traditional electoral programs are seasonal operations that leave no infrastructure behind.

To maximize both our impact and learning, we made a commitment in 2014 to launch a research program to study our voter engagement work.[i] Consistent with PICO’s DNA as a learning organization, our goal was to improve over time and contribute new knowledge to the field of IVE for both organizing and voter engagement. To support our research, we convened a team of experts from the Analyst Institute, Dr. Hahrie Han from University of California at Santa Barbara and Dr. Paul Speer from Vanderbilt University.

We believe the real return on investment for IVE programs extends far beyond election day. PICO’s research seeks to broaden the metrics our movement uses to assess voter mobilization programs and identify metrics that capture not only whether people turn out to vote, but also the extent to which they become full participants in our democracy. In other words: Does the way we invite people to participate in our democracy move them to reconsider their role in it? We aspire to measure:

  • The impact of organizing on voters’ and volunteers’ sense of agency and political efficacy.
  • Our collective capacity to organize across race, gender and other differences.
  • Our ability to translate the power built during elections into far-reaching policy change.

During the 2014 midterms, PICO led the largest nonpartisan volunteer-driven direct voter contact program in the country. While overall the midterms suffered from a low level of public interest, it marked a new chapter in PICO’s Let My People Vote (LMPV) program. LMPV is a hybrid of IVE, leadership development and issue-based organizing designed to empower thousands of volunteers to effect change in their communities.

Download the full text here.