Tag Archives: Barney Frank

Man of the hour — Nick Fish

In the cavernous meeting hall of the Governor Hotel, as 200 people dined at the REACH Community Development Corporation’s annual donor luncheon, Nick Fish was seated off in a corner at the table with members of the newly created Portland Housing Bureau. But when the lights dimmed, Fish was front and center for the show. In fact, at just a few feet away, no one was closer to the giant screen that projected the stark realities of Portland’s housing and homeless crisis.

The grim barrage reflected on his face: 1 in 2 Oregonians live on incomes 200 percent below the federal poverty line for a family of four – $42,400

1 in 4 Oregonians spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent.

64 percent of Portland residents living in poverty work full time.

41 percent of Portlanders living in poverty were single mothers

20,000 new affordable housing units are needed in Portland over the next 7 years.

Nick Fish was the man Portland elected to help change all this, or at least help to correct the economic inequality that, over the course of the past decade, has priced much of Portland’s housing beyond a commoner’s reach, and made it the hub of a state that recently led the nation, per capita, for homelessness, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This was the job he wanted — the job he fought for — several times since 2002, when he first ran for City Council. After two unsuccessful runs, he succeeded in the special election of 2008, filling the position left vacant in June of that year by Erik Sten’s resignation. As Portland’s first commissioner to have combined control over housing and parks, Fish oversees two bureaus that impact nearly every resident of the city, particularly its most vulnerable populations as they interface with business, neighborhood and development concerns.

But just as he got his ticket to the ball, the carriage turned to a pumpkin. Not only did the economy nosedive into the biggest recession in recent history, evaporating local resources and nationwide housing investments, but City Hall soon erupted in a salacious scandal involving Mayor Sam Adams and a teenage intern.

Meanwhile, quietly across the city, people were losing their jobs and their homes, foreclosures hit a staggering pace, and homelessness jumped 37 percent across the state over the previous year.

“Who would have thought, a year and a half ago, after City Council got through dividing up a surplus, that not only would we be in the worst economic downturn of our lifetime, but that the engine room — the precipitating effect of this recession — was a collapse in the housing market. So not only am I in charge of housing, but housing is essentially the place with the three-alarm fire, and I’m in charge of leading a city/county collaborative effort to try and address this unfolding humanitarian crisis.” Continue reading