Tag Archives: affordable housing

How housing faired at the past session in Salem

by Alison McIntosh, Contributing Writer

Looking ahead to February 2012 — our voices can create housing opportunity. The State Legislature has been adjourned for over two weeks now, and we’re a little more than two weeks into the new state budget.  The dust is settling, but the full impact of the work of the Legislature on Oregonians struggling to make ends meet won’t be known for many months.

We all need a safe, stable place to call home.  Our state and our communities are stronger and better when everyone has access to opportunity, which comes from having a place to call home.

The Oregon Housing Alliance — a coalition of organizations from across the state concerned about the lack of affordable housing — has worked along with other housing advocates since 2004 to secure the resources we need to create strong communities across Oregon.  Continue reading

Holding up the roof at the House

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

The Housing Alliance is finalizing its advocacy agenda for the 2011 legislative cycle and preparing the case it will make to the state Legislature regarding why the state should support and, in some cases, bolster affordable housing programs.

In a year when the state’s general fund has a $3.5 billion shortfall and the Legislature will make massive cuts to state-funded programs, this is a Sisyphean task

“This is not a good year to be asking the Legislature for money,” says Beth Kaye, the Portland Housing Bureau’s legislative affairs manager.

“There are already proposals circulating from all sides looking at really devastating cuts to the network of support,” says Janet Byrd, the executive director of Neighborhood Partnerships and chair of the Housing Alliance, referring to cuts to welfare programs, mental health, drug addiction treatment programs, and others. Continue reading

Clock winds down on remaining West Hotel residents

The West Hotel on Northwest 6th Avenue.

by Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

With one day until they could be legally evicted from the West Hotel, 15 of the West Hotel’s 27 tenants have found housing and already moved.

Pat Janik, the executive director of the Macdonald Center, the social-service agency which owns the West Hotel, says that the other 12 tenants are far along enough in securing housing that the Macdonald Center will allow those tenants to stay past December 1 until their move-in date.

“It’s just a matter of getting their paperwork done,” Janik says. “I think we are down to four people left who have not already secured housing or with applications. It’s really come along just wonderfully.”

“We’re really hopeful by the end of December that everything is totally fine,”Janik continues.

The Macdonald Center will be rebuilding on the site a seven-story, low-income apartment center for 42 residents and expanded outreach and support services.

John, 68, one of the West’s tenants, is more optimistic about finding new housing than he was two weeks ago. “I got a couple things in the fire,” he says. “We’ll see what happens.”

He also says that tenants are beginning to find housing and are “trickling out” of the West.

“The ones that are looking for places to move are finding them,” John says.

Continue reading

Commentary: The bad habits have to go

By Heather Lyons
Contributing Writer

I’ve spent a lot of time looking at spreadsheets lately. These spreadsheets attempt to quantify programmatic need and calculate the resources necessary to develop permanent supportive housing. Many communities, from Los Angeles to Omaha have found this to be a valuable tool.  It provides a roadmap to determine an approach to creating supportive and affordable housing initiatives from a policy and funder perspective. I like working on them, because they are puzzles. We can deal with over a half dozen data sources in some cases, and we usually have to consider more than 20 complicated federal, state and local funding resources.

As I work on one particular worksheet, I have to do what we call “making assumptions.”  Because we don’t always have clear data, sometimes we need to modify a number or percentage in order to account for differences in data sources, and then we need to justify it.  Here’s an example I just typed to explain a percentage in one spreadsheet, “includes med-high acuity adult (adjusted for long-term homelessness).”

Well, what the hell does that mean?  Perhaps the better question is who does that mean.

After the tragedy of Jack “Jackie” Collins, a homeless man who died at Hoyt Arboretum here in Portland, I’m reminded of the vast inequities that people of little or no means and who suffer from untreated mental illness or addictions face. I’m not going to discuss the Portland Police Bureau’s response to the situation. There is enough out there about that. Plus, while difficult in some ways, it’s easy, because it’s a narrow point of view. What is more difficult is creating solutions for people like Mr. Collins. people who may be a “high-med acuity adult (adjusted for long-term homelessness).”

While a lot remains to be known about Mr. Collins as a person, it’s probably safe to assume that he was not healthy, definitely homeless, and may have spent some time in and out of jail and hospitals. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

April has arrived! And so has your new Street Roots! Well, almost. Vendors will be hard at work Friday morning unloading the latest edition for your reading pleasure this weekend. Here’s a sampling of what’s inside this issue:

A conversation with Jon Stewart: Our very own Sandra Moen sits down for an intimate session with “The Daily Show”s humble host, an interview the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else.

