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From the beginning of the initiative to address displacement in North/Northeast Portland, the Portland Housing Bureau has recognized that any successful effort would first need to acknowledge the history of broken promises between public agencies and the communities of N/NE Portland. That is why the housing plan for N/NE presented to Portland City Council earlier this year included an extra measure of accountability: a community-based body to monitor and oversee implementation of the plan over the next five years.
This body of community representatives, called the Community Oversight Committee, begins meeting this month. Beginning next week, PHB and partners funded through the N/NE initiative will report to the committee on our progress in N/NE at quarterly meetings. The committee will report back to City Council annually, evaluating our performance from the community's perspective.
At the first full meeting on Tuesday, the Committee will hear updates on:
These meetings are open to the public. Meeting schedules and agendas will be posted here.
The newly approved Miracles Club will provide affordable housing combined with services for adults who wish to live in an alcohol and drug-free building.
Portland City Council voted this week to dedicate $7.1 million toward the development of Miracles Central, a collaboration between the Portland Housing Bureau, Central City Concern, and the Miracles Club, to provide affordable housing combined with services for adults who wish to live in an alcohol and drug-free building.
Located at NE 2nd Avenue and NE Wasco Street, the project will follow the programming model of The Miracles Club Apartments, a similar building on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, specializing in culturally competent recovery support for the African American community. The partnership with Central City Concern will help Miracles Club expand to meet the continuing demand for services.
“Even as the economy is rebounding, we know there are deep, persistent disparities in housing access and economic opportunity,” said Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “Miracles Central is important and timely because it increases affordable housing and it also fills a need for the kinds of culturally specific services and programs that can help us begin to address some of these disparities.”
In addition to capital funding, the Portland Housing Bureau is contributing the land toward the project. When complete, it is expected to provide 47 units of affordable housing, including 28 apartments affordable to lower-income households earning up to 50% of the area median income ($25,750 for an individual). Central City Concern and Miracles Club will use the building’s ground floor for program-related services, including meetings and counseling. On-site staff will help tenants with life-skills, employment readiness, and eviction prevention, and work closely with tenants to develop action plans that may include steps like workforce development or education.
Despite rising housing costs and one of the country’s lowest vacancy rates, overall homelessness in Multnomah County has not increased since 2013, according to a report released today by the City of Portland, Multnomah County, the City of Gresham, and Home Forward.
The report identified 1,887 people who are unsheltered (down from 1,895 in 2013), as well as 872 sleeping in an emergency shelter, and 1,042 in transitional housing. Of the unsheltered population, half reported that they had been homeless for a year or less, and most frequently cited unemployment and inability to afford rent as the causes.
The 2015 Point-in-Time Count Report of Homelessness in Portland/Gresham/Multnomah County shows reductions in chronic homelessness and among unsheltered veterans, but troubling increases among African Americans and families with children. The largest increase (48%) was among unsheltered African Americans (from 267 to 396 since 2013)
“This is a call to action,” said Portland Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman. “Our community does a tremendous amount of work to move 3,000 people out of homelessness each year, but this also shows us that we need to do more. Impacting these numbers calls for a new approach.” To that end, he says the Portland Housing Bureau is prepared to focus resources toward improving outcomes for African Americans in particular.
The number of unsheltered families with children grew from 123 people in 2013 to 152 – a 24% increase. Seventy-two more unsheltered women were also counted this year (a 15% increase) – from 494 to 566. Twenty-nine percent of those were women with children.
“While the economy continues to make a comeback, not everyone is enjoying that recovery. There are still far too many veterans and families with children sleeping in unsafe and unstable conditions. This report validates the significant investment my budget makes to put more families and veterans back into housing,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
The findings also reaffirm the strategic plans of A Home for Everyone – a community-wide collaborative made up of leaders from the City of Portland, Multnomah County, and the City of Gresham, and Home Forward, as well as a diverse array of stakeholders. Earlier this year, A Home for Everyone put forth a set of action plans to prioritize key investments in vulnerable populations (including families with children, veterans, women, and unaccompanied youth) with a focus on increasing housing placements, improving housing retention, and creating new affordable housing units.
The report provides A Home for Everyone with some actionable next steps. “With this data, the Executive Committee and Board of A Home for Everyone can determine where it is most urgent to make additional investments and to better collaborate with other systems, like health care and the schools,” said Marc Jolin, A Home for Everyone’s Director. “When we see growing levels of need, like we do for families with children and communities of color, we know where we need to focus our attention.”
The point-in-time count of homelessness includes both a county-wide street count and shelter count. The street count, led by Portland Housing Bureau staff, captures information on people who are sleeping outside, in a vehicle, a tent, etc. The shelter count, led by Multnomah County staff, tallies people sleeping in emergency shelters and transitional housing specifically set aside for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Shelter numbers are reported to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development annually, but the full count (including the street count) takes place every other year. The last report was in 2013.
