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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fireman Randy and Paulson robbing from the poor

Literally depriving them of housing.


Comments (20)

I'm almost beyohd caring. Randy operates in a vacuum if you can't tell by this deal and the water blog.

God, we'd better hope Sam gets booted or there will be no stopping this pair.

"Fewer than 25% of Lents residents can afford market rate homes built in Lents."

Pretty true throughout the city, but worse in Lents.

If this dog and pony show goes through, they'd better allow camping and squatting around the perimeter.

What's the surprise?

Portland has been taking money from the poor and low income (through property taxes) and giving it to the rich for years through Urban Renewal. Most of the housing built is affordable only to the upper income people, with a few units set aside for low income as window dressing. But only oif the developer can make a good profit.


If someone is aware of a situation where the 30% low income set-aside hase actually worked to benefit the poor, I hope he or she will post here. I am a little astonished by Nick Fish's comment to the effect that this represents a major shift in housing policy. Perhaps it is just an honest admission that Portland's housing policy hasn't been effective to help the very poor, or even low income people who have had their neighborhoods destablized to allow for "smart growth". I recall the early 90s, when Katz was Mayor: I was on the board of a community development corporation whose members were asked to show up at city council meetings to beg that Housing Trust Fund monies be used to benefit the very poor, rather than to subsidize "below market value" units, that no low-income person could afford.

Since people like Nick Fish are on the advisory board to the Campaign for Equal Justice ,and advocates of the poor are often targeted for maltreatment, cyberspace is one of the only hopes for the deeper housing issues to see the light of day.

Maybe Leonard and Paulson are being more forthright than Fish about this.

A friend just sent me this:

Copied and pasted from the Timbers message board...

"Blogs are the ghetto of the internet."

"They have little, if any, influence in City Hall."

Randy Leonard tonight on Strong at Night. Classic.

I was just thinking about the sort of official "punishing of the poor" I observed in Portland. I am hoping that any housing officials reading this posting will re-consider this one policy at least:

I used to work with a group of volunteer lawyers and laymen who helped people living in public housing with animal issues. Once we helped a woman who had four cats ,in a project that had a newly-enacted two- cat policy, to keep them. They were spayed, vaccinated and she agreed to keep them in as much as possible.

But shortly thereafter, HAP managed properties changed their two cat policy to a one cat policy, agsinst evidence (if evidence matters at all to housing bureaucrats), that two cats are less likely to cause damage to apartments than one. This unreasoned bureaucratic retaliatory heartlessnes is one of the reasons Portland will never be a real leader in anything. If we treated people, rich or poor, as individuals whose lives mattered, if we cared more about justice, love and logic(and kindness t oaonimals) than charity, I would have more hope that a fair society is possible. But a fair society would be one where developers would make fewer financial killings from the misfortunes of others.

Cynthia, there's more to add to the Affordable Housing story. Eric Sten and others advocated strongly for the 30% Affordable Housing set-aside for all eleven UR Districts, including Fish in his capacities at that time.

Our PDC had direct, official interpretation from City Council and Housing officials that when this was adopted, it explicidly required each UR to spend 30% on Affordable Housing. The North Macadam UR (SoWhat) committee asked if this requirement was absolute. The Council in hearings and in staff reports and meeting said exactly that.

For Sam Adams, Leonard and Saltzman to now say that we only need to "strive" for the 30% goal, and the goal is for the accumultive of all eleven districts is false, a cop out, and dishonest.

This "new thinking", of course, is to facilitate the difficulties of finding or creating an urban renewal district that can accommodate Paulson's baseball and soccer facilities, and use some of their Affordable Housing dollars.

When the whims occur when a developer wants to have the Affordable Housing component in a project that increases their bottom line, then watch all these "new thinkers" arguing how we need to enforce the 30% rule.

Thank you Lee,

Do you know when the 30% rule was established, and if it has ever been used to provide housing for really low-income people?

