Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
Msgr. Chuck Lienert speaks to crowd at City Hall. He called for affordable housing instead of chic developments that create a “sparkling, hollow city.”
Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
Msgr. Chuck Lienert speaks to crowd at City Hall. He called for affordable housing instead of chic developments that create a “sparkling, hollow city.”



Hundreds of protesters from local churches, synagogues, labor unions and community service groups convened in front of City Hall Oct. 13 to press Portland officials to spend on affordable housing, not just trendy shopping districts.

Development in places like North Williams Avenue and the South Waterfront have a “certain kind of cool, but cannot sustain our city,” said Msgr. Church Lienert, a retired Archdiocese of Portland official and pastor.

Msgr. Lienert said the chic districts make Portland a “sparkling, hollow city” if they displace the low- and middle-income residents who have given Portland its character.

“The heart and soul of Portland are changing,” Msgr. Lienert said. “We can make sure it remains true.”

The rally, organized by the Metropolitian Alliance for Common Good, backs a plan working its way through city government that would boost affordable housing funds to 50 percent of the urban renewal budget instead of the current 30 percent. Mayor Charlie Hales seems to be a supporter; he has declared affordable housing an emergency in Portland.  

The debate concerns Portland Development Commission priorities. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, in charge of city housing policy, attended the start of the rally. His support of the 50 percent rate is in question.

“Now is the time to act,” said Bob Brown, a MACG spokesman and member of Havurah Shalom synagogue. “We have been waiting too long.”

Stories about Portlanders who can’t afford housing are spreading around the city.

Emily Davis, a 23-year-old member of St. Andrew Parish and a Portland native, has had trouble keeping stable housing. After an accident and disability, she was homeless for a period, staying in youth shelters. Now a full time preschool teacher, Davis said she is “just one paycheck away from homelessness.”

A domestic abuse victim who identified herself only as “Martha,” explained in Spanish that she stayed with her abuser longer than she would have because she could not afford housing on her own. Catholic Charities has been helping Martha, but that can only last so long, she told the crowd through a translator — “I do not know where I will go.”

Kathy Truman, a Catholic member of Mission of the Atonement in Beaverton, can now afford her apartment. But at 67, she expects to retire soon and won’t be able to pay the rent.

“The future does not look bright for me, or for many senior citizens in my situation,” Truman said.

Jes Larson of the Welcome Home Coalition, says 23,000 Portlanders are unable to afford decent housing.

“When will we learn it’s about the people and not the profit of a few?” Larson asked.

Leah Greenwood of Halstead Greenwood Consulting says the city has consistently failed to meet even its own goals for affordable housing, hitting 50 percent of goal in the Interstate Avenue corridor on North Portland and only 10 percent in the Lloyd District.

The City Council will vote on the affordable housing allocation Oct. 21.