Tag Archives: Housing Bureau

Breaking: Safety net funding prevails in city budget hearing

By Joanne Zuhl
Staff Writer

After months of speculation over budget cuts and service reductions, Portland’s safety net for the homeless and poor has tentatively been restored in this morning’s City Council meeting with the pending passage of the city’s 2012-13 draft budget.

City Commissioner Nick Fish pushed forward two amendments to Mayor Sam Adams’ budget proposal before the final vote. The first was a request for $250,000 to fully restore the city’s one-time funding for services to the current level of $4.8 million. The bulk of the funding pays for emergency shelter and short-term rent assistance to keep families in their homes, and quickly restore housing to people who become homeless. It also includes funding for overnight shelter and supportive housing at the Bud Clark Commons, and referral and information resources.

Staffing vacancies from retirements were credited with freeing up the money, which is earmarked for foreclosure prevention and homeownership support.

As one-time allocations, the funding for these services come up for renewal with each budget cycle, and were subject to reductions at the mayor’s discretion — this, despite the services’ priority status by city’s Office of Management Finance.

Fish’s second amendment changes all that, reclassifying the serial one-time request to ongoing funding.

“The direction will be over the next two years to fold in $4.6 million of safety net funding into the ongoing budget, so we don’t have to go over this exercise each year,” Fish said. “The Office of Management Finance has identified this as a priority but the city was using an unstable source of funding. My job is to hold the council’s feet to the fire.”

Both amendments passed unanimously.

Fish credited the momentum to preserve the safety net to a months-long campaign featuring images of citizens and civic leaders holding a sign stating, “I support the Portland Safety Net.” The campaign was organized by a coalition of organizations and individuals, including Street Roots, JOIN, Oregon Opportunity Network, and the Community Alliance of Tenants. “It made a difference,” Fish said.

Shifting those services from one-time to ongoing funding streams has been a goal of Fish since he took office. “It really completes for me a four-year journey in what may end up being one of the toughest budget cycles we go through.”

Fish pledges enforcement, education against housing discrimination

By Joanne Zuhl
Staff Writer

An audit of the city’s fair housing practices completed nearly four months ago has recently set tongues wagging over what the city is going to do with the high rate of reported discrimination.

The audit by the Fair Housing Council of Oregon found that 32 out of 50 test interviews with landlords revealed different treatment for test applicants who were African-American or Latino. The audit was part of the city’s work to prepare its Analysis of Impediments report mandated by the federal government. It was the first such audit the city has commissioned.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish

“When we got the results we were alarmed by the high incidence of discrimination, particularly among people of color,” said City Commissioner Nick Fish, who heads up the Portland Housing Bureau. Fish said he and Portland Housing Bureau Executive Director Margaret Van Vliet are taking a dual track approach to rectify the situation, which was first published by The Oregonian.

“We’re going to be working with landlords and their associations and the advocacy community to do outreach and education,” Fish said. “At the same time, we’re going to do some targeted enforcement of the law.”
Fish said that since the city received the audit back in February, he has been talking with various parties, including the Oregon Law Center and Attorney General John Kroger, about developing an approach to addressing the disparities. The violations exposed in the Fair Housing Council’s audit were to state and federal laws, and enforcement is triggered through an essentially complaint driven process, according to Fish. Fair housing complaints are not processed through the city, he said.

However, Fish said he is talking with the attorney general about partnering with other forces, either through administrative or with a lawsuit, to push enforcement on some egregious violators.

“There will be something tangible we can point to,” Fish said.

The audit comprised 50 tests – 25 test tenants based in race (African-American renters with white), and 25 based on national origin (Latino compared to white). Of the race tests, 15 showed different treatment. Of the national origin tests, 17 showed different treatment and 6 were inconclusive. Among the disparities in treatment were African-Americans and Latinos being quoted higher movie-in costs and higher rent, and additional costs that were not applied to white applicants.

Fish’s father, Rep. Hamilton Fish, was a champion of the Fair Housing Act of 1988, which expanded protections to families with children and people with disabilities. It also expanded options for redress on grievances through private means.

PDC unloads affordable housing obligation in North Macadam

The League of Women Voters is calling on the city to stand behind its agreement to build affordable housing in the North Macadam Urban Renewal Area after an preliminary agreement indicates the Portland Development Commission is bailing on 400 promised units.