Really low-income people have habitually been kicked to the curb. Portland and Oregon's policy regarding renter rights is meager when compared to other states and major cities in this country.

In almost every instance where a percentage of new projects is to include low income units, the definition of "affordable housing" is higher than the low income can afford. And developers can often opt out of the requirement by covering more of the costs themselves, just as they can swap FAR rights to exceed height restrictions in all by historic neighborhoods.

If they ask for height or size variances, the land planning bureau never met a proposal it didn't like regardless of what neighbors and those being displaced might have to say.

The City of Portland has contracts with a number of property owners/landlords who will be opting out of the agreement when it expires within the next two years. In the case of the property opposite where I live, the city contributed substantial monies toward the construction and maintenance of the low-income apartments. The property is now worth more than the building and the property owner is acting coy about making a renewal commitment in 2010. Meanwhile, the poor and disabled tenants received two years notice last year.

Substantial notice is mandated for Section 8 tenants but not for the average low-income tenant who will get 30 days unless the proposed development is to condos (then they get 60 days and some relocation assistance; the State pushed this through just before the condo market tanked). If it's to be developed into luxury apartments, tough luck.

The City has an inadequate number of available units for the low income. Priority is given to large families (New Columbia, for example) or to those with substance abuse problems (Central City Concern). The wait is long and CCC recommends that the homeless take their pets to the Humane Society and stand in line at a shelter.

The only thing that prevented the current owner of my rundown apartment complex from razing it and constructing a 6-story luxury condo (then reduced to a luxury apartment plan) was obstructions from the neighbors and the bad economy. It is currently for sale at a price that scares away prospective buyers once they see all the work involved in repairing and maintaining it. We're living on borrowed time, paying $200-$300 a month more than I was paying before it was purchased two years ago. It used to be affordable; nothing is any more unless you choose to live with multiple people. Even so, you can find yourself turfed out at any time.

I know folks who have been through this repeatedly and it soon becomes impossible to pay yet again for moving expenses, credit checks, fees and deposits and first and last months' rent.

The State no longer allows any sort of write-off on taxes for yearly rent.

In the Portland rental market, it is less expensive to pay to stash your belongings in a storage unit and live in a tent. You'd be surprised at how many people have been driven to this place.

According to Oregon law, landlords can raise rents as much and as often as they wish. It's actually illegal for localities to establish statutes that are in conflict with that freedom. Landlords can charge any amount of fees and deposits. They can demand that you make two to four times the monthly rent before they will consider your application. They are not obliged to offer leases of any kind.

It sucks.

Thank you for all the information NW Portlander. That sucks indeed.

It galls me that groups like CCC advise people to take their pets to shelters; many people who have substance abuse problems are self-medicating for mental illness and their pets are needed contact with the world of relationships. But social service agencies punish, punish punish when it comes to the imperfections of these people. Not to mention the disregard for the animals.

CCC is not the only problem: DHS fraud investigators often seem to have a policy that applicants for benefits are guilty until proven innocent, simply for trying to get what they need to survive.

I have worked with Oregon's Residential Landlord Tenant Act only a little bit;it is supposed to be a balanced law, but the pro-landlord bias is evident. In my view, most of the Oregonizations providing legal services for the poor in Oregon only provide straw opposition to the oppressive status quo. Higher-ups at Legal Aid Services of Oregon, for example, recently were recommending that the organization start having tenant's handle their own cases pro se. I was shocked when I heard that: from what I have seen in the Portland area courts, that is like throwing them to the wolves.

I would like to see some real advocacy for the poor in the legislature, nothwithstanding the fact that people are afraid of very real retaliation from developers, landlords and their lawyers. The retaliation is part of what needs to be exposed.

Cynthia, the 30% rule was enacted by Council several months before Eric Sten resigned from the Council.

There are very few examples of Affordable Housing under the 30% rule that applies only to the UR Districts. But all Housing that falls under the city's definition of Affordable, built within and using TIF or other dollars, count in the 30% requirement. Right after the enactment the economy steeply declined, and Housing of any kind was on the downturn at this time.