“The cities and the county are stepping up, and that’s great, but this is an all-hands-on-deck issue,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. “We need the faith community doing more, and for people to volunteer more. We need landlords taking Section 8 vouchers and veterans’ vouchers. If only the government responds, it won’t be enough. Each of us has to play a role in this.”
Click here to download the full 2015 report.
Read what Commissioner Dan Saltzman had to say in the Oregonian about what Fair Housing audit testing reveals and what the City is doing about unequal treatment in our housing market.
Saturday, May 16, 2015
By Dan Saltzman
At the heart of our conversation about the state of housing in Portland is a conversation about the kind of city we want to be — who will get to live in our great neighborhoods, what our schools and communities will look like, who our investments in parks and transit will ultimately serve.
As The Oregonian/OregonLive has reported, city-funded testing shows that Portland remains a place where you can be denied housing because of the color of your skin, where you were born, how ably you get around or if you have children. Of 51 properties tested, more than one-third showed unequal treatment toward an undercover tester belonging to a protected class, most frequently black and Latino testers.
The city works to foster integrated communities and housing access in a number of ways, including education efforts around fair housing policy and practice. Some areas of focus already appear to be yielding improvements: The latest report, for example, shows a drop in unequal treatment toward people with disabilities following concentrated outreach around reasonable accommodations. It seems, however, that policy training will not deter an agent who quotes higher rental prices or misleading information to prospective tenants because of their race. That is why the city of Portland's Housing Bureau commissioned improved audit testing that allows us for the first time to take meaningful action against discrimination.
Because adverse differential treatment is often subtle and challenging to prosecute, at least three tests are needed in a single case to stand up to legal scrutiny. Portland's hot rental market, however, is thwarting our ability to carry this out annually. After 15 months, we are still awaiting vacancies in close to 20 sites to conduct the necessary retests to support enforcement. This timeline is disappointing, but the integrity of the process is critical if we hope to be able to act where bias is uncovered and bad actors are identified.
In the meantime, testing is constantly taking place in our community. The Fair Housing Council of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development test on an ongoing basis. City-funded tests add to that picture, so we have budgeted for testing in the coming year — but while we wait to conclude investigations on at least 19 pending cases, we have to ask ourselves whether annual reporting is possible at this time.
As we move forward, I will look to our citizen-based advisory boards, including the Fair Housing Advocacy Committee and the Portland Housing Advisory Commission, as well as members of the community at large, for input on the appropriate frequency and scope of audit testing.
In addition to testing, the city funds legal support for victims of fair housing violations. As a result, Legal Aid Services of Oregon has successfully negotiated or litigated 53 such cases since 2011. We will therefore also continue tenant education efforts, so that tenants are empowered to advocate on their own behalf and seek the legal services available to them.
One need only turn on the evening news and see the images coming out of Baltimore to witness the harm to cities when communities are left with a sense of hopelessness about their right to equal treatment. For some of us, this report reveals hard truths about our city; for others, it reflects little more than daily lived experiences. In every case, it gives us the starting point for an important conversation about how to respond to these results so that no Portlander is barred from housing opportunity due to discrimination.
Dan Saltzman is the Portland city commissioner in charge of the Housing Bureau.
Click to view on OregonLive.com
The Oregon Opportunity Network will host a discussion of our new report and what its findings reveal about the state of housing today.
Join us Friday, May 8 at noon for a discussion of the findings in our new report, hosted by the Oregon Opportunity Network. We will be joined by Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman.
When: Friday, May 8, noon-1pm
Where: First Unitarian Church of Portland, Eliot Chapel - 1011 SW 12th Ave.
Under the direction and guidance of Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman and former Housing Bureau Director Traci Manning, the Portland Housing Bureau has developed the State of Housing in Portland 2015 Report -- a first-of-its kind report on Portland's housing market. Blending historic data on households and housing stock with current data on housing production and the rental and ownership markets, PHB has provided the most up-to-date picture of the market by housing type, neighborhood area, and affordability to households based on composition, and by race and ethnicity.
It also consolidates the outcomes of PHB's programs and portfolio, thereby measuring how current City policy, budgeting, and operations impact the housing market.
Beginning with Phase Two of this report, due out later this year, the State of Housing in Portland will be published each fall to provide elected officials, policymakers, government institutions, community organizations, and other partners with the information to guide discussions and decisions on housing policy and resources.
During the next few months, we will solicit feedback about the efficacy of the report in giving Portland City Council the information it needs to make policy and resource decisions. PHB will also present the report to other stakeholders in the housing system, and request their feedback, which will be reflected in Phase Two later this year.
Watch City Council's recent discussion of the report here.