The agreement releases the PDC from its obligation to invest $4 million into block 33, build 400 affordable housing sites there, and removes any obligation for the site to reserve units at 0-60 percent of median family income – the poorest and most difficult to subsidize population.

The deal is that PDC gives up Block 33 to the Oregon Health and Science University for $3 million – $1 million in transportation charge credits and a maximum of $2 million from the sale of the property. That money can then be redirected to Block 49. The plans for development on Block 49 include 209 affordable housing units, with 40 to 50 dedicated to formerly homeless veterans.

City Commissioner Nick Fish said that Block 33 was no longer viable for multiple reasons, and that his focus is on Block 49, which is already $2 million into plans for developing 150 units for homeless veterans. “We made a commitment to our homeless veterans,” Fish said. “Block 33 is a challenged site and, currently, there is not enough money to do both.”

Here’s what the League had to say:

The North Macadam urban renewal area is 11 years old.  To date not one unit of affordable housing has been developed.  Many of the other projects outlined in the plan and the Central District Development Agreement, however, have been completed or are near-complete including the OHSU tram, streetcar, condo towers, streets and sidewalks, and Elizabeth Caruthers Park.  During the early planning for this district fears were expressed that this area might become an enclave for the wealthy.  Given the amount of public resources that will be devoted to this district we urge you to ensure that fear is not borne out.

In 2006, when the 8th amendment was adopted, PDC believed Block 33 was a viable option for 400 units of affordable housing.  We do not understand why this is no longer the case and encourage you to ask that question of staff involved in negotiating the deal.  Furthermore, the 8th amendment transferred the obligation to develop 400 units of affordable housing from North Macadam Investors to the city.  What are the plans for fulfilling that obligation?

Portland Housing Bureau Director Margaret Van Vliet noted that the Block 33 plan was set out well before the revenue from the Urban Renewal Area was known, and the expensive level of construction on that site didn’t pencil out for affordable housing. Van Vliet said she and the PHB are going to work to find affordable housing apartments elsewhere in the area, and as the North Macadam area develops, more money — dedicated through the 30 percent set-aside in taxes — should become available to put toward affordable housing.

“But it’s not there right now,” Van Vliet said.

Van Vliet said it is not clear on the obligation to replace quid pro quo the 400 units and 0-60 percent housing from Block 33, but that regardless of those figures, she will try to establish affordable housing wherever possible.

“The recent TIF report showed signs of progress in the overall meeting of income targets, however if you look at the TIF report as a whole, the city has failed to meet 0-30 percent income targets in many districts, including North Macadam,” says Julie Massa, Portland Policy Coordinator with Oregon Opportunity Network. “The city had plans to dig deep on TIF funds for North Macadam, but they wouldn’t have reached the lower income targets with Block 33.

“In light of these new developments, we want to make sure there’s a return on public housing investment that benefits all income levels in any projects moving forward.”

The complete letter from the League of Women Voters of Portland follows:

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!

The life of Leo Rhodes

Leo Rhodes is a Street Roots vendor, columnist, board member and homeless advocate. His work has been highlighted in the newspaper throughout 2009.

He sells the newspaper almost daily in the Hollywood neighborhood in Northeast and has been a staple at city council meetings and homeless protests over the past year.

His tireless work has led him to work with the Portland Housing Bureau on the 10-year plan to end homelessness and to reform laws targeting individuals on the streets, while being a vendor rep on the Street Roots board of directors.

Elizabeth Schwartz, a local photographer and Street Roots volunteer spent the last five months documenting Leo’s work in the community for a recent photography show at Albina Community Bank about the lives of people who sell the newspaper.

Leo at his vendor location in Hollywood.

Leo showing Housing Commissioner Nick Fish his recent column in Street Roots.

Leo at the Street Roots office with volunteer Becky Mullins and Kreeg Peoples.

Leo speaking at City Council. Continue reading

Housing Bureau is moving

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap) 1

The offices are moving, in part, due to the merger of the Bureau of Housing and Community Development and aspects of the Portland Development Commission; the combined agency will now be known as the Portland Housing Bureau. The staff of the former BHCD will be located in the same building, just moving six floors down, while the Portland Development Commission housing staff will be relocating from their Old Town Chinatown headquarters.

