Portland housing prices – purchase and rental – have risen so high since 2010 that people of color, single mothers with children, and the elderly have essentially been priced out of the city, Mayor Ted Wheeler told a forum organized by the Interfaith Alliance on Poverty.
The city grew by 44,000 people between 2011-16, Wheeler told about 100 people gathered in May at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church. However, for every five new families, only about four new housing units were produced. Most other parts of Oregon face the same housing shortages and rising costs, he said.
Additional conditions contributing to homelessness are inadequate mental and health care options, unemployment and underemployment, inadequate educational opportunities and discrimination, the mayor said.
City agencies are following several paths to retain affordable housing while trying to expand the supply, he said. Efforts also are being made to expand workforce training, including “green energy” jobs, and aligning health services with transitional housing for those moving out of shelters and those living with disabilities in subsidized housing.
A new effort is a “navigation center” for homeless Portlanders, which may open by summer for adults over age 50. They could stay in the 120-bed facility for a short term while getting connected to health care, addiction recovery programs, long-term supportive housing and other services. Construction has started near a westside ramp of the Broadway Bridge.
The annual operating cost of $1 million will come from the Portland-Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services, and the center will be operated by Transition Projects, which runs other shelters through the joint office. Private business people provided about $5 million to begin construction of the center. People interested in navigation services must call a reservation hotline.
Portland continues to seek housing ideas from other cities and is seeking more ideas from the public, Wheeler said.
“We need your ideas and we need your support,” he said. City contacts include Seraphie Allen, policy advisor for livability, email@example.com,, and Cupid Alexander, senior policy advisor for housing, firstname.lastname@example.org.