April 16, edition of Street Roots
Question three: What plans, if any do you have to address the city of Portland’s severe shortage of affordable housing options for families in need of ADA access?
Nick Fish: Before serving on the Council, I was a civil rights lawyer, representing victims of discrimination. I know firsthand that seniors and the disabled still face barriers to maintaining their independence in our community. That’s why I am working with Elders in Action and disability rights advocates to address this critical issue.
First, we are planning to build new housing for veterans, many of whom suffer from a mental or physical disability. It is a national disgrace that so many veterans, who proudly served our country, live on our streets.
Second, we have an ambitious plan to preserve hundreds of at-risk units of affordable housing in the city. These apartment buildings are home to elderly and disabled tenants. When the subsidies expire, the owners are free to convert the units to market rate rentals or condominiums—pricing low-income residents out. I am pleased to report that Sens. Merkley and Wyden are key allies in helping to preserve this vital resource.
Third, we are working with the Housing Authority of Portland, the Veterans Administration and landlords to remove the barriers which prevent Section 8 voucher holders from getting the housing and services they need.
Finally, we cannot make progress unless everyone — the faith community, non-profits, business and government — works together to better align our policies and scarce resources. That’s one of the reasons we launched the new Portland Housing Bureau, and are streamlining the delivery of services to people who need our help during this recession.
Walt Nichols: Well, the last $47 million that Mr Fish just spent was very needed. But the cost for only 130 units looks way too high, given the need. Everyone needs physically and financially accessible housing. For the good of the tax payers and the entire city, we have to do a cost benefit analysis before spending money.
Jason Barbour: It has to be built. Again, I ask the construction firms why they are not building more of this kind of housing in a quality manner as a public service and civic duty. Additionally, ADA housing should be located on major transit corridors, as many are unable to personally use a private auto. Everyone will become elderly at some point, and the mentally and physically different are still human beings first and foremost that have thoughts, hopes, and dreams as all humans do. Many open their hearts and wallets when those in need who wish to be identified come forward during holiday charity drives. Many more simply want to live their life and have the same opportunities as everyone else without pity or intervention.
With homelessness increasing citywide, and revenue streams for resources declining — what will the city do differently to ensure Portland’s most vulnerable citizens are prioritized in the future?