Meeting this 30% requirement has become a difficult task in any district regardless of the economy. I've posted about this before. For SoWhat it is so difficult (an economic disaster) that some URAC members are advocating that the city add to the definition of Affordable Housing to help meet the 30%. OHSU, PSU, and a few others want to add Student Housing and Work Force Housing as Affordable Housing.

A PSU student coming from Saudi Arabia from a wealthy family living in a student housing unit would help meet the 30%.

An intern doctor from OHSU with a spouse and a child could be living in an apartment or condo in SoWhat, making $70,000, and his Work Force Housing would help meet the 30%.

Who would have thought Affordable Housing would come to mean housing for those who don't need the help. And remember there would be several taxpayer public subsidies to build these units as well as meeting this new, meaningless definition of Affordable Housing and the 30% requirement.

Several Affordable Housing advocates were at one or two of these meetings where Work Force and Student Housing were quickly brushed over in discussion. When a question was finally asked about the city wide ramification of these proposed new definitions/additions, they took note and asked for more citywide input. The media never reported, and the politicians have ducked. It is time for an honest discussion and more.

Thanks Lee,

Here are a couple of interesting links I found-on affordable housing/urban renewal in Portland and on the history of Urban Renewal and "The Growth Machine".



Also, I was thinking about the O's editorial the other day on the Ceasar Chavez street renaming controversy. It was a lead editorial in the dead-tree edition, but I found it at "The Stump" online. I thought it was pretty good; it made the point that street renaming advocates seem to want someone to suffer unnecessary pain.

Fair enough. But the piece seemed to include the familiar Oregonian mantra that consenus us always good and controversy always bad, I begin to cringe a bit.

It is ironic that the O's fear of controversy causing pain has led to unspeakable pain for the many whose voices go unheard because of this irrational, unreasoned fear. Sometimes controversy can be avoided, sometimes not. People with discernment can learn to tell the difference.

The story about the poor lady and her cats was a good one. However, there is nothing unique to Portland about it. It is just common statist, bureaucratic groupthink. The 'we must know better, we are in charge' world view. And this latest item is not new to Portland. I moved to NE in 1977 or 1978. The town of Albina was already long gone, having been mowed down by urban planners in the late 1960's. Drive over near Emanuel hospital today and you will still see large areas of vacant land.

Norris & Stevens, a prominent Portland property manager, distributes to the tenants of the places it manages a generic booklet titled, "Rules and Regulations for Better Living."

In regards to cats, if they are accepted, they must meet the following requirements:

*1. At least the front paws must be declawed.
*2. They must be spayed or neutered.
*3. They must be two years old or older.
4. They must remain indoors at all times.
5. Only one cat is allowed per apartment.
6. No cat will be allowed in an apartment with new carpet or drapes.
7. No visiting pets allowed of any kind for any length of stay.
8. A signed pet agreement must be on file in the Rental Center and fees paid prior to residency.
9. A photograph of the cat must be provided by the owner.
10. The following must be provided by a veterinarian:
a. Proof of 3-in-1 yearly vaccination
b. Description of animal including age, name, breed and color
c. Spay or neuter date.

These requirements are followed by the disclaimer: "We may, on occasion waive the starred (*) requirements; however, we reserve the right to charge a greater than usual amount for the pet fees . . ."

As it happens, nobody has been compelled to comply with the first three items in our apartments which is a good thing since almost every site that addresses the subject online says that cat behaviour deteriorates if claws are removed. After declawing, if the cat's paws hurt it may be less likely to use a litter box and may become aggressive and/or spray in distress. This causes problems that any sensible landlord would like to avoid.

Some people also own show cats that should not be spayed or neutered because it would render then ineligible to be shown or bred.

I can't disagree with the rest but the first item is a perfect example of rules set down by people who don't have a clue.

