A new deal on housing

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 also experience 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 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.