On Mother’s Day this year, a group of renters – led by a group of mostly Somali women living in Southwest Portland and Tigard – hosted an event at Markham Elementary School. It was the last Sunday before Ramadan, and some 200 community members gathered to feast together.
They also came to share a set of community solutions to housing affordability and stability, which they had crafted.
Their audience included elected officials who were invited to the meeting, including Metro Councilor Bob Stacey and City of Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. The gathering was supported by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), an advocacy group for low-income tenant protections in Oregon.
Learning how to organize and advocate for housing justice
This community event was the culmination of a months-long process where tenants organized, learned and collaborated as a single cohort around a common goal of housing justice in the Southwest Corridor. In the process, they learned about housing policy and advocacy techniques they could use to amplify their voices.
The event kicked off with several focus groups of 15-20 people, who discussed community housing solutions developed over the past several months.
Asking questions about tenant protections and other renters’ issues
Then the cohort posed questions to keep elected officials accountable for housing policies as planning for the Southwest Corridor light rail project continues. The questions directed to Commissioner Chloe Eudaly and Metro Councilor Bob Stacey addressed topics such as:
• Tenant protections and rights in both Tigard and Portland.
• Housing discrimination by landlords against Somali immigrants.
• Amount of affordable housing investments made ahead of the new MAX light rail construction.
• Purchasing of market rate apartment buildings to preserve affordability and cultural communities.
Others expressed concerns about meeting housing goals and needs in SW. "What will you do to ensure that the affordable housing you plan for actually gets built?" asked one cohort participant.
SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy
To take advantage of opportunities and investments in and around the potential new light rail line in SW Portland and Tigard, the cities of Portland and Tigard are creating the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy. The stretch goal is to build and preserve 2,300 affordable units near future station areas along the entire corridor in the next 10 years. Strategies to provide anti-displacement services and strengthen tenant protections like those solutions presented at the Mother’s Day event are also included in the corridor’s housing strategy.
New partnerships and funding sources will be required to meet these goals. And events like this one on Mother’s Day are one way to create and strengthen those partnerships.
Learn more about the SW Corridor Equitable Housing Strategy process and read the public discussion draft.