This is the mantra encouraged by a Seattle based research group studying solutions to increase livability in their city. Portlanders find ourselves in a similar situation; we need more housing options. 40% of people in the Portland-Hillsboro-Vancouver MSA rent their homes. At the same time, according to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the average rent for 1-bedroom apartments is no longer affordable for people earning the mean renter wage. For families that make less than half of the median family income (Portland’s median family income is around $83,000 per year), there is an affordable housing shortage. In Multnomah County, the estimated wait time for housing assistance is 14.5 years. If you were to get on the waitlist when your child is a baby, you’d be waiting for housing assistance until your child was a high schooler.
Houses in dense, central neighborhoods like Eliot are able to complete more car-free trips and spend less money on car expenses. This frees up financial resources that would be spent on cars for other necessities like housing. Because of Eliot’s central location, as we add housing within our limits, we can help decrease overall urban congestion by enabling new residents to settle in a neighborhood accessible by public transit, foot, and bike. In short, by welcoming new residents to central locations, we are enabling residents to live close to jobs and decrease their reliance on cars.
Black families are less likely to own homes, and among the most vulnerable to rising rents. Over 60% of black families in the Portland region spend more than a third of their income on rent, and 40% of black families spend over half of their income on rent. These families don’t have a buffer for unexpected expenses; they are at risk of experiencing houselessness if a financial crisis were to occur. Between 2006 and 2015, Metro reports that rents rose more than 60% in Portland. Black residents started moving out of Eliot earlier than this; their percentage of residents reached its peak in the 1960s and 1970s.
In Eliot, we find ourselves at the intersection of many of these livability issues. Eliot previously thrived as a historically Black neighborhood, located within walking distance of downtown, and close to job opportunities. Now, Eliot faces the similar housing shortages as the rest of Portland. Also, similar to other areas in Portland, construction is providing new houses and more neighbors for us to meet.
I recently had the opportunity to tour two new apartment buildings that are accepting new neighbors in Eliot. Both Brio Flats and Cadence are quickly filling up. Located at 2405 N. Vancouver Ave, Brio Flats provides 54 apartments and 60 bike parking spots. Brio’s website proudly boasts it’s 94 walkability and 97 bikeability scores; encouraging new residents to ditch their car and join a community in the center of town. The Cadence also encourages residents to bike and take public transit. The Cadence provides residents access to community areas, a gym, and a building grill. It is located at 2005 N Williams Ave and offers studios, 1 and 2 bedroom units. Both buildings are dog and cat-friendly; so don’t be surprised if you see more four-legged friends enjoying Eliot’s streets.
New residents may also draw in new businesses and more transit options to the neighborhood. As we gain more people in Eliot, we can expect to see more coffee shops, restaurants, and stores to support our growth. We’ll also have more people to ride buses, bicycles, and scooters. With our convenient location, and friendly neighbors, it’s not a surprise that we’re adding housing–and this benefits all of us.
By Monique Gaskins