For inquiries about the new bureau, call 503.823.2375. There may be brief interruptions in services while the bureau moves offices during the next week.

With winter coming, the city explores where people can sleep – legally

From the Oct. 2 edition of Street Roots

Just as the city of Portland, service providers and advocates are seeking ways to allow homeless individuals without access to shelter “get a decent night’s sleep,” a group of individuals has begun camping outside of City Hall, reminiscent of a three-week protest in May 2008.

Gathering outside of Mercy Corps’ Action Center near Skidmore Fountain on Sept. 28, a group of 20 homeless individuals signed a code of conduct, agreeing to not use drugs or alcohol, pick up after themselves and to respect others. Once they were all signed, they took the MAX to City Hall and set up their camping gear to sleep there during the night.

Organized by Art Rios, who was formerly homeless and has been involved with Sisters of the Road’s Civic Action Group, the group is camping outside of City Hall during the night for the same reasons, Rio says, that homeless people protested for three weeks outside of City Hall in 2008.

“Get the anti-camping ordinance suspended,” he says. “It’s about coming to a safe place to sleep for eight hours. We just want a campsite that’s safe.”

A statement released by Rios calls for the creation of safe places for tent cities, campsites and shelter before the weather turns cold.

“They (the city) need to open up more shelters and they know that, but we can show them they need to move it a little quicker,” says Chris Shields, 47, a homeless person who was part of the group sleeping outside of City Hall.

In the last few months, the Portland Housing Bureau and members of the Coordinating Committee to End Homelessness, the committee of Portland Housing Bureau members, advocates, and nonprofit service providers that oversee and implement the City’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness have been considering ways that might address Rios’ and the camper’s concerns.

An informal committee calling itself the Alternative Workgroup, convened by Sally Erickson, the manager of the Portland Housing Bureau’s Ending Homelessness Initiative, has met three times during the past two months, with a narrow focus: think of ways that homeless people who camp outside, either willfully or because they cannot get into shelter, can sleep through the night safely. The work group includes representatives from Sisters of the Road, Street Roots, and several people experiencing homelessness, including Street Roots’ vendor Leo Rhodes.

“It’s in all of our interests that everyone is able to stay warm and healthy,” says Marc Jolin, the executive director of the outreach agency JOIN, who is a member of the Coordinating Committee and the Alternatives Workgroup. “If they can’t get a good night’s sleep, they can’t stay healthy, their ability to help themselves is severely compromised.”

On Sept. 16, the Alternatives Workgroup presented its 13 recommendations to the Coordinating Committee. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

Beat the chill with the oct0209page1hot, hot, hot edition of Street Roots, homemade and hand-delivered by your local vendor. Here’s what will be warming your cockles tomorrow morning:

High-flying Hawk: Skateboard phenom Tony Hawk twists, turns and soars with South African youths

With winter coming, the city explores where people can sleep – legally: Amanda Waldroupe reports on the latest talks by the city and advocacy groups to create alternatives for people on the streets, and the demonstrators who are calling for action now.

Police, “Cops” intrude on St. Francis diners: With a camera crew from the television show, police arrive just in time for the 5 p.m. dinner. Julie McCurdy, the Urban Gypsy, writes from her own perspective on the event.

The beggars come to the opera: Amanda Waldroupe interviews Portland’s Stephen Marc Beaudoin who has reinvented a musical based on well-known Portland personalities.

All this, plus an interview with hip-hop artist Speech, reports on Olympic-sized headaches for low-income renters in Vancouver, a preview of the 2010 census, the ministry of Tex Watson and a crossword puzzle most of our readers should be able to finish! Enjoy!

Motel limbo – some of Portland’s motels hide a troubling side to homelessness

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From the August 24 edition of Street Roots

The first thing you notice when you enter Tiffany Shepard and Patricia Schafer’s motel room is the darkness, especially in contrast to the blindingly bright summer sunshine outside. The second is the fatigue on the women’s faces, betraying the exhaustion that accompanies living in limbo with an 8-month-old child. Tiffany looks lovingly but wearily at the blanket-covered crib in the corner, where a soft rustling announces the end of her son Caden’s nap and the beginning of nonstop infant supervision.

The fractured family’s room off Sandy Boulevard in outer Northeast Portland is a temporary residence; neither Tiffany nor Patricia calls it a home.