Welcome to Gotham: Is this what Portland has to look forward to? A report on the dark forces at work in our city that could be our undoing unless we act now.

Climate Change Opportunities: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the warmer winters. A report on how the inevitable environmental disaster could be a cash cow as Portland plans for 2075.

Plus the latest on the political shuffling at the county level and our annual assessment on our local media via the local media. That, along with commentaries and a few new columnists to offer fresh perspectives. No foolin’! Your April 1 Street Roots is here – tomorrow!

We want our 30% set aside, already!

Sisters Of The Road, Street Roots, Downtown Chapel, Community Alliance of Tenants, and the Western Regional Advocacy Project hosted a vigil late this afternoon on the site of the North Macadam development, block 33, to mourn the loss of the 400 units of housing that were slated to be built for low to middle income families. Read more about the loss of the 400 units.

Father Bob Loughery from the Downtown Chapel gave a reading of the last rites to commemorate the loss of these units in South Waterfront.

The Portland Aerial Tram with a cost $57 million dollars hovers over six newly built high-rise condominiums coming at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Not one affordable housing unit has been built in the high-end neighborhood. This comes at a time when downtown inventory for affordable housing continues to decline. And when 211 Info is reporting the highest call volume for foreclosure assistance in its history.

Street Roots and others have not just been sitting on the sidelines whining , but instead have been offering in-depth reporting on a myriad of ways to create alternative revenue streams.

Housing levy

SR explores affordable housing options

Why aren’t we paying better attention to homeless deaths? Dignity, and revenue streams potentially await.

Read more about the 30 percent set aside.

Posted by Israel Bayer

Downtown “affordable” housing inventory continues to descend

“The city of Portland, nonprofit housing developers and the Housing Authority of Portland deserve praise for slowing the rate of losing units downtown, but that’s not enough to end homelessness,” says Bobby Weinstock. “We’re still down over 1,800 units from our goal.”

The goal of creating and preserving 5,183 units of affordable housing downtown was set by City Council in 1988. The 2010 Northwest Pilot Project Downtown Portland Affordable Housing Inventory counts 3,315 units which currently rent for $437 per month or less. This is the rent level affordable to a single, full-time Oregon minimum wage earner. Affordable housing means paying no more than 30% of gross income for rent.

Extra! Extra!

How much difference can one little newspaper make in your life? The answer lies in the hands of your friendly neighborhood vendor, who will be cradling the latest edition of Street Roots starting at 9 a.m. Friday. Here’s what your eyes will soon be feasting upon:

What we don’t know: The streets claim lives every year, so why aren’t we paying better attention? Amanda Waldroupe reports on how the lack of information on the health and morbidity of people on the streets is costing us – in lives as well as federal funding to do something about it.

Money, representation at stake when Census hits the streets: As workers prepare for the 2010 Census, Amanda Waldroupe looks at the preparation involved in counting people on the street, a process loaded with obstacles.

Happy (legal) campers: Keith Heath who coordinates homeless campers in Eugene talks about the program’s successes and challenges. The program is one of the examples the city of Portland is reviewing as it considers loosening its own guidelines on camping for the homeless.

Lawsuit pushes Social Security to drop ‘unknowing flight’ policy: The feds have cut hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities from assistance because of minor, decades old warrants, pushing many people to the streets. Not any more.

Plus insight from Heather Lyons, pointed commentary from the Mental Health Association of Portland, and street sass from Julie McCurdy from her Diaries of the Disenfranchised. That and so much more that you’ll want to get an extra for the office. Thanks for your support!

Together, we forge a movement

By Israel Bayer
Street Roots Executive Director

Street Roots, along with allies at Sisters Of The Road and Community Alliance of Tenants, took a monumental road trip to San Francisco for the Western Regional Advocacy Project’s protest where we asked the federal government to adequately fund local communities to tackle the issues of affordable housing and to ensure that city governments uphold the civil rights of individuals on the streets.

Check out the interview with SR vendor George Mayes and Julie McCurdy’s powerful column in this issue of the paper. Both pieces offer a street level perspective of their experience on the road trip and their time in San Francisco.