The section dealing with dogs says that the maximum weight of an adult dog must not exceed fifteen (15) pounds. Anyone with any dog experience knows that the size of the dog is no indication of the damage it can inflict or the noise it can make. It's all about whether the owner is responsible or not. And just try and find an adult dog or more than two years that does not exceed 15 pounds.

Bottom line: They don't really want pets in their units. If they were legally able to similarly discourage children, I don't doubt that many of them would.

Many other apartment management companies allow cats but will not allow dogs of any size. I've seen far more damage caused by cats than by dogs of any size but try and explain that to a landlord. Biggest reason cats are OK and dogs aren't: cats don't bark.

And if animals are allowed at all, there are fees upon fees upon fees. Not deposits that a responsible owner can hope to recover if there's no damage when they move. There's absolutely no incentive to behave in a responsible manner with pets and the problem becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Blogs are the ghetto of the internet."
"They have little, if any, influence in City Hall."
Randy Leonard tonight on Strong at Night. Classic.

I guess Pele has cast aside his working-class identity, now that he's hob-knobbing with fat-cat Paulson. This statement tells a lot about how he regards those who live in the vast "ghetto" east of 82nd to Gresham. Screw you Pele!

Cynthia, thanks for the link to the Roots article.

I noticed that it signed off with "Portland Development Commission". Are they the author of the article? I also noticed that in large part the 30% is not being met (12% or less) in most of the Districts. I know that there is time in some of the Districts to meet the goal.

I also noticed (like Lents) that some District URAC members do not like the 30%-for various reasons. For SoWhat, there are some that feel that after the District failed to acquire property for Affordable Housing in the beginning, at a decent price, it now doesn't make sense to build real AH at $400 to $600 per sq. ft. in SoWhat. It would be better to take the same dollars and get more bang for the bucks elsewhere. This is a sad case of poor planning by the city.

The SoWhat URAC had strong opposition to the strict application of the 30%. But like some other URACs, it felt like it was "rammed down our throats".

"According to Oregon law, landlords can raise rents as much and as often as they wish...It sucks."

Imagine property owners charging market rate rent, renters paying the cost of living all by themselves, and using TIF to build buildings that will add to the tax base. What a crazy world that would be.


The author is Staff Writer Israel Bayer. I think the UR district updates were taken directly from the PDC's 2 year status report issued December 9. At least that is the way I read it.

NW Portlander:
I agree that it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.Something Portland lacks, in my view, is humane society directors who will take the lead in helping landlords write model animal policies. Anyone who has experience with cats, for example, knows that 2 are can reduce the chances for damage, since they can get their aggressions out on each other instead of an apartment, and with the right ecoutrements and care, cats don't pose high risk for property owners. Much of the anti-cat sentiment I see seems to come right out of medieval superstition; it is sexist, too, since now, as then, many cat caretakers tend to be single women.

Anonymous: What a crazy world it is!

NW Portlander,

Yeah, dogs bark and relieve themselves outdoors, but this is also an area where I think humane guidance from compassionate experts would help property owners feel more comfortable about allowing them.

Over the years, I have noticed something about people who like to complain about animals: a tendency to be obsessive and irrational. My sister's neighbor, for example blamed my sister for barking that couldn't have been from her dogs. When the neighbor fell off a ladder and a friend of my sister's who was gardening in her back yard called 911 on his cell phone, possibly saving the woman's life, she admitted to being petty. But as soon as she was well, she was back at it.

I am not saying I think people should have to put up with nuisance conditions on a sustained basis, just that where there is a will to work out problems among neighbors, there is generally a way.

Pet owners can have former landlords write references for their pets. There is much that can be done short of blanket prohibitions of pets.

NW Portlander,

Just wanted you to know I didn't mean the comment about people who criticize cats personally. I re-read the first comment and thought it might be construed that way. I am just kind of trained to zero in on cat issues, since I am an obsessive volunteer with a group that is trying to implement pro-animal law and policy in eastern Oregon, and we have opposition that strikes me as biased and irrational.

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