“It’s a roof over our heads,” says Patricia. “That’s it.” Continue reading

Is Seattle kicking Portland’s booty?

While Portland City Council debates sit-lie citywide, baseball stadiums, parking lots and signage – Seattle’s appears to be kicking our collective butts.

Portland continues to struggle with a debate over a past hero (Cesar Chavez Blvd.), while Seattle appears to be looking to the future and is backing an immigration platform.

Portland continues to sift through a Housing Bureau transfer with no concrete examples of how exactly the transfer will benefit the affordable housing stock in Portland, specifically in places like South Waterfront and now possibly Lents.

Seattle was far enough ahead of the curve to put a  Affordable Housing levy worth $142 million on the ballot. It’s projected to pass.

You decide.

Posted by Israel Bayer

Head of BHCD resigns

Street Roots had been hearing lots of rumors over the past week about the departure of the Bureau of Housing and Community Development Director, Will White. Turns out those rumors had some merit.

Here’s the letter sent to Street Roots by White this afternoon. A letter sent out by Commissioner Nick Fish follows.

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As you know, Commissioner Fish and Mayor Adams announced in December the creation of a new Bureau of Housing, combining resources and personnel currently at BHCD with those of PDC’s housing department. At the same time, BHCD’s Economic Opportunity Initiative will move to PDC, resulting in a Commission more strongly focused on economic development.

Along with many of you, I have long advocated for structural changes to create an integrated system to set policy for housing and homelessness, allocate resources to support those policies, and manage housing assets more efficiently.

As Commissioner Fish takes responsibility to lay the groundwork for this new bureau, I know that he wants to be free to create a clear new mission, develop a strong bureau structure, blend organizational cultures, and select new leadership. That is a very large responsibility, and it appropriately rests with the Commissioner of Housing.

To allow Commissioner Fish the fullest latitude to implement his vision, I have decided to leave my position as Director of BHCD effective February 13th. I expect that Commissioner Fish will announce his selection of an Interim Director for BHCD later today.

I am proud of all we have accomplished while working together for the last 15 years. I wish all of you great success in the future, and am confident that I will continue to be in close contact with many of you going forward.

Thank you for your friendship and support over the years.

Sincerely,

Will

Director, Bureau of Housing and Community Development
421 SW 6th Ave, Suite 1100
Portland, OR 97204
(503) 823-2380

Via Nick Fish…

Today I accepted the resignation of Will White, Director of the Bureau of Housing and Community Development.

Will has made an invaluable contribution to the City and has a notable record of service and accomplishments. Under his leadership, BHCD has achieved success with the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, empowered people to self sufficiency through the Economic Opportunity Initiative, and developed and preserved housing to serve seniors, families with children, people of color, and our lowest income populations.

It has been my good fortune, as the City’s Housing Commissioner, to have had the benefit of Will’s experience during my first six months as Housing Commissioner. I am grateful that he will continue his service with the City through February 13, 2009, and will continue to serve me as an advisor in the future.

As BHCD is preparing to transition its operations and programs to the newly-created Portland Housing Bureau, I do not intent to hire a replacement for Will. Instead, I will conduct a search for a director to lead the new Portland Housing Bureau.

I have asked the Bureau’s Deputy Director, Andy Miller, to serve as interim Executive Director. Andy will assume responsibility for leading day-to-day operations of BHCD effective February 13.

Kate Allen, Housing Policy Manager for the City of Portland, will continue to manage the City’s efforts to transition PDC housing and BHCD into the Portland Housing Bureau.

If you have any questions regarding the hiring of a new director for the Portland Housing Bureau, please contact Sam Chase at 503-823-3599.

Sincerely,
Nick Fish

New housing bureau announced in Portland

Dec. 16, 2008

Via Nick Fish’s office…

To the Staff and Stakeholders of PDC and BHCD:

We are pleased to announce the formation of a new City of Portland bureau, focused on housing, that will replace the current Bureau of Housing and Community Development, and will take over its initiatives to increase affordable housing choice and end homelessness.

The new bureau will also incorporate the housing development and finance functions currently at the Portland Development Commission. We are charging this new housing bureau with the mission of meeting the housing needs of the current and future residents of our City, and we are vesting it with all of the tools, talent, and accountability to get the work done.

Mayor-Elect Adams has asked Commissioner Fish to lead this new bureau, and oversee the transition. Continue reading