SR would like to thank Sisters Of The Road for organizing the trip. They funded and coordinated more than 50 individuals to take part in the protest, mostly folks sleeping on the streets. Our groups met up with more than 1,000 people, again, mostly from the streets (which is amazing!) from across the West Coast. We would also like to thank the many organizations that endorsed the action in Portland, covering a broad range of affordable housing, labor and social justice groups.

So you say, what’s in a protest? It does nothing, right? And yes, you are correct. Protesting alone is a waste of time and energy, in my mind. But if you couple this with your own media (a growing street newspaper movement), and well researched and published data, and work to engage the very people whose lives are effected to build a movement, we might be on to something. Continue reading

Cries of solidarity leave this marcher speechless

By Julie McCurdy
Contributing Writer

I was asked the other day by a very well-intentioned woman about the “face” of homelessness. She asked if I could describe a “typical” homeless person. I looked at her and said there’s no such thing, but if I must, then look in the mirror. With her slightly offended look, I touched her hand and smiled, saying, “I wasn’t trying to be unkind, But I am the face of homelessness. That man to your left, sleeping in the doorway, and potentially you, me, we are all the face of homelessness.”

After the conversation, we were both a bit more at ease with each other, relaxed. Which was a good thing, since I didn’t want to be a bitch about it.

The reason I bring this up is because I just finished, not three hours ago, marching in San Francisco for homelessness and housing rights as part of the Western Regional Advocacy Project. You know those experiences in your life that are so powerful and moving, that they render you speechless? This was the WRAP protest for me. It’s certainly a turning point in my life, because now I know that we are the only ones that are going to bring about real change. I know this because I got to see this up close and personal. At one point in the march I was just standing there, tears running down my face, thinking to myself that this is what the people in the Civil Rights movement might have felt during their long march to equality. This very moment, as I write this in a church in Oakland, Calif., with my friends who just marched right alongside me, I am overcome with emotion. What can I say? The majesty of this moment. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

Winter has definitely arrived, if not officially, than at least in spirit. But in all kinds of weather you can find your local neighborhood vendor with the newest edition of Street Roots, out Friday morning. Check out the latest and greatest from the Roots:

Man of the hour: On his third run, Nick Fish got his seat on City Council as head of the city’s housing and homeless programs, just in time for the housing market to collapse, the economy to tank and the city’s coffers to run dry. Joanne Zuhl reports on what makes the commissioner tick and his approach to housing and public service.

Deborah Kafoury looks into leading the charge on housing levy: Amanda Waldroupe follows up on the housing levy conversations taking place, while Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata talks readers through exactly what it takes from A-Z to put a successful housing levy on the ballot.

Day Labor Center struggles with demand for work: Day labor workers are facing an uphill climb in Portland’s downed economy. Amanda Waldroupe reports.

Also, the Western Regional Advocacy Project reports on its upcoming mobilization taking place in San Francisco by housing and homeless advocates and their allies, and Leah Ingram delivers a report on Golden Harvest, a unique food cooperative in North Portland. And much, much more, including poetry, photos and letters from readers. Don’t forget your copy today, and pick up an extra for the in-laws coming to visit!

West Coast stands together to tackle roots of homelessness

By Israel Bayer
Executive Director, Street Roots

The Western Regional Advocacy Project or WRAP (of which both Street Roots and Sisters Of The Road are founding members) is working to build a movement to expose the root causes of homelessness; challenge unjust housing and economic development policies; and fight the criminalization of poverty.

In 2007, the organization released “Without Housing: Decades of Housing Cutbacks, Massive Homelessness and Policy Failures.” More than 125,000 of the reports have been downloaded at http://www.wraphome.org.

The report has become a roadmap for policy makers, organizers, homeless and affordable housing service providers, and for social work departments, explaining how modern day homelessness arrived on our doorsteps in America over the last three decades. (An updated “Without Housing” report and “Without Rights,” a new report four years in the making on the criminalization of people on the streets is due out in 2010.)

For more than 30 years, the broader public has been led to believe that homelessness is a byproduct of individual deficiencies, born out of bad choices that lead to addiction, mental health problems and hopelessness. Disregarding the reality that homelessness is actually a product of a broken system – which includes the lack of affordable housing, access to health care and civil rights.

Continue reading

Measure 66 & 67 failure would mean heavy cuts in affordable housing

Bad news over the weekend on the affordable housing front.

First, yesterday the Oregonian reported that two affordable housing projects in South Waterfront have been scrapped.

