Undoing Gentrification in North Portland

north portland real estate

Portland Offers Downpayment Assistance to Displaced Families

This spring, we wrote a post in this real estate blog about how Portland is (hopefully) changing gentrification. North/Northeast Portland is seen by many as a pivotal location for Portland’s efforts to combat the gentrification to succeed or fail. As new businesses and affluent residents in this cluster of Portland neighborhoods move in and drive up home values, many of its historically black residents are no longer able to afford homes there.

One of the best ideas the city of Portland came up with last year to combat this problem is its Preference Policy. The Portland Housing Bureau describes it as a “tool to prioritize impacted households for housing opportunities in the area.” In other words, they want to bring back longtime residents of North/Northeast Portland by offering them some form of down payment and/or mortgage assistance on homes in these neighborhoods.

As a real estate agent, I’m pretty excited about this new policy as it will open up home ownership to more people, and it has the potential to return diversity to these Portland communities.

The story of gentrification in North/Northeast Portland is a long one. In the 1950s and 60s, urban renewal wiped out the NE neighborhood of Albina, which was a predominantly African-American. Then the addition of light rail — which was a boon for commuters going from N/NE to downtown Portland — improved home values in surrounding neighborhoods and was the fuel on the fire of gentrification here. Can we turn the story around?

Portland’s Preference Policy works by giving individuals displaced by gentrification an opportunity to apply for assistance in purchasing a home right in the neighborhood where their families lived for generations.

As the policy is currently written, former residents gain preference by scoring on a six-point scale based on where they or their family members were displaced from in the North/Northeast neighborhoods. The more family members you have that had to move out of the area, the more points you are awarded. Those with the most points are placed at the top of the list.

The Portland Housing Bureau offers down payment assistance and other programs to the family members at the top of the list first (all others are waitlisted). If your family happens to be at the top of the list, good news! You won’t be limited to the public housing options currently available. Any home listed on the Portland real estate market can qualify for a no-interest down payment loan, which doesn’t have to be repaid for 30 years or until the home is sold. However, there is a minimum credit score to qualify, and homebuyers must not have owned a home for the past three years.

In its initial run of the program, the Portland Housing Bureau dedicated $5 million toward strategies to create new homeowners, and 65 displaced residents are expected to be able to move back in to N/NE neighborhoods, according to PHB.

The Preference Policy application process is currently closed, but expected to re-open when more affordable housing units become available.

July 5, 2016

Stephen FitzMaurice

Stephen FitzMaurice, Realtor is a top 5% real estate agent in the U.S. and a top 1% agent in the Portland Metro. Principal Broker in Oregon, Managing Broker in Washington he has been licensed since 2003 for residential real estate sales in the Portland Metro area. Call him direct: 503-714-1111.

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