Is Portland the Next San Francisco?
In the past few years, major tech companies like Google, Airbnb, and Amazon have opened offices in Portland. As housing prices, rents, and evictions skyrocket, the specter of San Francisco looms large.
But a fate of displacement and unattainable housing is not necessarily inevitable, Alana Semeuls points out in The Atlantic—if the city takes action:
[I]t’s not tech or newcomers that are solely to blame. Portland hasn’t been able to slow its rental crisis because in a city that prides itself on progressivism, many of the traditional tools used to create more affordability are off the table.
Semeuls notes a lack of protections for tenants in Portland, as well as throughout the state. In September 2015, conditions drove the Community Alliance of Tenants, a nonprofit, to declare a renter state of emergency.
Thanks in part to pressure from CAT and other groups, the city has begun enacting some tenant protections and affordability measures. A month after CAT's petition, the City Council declared its own housing emergency, and the mayor promised $20 million for affordable housing projects in North and Northeast Portland. Tech companies have also expressed interest in keeping Portland affordable—having moved there, Semeuls writes, in part to avoid the expense of being in San Francisco.
But these efforts have met resistance from some Portland residents who oppose increasing neighborhood density. As the debate continues to play out—and, some say, call the city's progressive identity into question—CAT’s executive director notes: "There are limits to white urban liberalism. When it comes to housing and schools, all of that goes out the window."