This comes on the heels of a Friday afternoon press release from Victor Merced, Director of the Oregon and Housing Community Services, outlining major cuts to affordable housing if Measure 66 & 67 fail.

Projected cuts below:

Unlike the federal government, state government must operate with a balanced budget and cannot create a deficit. To balance the current budget, the Legislature enacted two tax increases, one on corporations and the other on high-income individuals. A special election in January will determine the fate of those two measures.

Oregon Housing and Community Services recently submitted two sets of potential reductions to our Lottery Funds and General Fund programs – a 5 percent cut list and a 10 percent cut list. The Legislative Fiscal Office requested that each agency go through this exercise in preparation for the February 2010 supplemental session. If the tax measures fail, the session will bring the budget back into balance by making cuts.

The exercise is particularly painful at OHCS because the majority of affected programs serve Oregon’s most vulnerable populations – people experiencing hunger and homelessness. The cuts go deeper than 5 and 10 percent for our General Fund programs, because most of the Lottery Funds in the department’s budget are committed to debt service on bonds and cannot be cut.

The cuts will affect thousands of Oregonians and put existing affordable housing stock at risk.

Again, the department’s General Fund cuts exceed the 5 percent target because we cannot cut any Lottery Funds committed to debt service. Therefore, at the lower level, each of the General Fund programs receives a reduction of 8.1 percent.

State Homeless Assistance Program – $232,373. Cuts approximately 1,900 service contacts with people experiencing homelessness.

Emergency Housing Account – $409,433. Reduces capacity of partners, affecting nearly 3,400 people experiencing homelessness.

General Fund Food – $159,821. Reduces food available to the food bank network by nearly half a million pounds.

To reach the target of a 10 percent reduction, OHCS must cut each of the General Fund programs by 17 percent. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

Even in difficult times, there’s so much to give thanks for — including the newest edition of Street Roots and your friendly neighborhood vendor who is working, rain or shine, to bring you the news. Here’s what’s in the new edition, hitting the streets bright and early Friday morning:

Dylan for the holidays: An exclusive interview for street papers with Bob Dylan about his new Christmas CD. He’s putting all of his income from the CD toward three programs that feed the homeless.

Portland housing advocates consider push for housing levy: Seattle has had a housing levy since 1981, funding thousands of new housing for low-income residents. Amanda Waldroupe pursues the answer to the question: Why doesn’t Portland do the same thing?

Activists mark 10 years since the Battle in Seattle: In 1999, the world convened in Seattle for a week of demonstrations against the policies of the World Trade Organization. A decade on, and activists remember what was remarkable about the event, and the work that lies ahead.

Single-payer advocate says keep the heat on those in power: Jay Thiemeyer talks with Peter Shapiro with Jobs with Justice about his own activism to keep single-payer the goal in health care reform.

Genny Nelson, Sisters’ co-founder, retires: Nelson reflects on 30 years with the organization that brought power to the streets and changed the dialogue around homelessness.

And much more is packed inside 16 pages, all for only $1. Get yours today, along with one for the office.

Thank you!

Loss of low-cost housing routing poor from downtown

monopolycrop30Affordable housing for Portland’s poorest residents has declined significantly in the city center, even as more high-end housing increased.

According to the Central City Housing Inventory, released in July by the Portland Development Commission, the city center lost more than 22 percent of its lowest income housing options, but gained nearly 12 percent more in the number of units for higher incomes.

The result, according to those in the business of placing people in affordable housing, has been a shift of poverty from the central city area to outer parts of Portland and Multnomah County.

“Here in mid-county and in east county we are seeing an increasing number of people seeking low-cost affordable housing,” says Jean DeMaster, executive director of Human Solutions. “And we believe part of it is the lack of housing in the central city areas and the decrease of housing in the central city area.”

The sources interviewed for this article all point toward a growing trend: the displacement of low-income people, who can no longer find affordable housing in the central city, to other parts of Portland and Multnomah County.

The increase of people looking for housing in eastern parts of Multnomah County has been happening for the last three or four years, DeMaster says, but Human Solutions saw a “marked” increase in the last six months, corresponding with the deepening of the recession.

The inventory, published every three years, monitors whether or not the city is adhering to its “No Net Loss” policy. Passed in 2001, the No Net Loss policy establishes that the same number of rental units available to people earning 60 percent of MFI or below in 2002 would remain the same through preservation or replacement. That number is 8,286. Continue reading