The nation of home in Gresham has led one 88-year-old Gresham woman to the brink of homelessness.
Norma, who lives at Gresham Station Apartments, shared with her story during a meeting like-minded community members that are fed up with stressing each month regarding the threat of sudden rent increases or no-cause evictions.
“It is getting to where I can’t do much because of all the rent I’m forced to pay,” Norma said.
Before year that her rent went up to 37, a much more drastic increase compared to Social Security test she receives each month, which just increased by $37.
“I really don’t understand what I could do,” Norma said. “No one can help us. We are in need of help.”
Norma’s story wasn’t the sole one shared during “Housing for the People,” an event held Tuesday night, Feb. 6, in the Gresham Station Apartments on Northwest Shattuck Way. The event was hosted by the Community Alliance of Tenants and Pueblo Unido PDX, which is a vocal opponent of the city’s Rockwood Growing development. The focuses of the peaceful gathering included the dramatic growth in housing expenses, wages lagging behind lease increases and an inadequate supply of homes.
“Rents are increasing, and Gresham has been hit hard,” explained Pam Phan, the Community Alliance of Tenants coverage and organizing manager. “This neighborhood is ground zero to your own rental housing difficulty.”
The Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) is a statewide and grassroots tenant-rights organization. Pueblo Unido is a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting, educating and advocating for Latino immigrants in East Multnomah County. Formed in April 2017, the advocacy group is staffed by volunteers, so lots of whom are Rockwood swimmers themselves.
The organization’s first two customers helped open its collective eyes to the home difficulties.
“They were made to make a choice between paying for an attorney or paying their lease,” explained Francisco Rodriguez, co-executive manager of Pueblo Unido.
One woman in the Tuesday gathering talked of neighbors forced to live in a park near the flat she lives in because of enormous rent increases, while the other man had to dwell on the streets for 2 weeks while he searched for a new location to reside. From the area filled with about 50 individuals, seven were going to be priced out of their homes by lease, four had been evicted without reason and five were too scared to whine about maintenance problems inside their own apartments.
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“We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired,” explained Marih Alyn-Claire, with CAT. “We need to find out more lines of support.”
Housing has been a continuous problem raised at Gresham City Council meetings through the testimonies of neighborhood residents. Advocates, lots of whom were in the meeting Tuesday night, have shared tales of rent increases and no-cause evictions that have driven people to the edge of homelessness. Those affected are the most vulnerable — older, handicapped, young adults that can’t find stable work, and a few families of color.
“We have engaged city council at meetings officially, however they aren’t getting things done for tenants,” Pham said.
While the renters met to share ideas and strategies for carrying on the housing issue, just down the road several landlords went before the Gresham City Council to urge for their side.
Many said that rent control was not the response for Gresham since the most important concern is a lack of housing supply. With so many people moving to East Multnomah County, there aren’t enough homes available. They stated a desire to visit Gresham City Council find ways to incentivize development.
One landlord that talked was Lila Leathers, a Boring resident that owns property in East Multnomah County. She said that often rent increases are out of the control of the home owner, rather dictated by external forces. A good example is the recent Gresham-Barlow School Bond that Republicans supported.
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“As a spouse, I’m grateful for the new school bond, however, property tax increases due to bonds departure are a portion of the price of leasing,” Leathers said.
Added restrictions would place the burden on taxpayers, the speakers mentioned. Rent control means they may have to be more discerning in the rental procedure, further tightening the supply available.
“Heavy controls and weights of any type is the wrong way for economic development,” Leathers said.
Gresham resident Joan Albertson talked of past successes that the Gresham City Council and Mayor Shane Bemis have achieved from supporting families to company.
“The common thread Gresham is getting government out of the way, and adding innovative incentives to find those involved in a positive fashion,” Albertson said. “When we have a housing emergency in Gresham, I am sure council will come up with a strategy.”
Strategies for shift
Community members worked in smaller groups to innovate advocacy plans that could be used to support home in Gresham.
“This really is a good opportunity, tons of people in Gresham are affected by housing difficulties,” explained Cameron Coval, co-executive manager of Pueblo Unido. “We’re worried this housing crisis is only going to get worse”
They came up with pushing for greater representation in the town level, revealing that tenants aren’t second-class citizens, coming up with a unified message, even incorporating youths and locating those that feel disenfranchised or without a voice.
The state of Oregon does not allow individual cities to execute rent control, although there are a few steps the organizers emphasized that Gresham could take to help deal with the housing difficulties.
The town could announce housing a state of crisis and govern no-cause evictions. One idea would be to require notice to tenants before they lose their house without cause. In Milwaukee, town officials improved the mandatory notice period from 30-60 days to 90 days.
Another plan would be to require reimbursement of transport costs for renters that are exposed to some no-cause flooding or a significant increase in lease. Portland needs landlords to pay $2,900 to $4,500 to tenants in this circumstance.
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Finally, they want the town to restrict required security deposits and define “moderate wear and tear” to protect against misuse of those deposits.
The community members desire more to visit City Council meetings while also organizing an email and letter writing effort.
“We need our residents to attend these meetings to join the Gresham advisory committees,” Rodriguez explained.
For those considering joining the renters in the Gresham housing meetings, then the next gathering will be held at 1 Monday, Feb. 19, in Gresham Station Apartments, 1003 N.W. Shattuck Way. The occasion will be utilized as a chance to prepare before the City Council meeting the next day, where lots of the members may attend and voice their own home concerns.
The town of Gresham is creating a renewed effort to update its Housing Policy, which was last place in 2013. Brian Monberg, Gresham’s policy director, has been tasked with analyzing the housing problems across the town whilst coming up with possible solutions.
Monberg has been presenting his findings into town council throughout the procedure.
“We need approaches to develop new home, while also improving existing units,” he told The Outlook for a former story.
The four pillars of the former coverage were home opportunities, economic development, livability and rehabilitation. Monberg is upgrading information based on the demographics of Gresham, new home and the connection between development and lease increases. He’s also diving into other practices that the city could use to fight rising costs of home. One alternative could include incentives for rehabilitating old, weatherproof home.
“Despite lease prices moving up, Gresham is still one of the cheapest cities in the region,” Monberg said. “The prices have improved slower here compared to Portland.”
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