Portland’s new homeless shelter exemplifies authentic city innovation

Source: Portland Business Journal / Aimee Sukol

On August 10, the city of Portland made me a proud Portland resident when it voted for Terminal 1 as a homeless shelter. The council’s decision is a breath of fresh air. By looking after the city’s homeless, the city of Portland is truly looking after everyone.

First, opponents to T1 hypothesized that a “good paying” employer could have purchased the property at market value with proceeds vis-à-vis the landlord (Bureau of Environmental Services) applied to utility fee reductions/control. Utility rates are a non-issue. I doubt the city’s decision will affect utility rates for average residents. Big utility consumers may not get a fee reduction, but the issue is hardly burning for the general public.

Selling our land to another big business isn’t a cogent option either. Software tech has vetted privileged, tech-minded transplants who’ve increased the cost of living and a low wage big box retailer would only exacerbate our housing shortage and traffic congestion. Lastly, T1 could be developed into affordable housing, but present incentives for building affordable units are weak and adequate oversight remains lacking.

Portland isn’t facing a utility rate crisis or substantial unemployment. Rather, Portland is in the midst of a massive housing/homeless crisis. I live in Northwest Portland where $2,000+/month developments are popping up to serve an influx of wealthy transplants while Northwest streets are lined with the homeless. Housing costs have a tremendous impact on disposable income, and homeless proliferation is a red flag that signals an economic disaster. Without disposable income, the working class can’t afford to buy anything. Blue collar flight emerges, which then harms small businesses that pay modest wages to remain open. The result is a San Francisco mess. San Francisco fell over itself to vet software companies that ultimately drove out economic and ethnic diversity, artists, and indie businesses and left the city with a colossal homeless problem. Rejecting San Francisco style decay, Portland chose to focus on local services over illusory gains.

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