After years of gentrification that has changed the face and character of North Portland’s historic Albina neighborhood, the City of Portland is making an effort to bring people with a family connection to the area back in.
The city has acknowledged its past policies played a major role in the displacement of historic Albina residents, most of them African-American.
After several false starts, the city is now actively working to provide opportunities for people who have been forced out of the area by development or rising rents to come back.
“We had over 1,000 people apply for the home ownership project we did initially, 65 slots, and we’ve had our first four people purchase homes through the preference policy,” said Leslie Goodlow, Project Manager for the city’s North/Northeast Housing Strategy, which aims to bring thousands of people whose families have been displaced back to Albina and North Portland.
People who can prove they have family ties to the area can qualify for down payment assistance on a home purchase up to $100,000, or preferential consideration for new rental apartments that are being built.
According to a study by Portland State University, the construction of the Memorial Coliseum in the early 1960s resulted in the loss of 476 homes in Albina, half of them owned by African-Americans.
The Emmanuel Hospital project, meanwhile, resulted in the loss of 1,100 housing units, and the bulldozing of some 76 acres of real estate.
At the same time, lenders’ refusal to finance black home buyers or finance repairs by existing homeowners in Albina led to many homes being abandoned, and eventually bought up by primarily white developers and investors.
“When I think about my past and where I was able to go and now look at it, yeah, it’s very emotional to walk down those streets and see nothing that remotely comes close to what used to be,” said Tony Hopson, Sr., CEO of Self Enhancement Inc. (SEI), an Albina non-profit that serves as a community center, which also provides academic support and services for black students and their families.
Hopson also grew up in Albina.
“There’s not many places that black folks can convene back in this community. Folks love to come here,” said Hopson.
Many of the kids participating in after-school activities at SEI are students at nearby Boise-Eliot/Humboldt School, but many of them don’t actually live in the neighborhood. Their parents drive them to school from East Portland or Gresham, in some cases.
Dwight Minniweather, who also grew up in Albina, still runs a restaurant in the neighborhood, but commutes to work from Wood Village, and drives his son to Boise-Eliot/Humboldt.
“I said, well, if I’m gonna pay $2,200, I might as well own a home. And it wasn’t going to happen in northeast, so I had to go where I could own a home,” said Minniweather.
According to the city, Garlington Place will be the first rental development to use the preference policy, offering 30 apartments that will come online in 2018.
After that, the Beatrice Morrow will add an additional 80 units, and the Argyle Street Apartments in Kenton will offer close to 200 units, with priority given to those displaced from North and Northeast Portland.
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