The Guardian: Un-gentrifying Portland: scheme helps displaced residents come home

The Guardian, March 1, 2018: Un-gentrifying Portland: scheme helps displaced residents come home 

The Portland housing bureau’s preference policy, or “Right to Return” program, gives down payment assistance to first-time homeowners who were displaced, or at risk of displacement, from the city’s north and north-east neighborhoods because of urban renewal; it falls under a city plan that delegates how $20m will be spent on affordable housing, in an effort to atone for the sins of gentrification.

Last fall, the housing bureau received some 1,100 applications for the policy. With enough funds to subsidize 65 households, the bureau has so far succeeded in moving five families into their new homes. Forty-eight applications are in the pipeline to becoming mortgage-ready. And in February, under the preference policy, hundreds applied for rent-subsidized apartments in two buildings in north-east Portland, slated to open this year.

In order to qualify for “preference”, applicants score points through their previous or current address. The greater the urban renewal activity in your area, the higher the points. Top priority is given to those whose property was snatched by the city through eminent domain. Applicants can add additional points if they can prove that their parent, guardian or grandparent lived in these affected neighborhoods.

But not everyone is singing the policy’s praises. The application doesn’t include a box to identify race, a decision critics are calling cowardly.

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