On a recent Saturday morning at Markham Elementary School in SW Portland, more than 100 community members came together to hear each other's stories and learn about preserving and creating affordable housing in the SW Corridor in advance of a new light rail line. Joining them were community leaders, affordable housing and renter advocates, and elected officials, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, Tigard Councilor Tom Anderson, Metro Councilor Bob Stacey, Multnomah County Councilor Sharon Meieran, and State Representatives Margaret Doherty and Andrea Salinas. Gloria Pinzón from Momentum Alliance was the skillful MC for the event.
In a rousing speech, Mayor Wheeler said, “We must invest holistically in our communities, in both housing and transit. We need to act early on housing and we need to work with all our regional partners on solutions.”
“The regional housing crisis has hit the SW corridor,” declared the Community Alliance of Tenant’s (CAT) Katrina Holland. “People are experiencing large rent increases today, years before light rail is even here.”
Other community organizations participating included Muslim Educational Trust, Community Partners for Affordable Housing, Momentum Alliance, OPAL Environmental Justice for Oregon, 1,000 Friends of Oregon, UniteOregon, Community Housing Fund, Fair Housing Council of Oregon, WorkSystems Inc., Southwest Neighbors, Inc. and many others. The event was put on by Metro and the cities of Portland and Tigard.
Amplifying the multi-cultural community spirit, Danza Azteca danced during a break, and the Musli Educational Trust catered lunch.
Of those who filled out a demographic survey, 32 percent were people of color, 15 percent spoke a language other than English at home, 25 percent were renters, 66 percent female and 12 percent identified as having a disability. The average age was 52 and average household size was 2.6.
Listening to and learning from each other
The event, which was billed as a “listening and learning session,” served to educate, build community, gather input and affirm leadership support for affordable housing and transit in the SW Corridor. After hearing speeches and participating in a welcoming exercise, participants broke out into small group discussions about challenges faced by renters and home owners.
Neighbors listened to each other answer the question, “When light rail arrives, what is your greatest hope or aspiration for housing in the SW Corridor?”
Here’s what some people had to say …
- “I’ve lived here since college – went to PCC and PSU by bus. I want people my daughter’s age to be able to live here the way I could when I was young.”
- “Current residents along SW Corridor are able to reap the benefits of the new transit line and are able to continue to live in their communities without being displaced.”
- “Everyone who needs a place to live has a place to live.”
- “Tigard wants affordable housing! Housing for people who live here now.”
Small groups of 5 to 10 people discussed challenges for renters and homeowners; both to stay in their homes and to create new choices for people moving in. Some themes we heard were:
- More housing choices are needed for people to stay in the community and for new people moving.
- Displacement is a threat to residents and community.
- Economically integrated communities with good transit are desired.
- Early services and land acquisition is needed to get ahead of rising costs of land and housing as new transit comes along.
Look for draft strategies and housing targets this winter. Your feedback is important. Check out our events calendar for the SW Corridor Equity and Housing Advisory Group meetings and CAT’s tenant education workshops. And/or get in touch with Asher Freeman at CAT (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you live along the SW Corridor and would like to bring one of their workshops to your building.