our housing crisis is a wealth inequality crisis

The greater Portland area is in the acute early stages of a major housing affordability crisis. The problem is seen most clearly in pervasive homelessness and ongoing displacement of low-income tenants from the neighborhoods where they and their families work, go to school, and find connection. First time homebuyers experience another facet this problem when they are priced out of the growing market, or when they are able to secure a mortgage, but cannot compete with a cash purchaser.

This housing problem exists alongside the greatest divide in wealth in U.S. history. While the monthly cost of housing is a major impediment for low income Americans, the asset-building benefits of home ownership have historically been one of the primary ways that working families reach middle class. Portland’s housing affordability crisis may represent more than an urgent need to find shelter for the poorest in the city – it may mark a long-term barrier to wealth creation for the next generation of Portlanders. This is troubling when, historically, two in three families build stabilizing family savings through home ownership – allowing them to send a child to college, start a business, or plan for a secure retirement. 

North Star Civic Foundation is exploring new legal and financial models to increase asset building for this generation. We look at this crisis through the lens of wealth inequality and are actively exploring entrepreneurial ideas to build wealth for people who cannot currently access home ownership.

new deal housing

New Deal Housing is a collaboration between North Star Civic Foundation and New Villages Group, Ltd.  

America needs a New Deal between landlords and tenants that effectively addresses our growing wealth gap and housing crisis. Using a civic entrepreneurial approach that draws on market forces, this project seeks to enable working class families to overcome what is often an insurmountable down payment barrier to building wealth through housing. 

Our goal is to create a highly replicable model of a New Deal between tenants and landlords that we and others can use to address this problem at a meaningful scale. Currently we are in the research phase for an initial 50+ unit pilot project in Bend, Oregon.