Summit Recap – Innovative Appoaches to Housing for All

By way of follow-up to February 15th's Foster Summit event, we're running summaries of topics and ideas from the Summit breakout sessions. We will publish these, along with the 'butcher paper' notes in the weeks to come.

Were you were there? What did we miss? Even if you couldn't attend the event, we hope you'll share your take on these important community issues.

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fostersummit_332We had a diverse and great group for the Foster Summit breakout session on housing.

Portland's hot real estate market of a few years ago gave way to a real estate crash in 2009, which is now being followed by a comeback of sorts. If these tribulations have buffeted the middle class, they've been devastating to low income Portlanders --many of whom are not Portlanders anymore.

Much of the housing discussion at the Foster Summit focused on ideas for how we, at the neighborhood level, could try to stem the negative impacts of these changes.

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PDC Disbands Lents Citizen Advisory Committee

A few weeks ago, the PDC quietly disbanded the Urban Renewal Advisory Committees –the citizen committees that advise the agency in its urban renewal areas. That includes the Lents Town Center Urban Renewal Advisory Committee, which has guided our 9-neighborhood, $245 million urban renewal area since 1998.

According to the PDC, the URACs are intended “to involve citizens, urban renewal area (URA) stakeholders and/or project partners more directly in planning, program development and decision making.” Agency policy is that the PDC “believes that meaningful, timely, effective public participation is essential to successfully implement PDC policies and projects.”

pdc_2PDC staffer Justin Douglas talked to me about what led up to the change in policy.

“PDC has been undergoing significant downsizing as an agency. We’re just as committed to public participation as we were before –but due to financial constraints, the URAC system just isn’t a sustainable model for us.” He said that due to budget cuts, the five full-time public participation staffers the agency had a few years ago are now down to one.

I also spoke with John Notis, the now-former Chair of the LTCURAC. He told me that the URAC has become ineffectual and that it “just doesn’t do what it used to do, for many reasons.”

Former Foster-Powell Chair Tracy Gratto has represented Fo-po on the URAC for the last three years. She agreed that the PDC has rendered URAC participation a largely meaningless exercise. “They haven’t asked us to make a decision in months,” she says.

I asked Tracy how she was notified of the change in policy, and she said that due to a recent illness she was unable to attend the June URAC meeting. Although she had an inkling that a change in PDC’s policy on public participation was being discussed, she had no idea such a drastic change was imminent. (more…)

Foster Green is Here to Stay

Yesterday, Portland City Council issued a resolution “recognizing” five EcoDistricts in the City, including our own Foster Green.

The emerging group has spent years establishing a functional process to coordinate the efforts of the EcoDistrict partners working in the community (partners like Zenger Farms, Audobon Society, ROSE CDC, and more).

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Homeowners Facing Foreclosure: Help is Available

Our area of town was and still is among the City’s hardest hit by the housing crisis and the rash of bank foreclosures over the last few years.

Going through a foreclosure is a difficult and emotionally charged experience. Even worse, our neighbors may have been unaware of their rights or were victimized by sloppy and fraudulent practices by the big banks. Had they known their options, some of our former neighbors might still be living in their homes in our community today.

But there are resources to help these families. Hacienda Community Development is a local nonprofit that offers HUD-certified foreclosure prevention counseling, mortgage payment assistance and first-time homebuyer counseling for free to residents of Southeast Portland. Workshops to help homeowners in danger of default are offered in English and Spanish, and there are special programs to help seniors struggling to keep their homes.

If you or someone you know is falling behind on mortgage payments or is facing a foreclosure, help is available.

Call Hacienda CDC at (503) 961-6432 or look them up on the web for more information.

 

Rose CDC: 20 Years of Building Community

Many Foster folks don’t know the name of “Rose CDC,” but they know the work Rose has done in our area.

Rose Community Development Corporation built the new playground at Marysville School. They’ve hosted workshops for first-time homebuyers and for homeowners facing foreclosure. They’ve been key players in the Lents Urban Renewal Area, the East Portland Action Plan and the Wickman Community Center projects, to name just a few.

And they’ve converted dozens of run-down apartments into beautiful, stable homes that elevate our neighborhoods instead of diminishing them. (more…)