Oak Leaf residents hopeful city will help buy mobile park - KPTV - FOX 12

Oak Leaf residents hopeful city will help buy mobile park

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Portland could be one step closer to tackling the city’s affordable housing crisis, as commissioners shared positive feedback Thursday on a potential new tax to generate more funding for low-income homes.

The city is considering a construction excise tax on residential and commercial construction.

Earlier this year state legislators made the tax legal for cities and counties to consider. Portland is looking at taxes of 1 percent of permit valuations on new construction within the city. Depending on how commissioners chose to implement the ordinance, a big chuck of the revenue could go straight to affordable housing projects. 

It was a meeting one group in particular could not miss: residents of northeast Portland’s Oak Leaf Mobile Park say staying silent could leave them homeless.

The residents, with the support of a local neighborhood association and the nonprofit Community and Shelter Assistance Corp., better known as CASA, are hoping to secure city funding to keep the land from being sold to a developer. 

In January, the park’s owner informed them the land was being sold. Residents scrambled trying to figure out where to go - many of them can’t afford to move anywhere else because they only pay around $400 or $500 a month to live at Oak Leaf. 

“They are people who dug their way out from the street -- looking for anything to grab a hold of,” Oak Leaf resident Lawrence Omara says of his neighbors. "If this went down, it would just be everybody out of a home.” 

But Thursday night, the couple dozen residents that showed up for the meeting left feeling victorious. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees the city’s housing bureau, recommended moving forward with a proposal to use city funding to supplement a purchase of Oak Leaf Mobile Park.

“One way or another we’ll get it done,” Saltzman said, indicting he wasn’t quite sure where the money would come from yet. 

According to the residents, CASA is also chipping in with a loan to help them purchase the property.

“They have come so very far from the threat of losing their homes, to coming to you today to request $1.5 million dollars,” CASA employee Julie Massa testified at the meeting. 

Resident Debbie Haines didn’t attend the meeting, but said she could hardly believe the news.

“It looks really good now, so I’m feeling hopeful,” Haines said. “I don’t want to live on the streets, I’m too old to live on the streets.”

Commissioner Salesman said the owner of Oak Leaf said she would “entertain” the idea of selling the land to the residents and city. 

“We really feel like we won,” Omara said. "The bus ride back over here - it was cheerful. It was pretty much like a high school football game.” 

Commissioners are expected to vote on the tax next week. 

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