Neighbors, leaders discuss housing solutions at East County forum

November 14, 2018

Dozens of neighbors, community leaders, business owners and service providers joined Commissioner Lori Stegmann at Gresham City Hall last month to talk housing at the monthly East County Caring Community issue forum.

The East County Caring Community is an effort among neighbors and community partners to discuss housing, safety, employment, and other community priorities for residents living east of 82nd Ave.

East County is among the most diverse communities in Multnomah County. It’s also home to a large number of residents experiencing poverty, housing instability, and other disparities. More residents and a limited supply of housing are driving up rents, forcing more people to spend large portions of their incomes on housing. That makes it harder to afford other needs like nutritious food, health care and child care.

“This month’s topic on housing is one of my top policy priorities,” Commissioner Lori Stegmann said as she opened the discussion. “As a policy maker, I believe it’s critical to have a deep understanding of our current system. If you don’t know where you are, it’s hard to get where you want to go.” 

Commissioner Lori Stegmann

The meeting began with a presentation on housing in East County from ECONorthwest. While housing production in the Portland Metro has increased since 2010, affordable housing has stagnated--especially in East Multnomah County. Meanwhile, average rents for people with lower incomes are rising in places like Gresham and Rockwood.

“I don’t see how we are going to build our way out of this problem without additional revenue,” said Lorelei Juntunen, managing director at ECONorthwest. “And that revenue needs to help support housing production at the low end of the income spectrum.”  

After hearing from ECONorthwest, the group broke up into a series of roundtable discussions. At each table, guests spoke with housing experts, including Marc Jolin, the director of the Joint Office for Homeless Services. They covered a number of topics, including:

  • Tenant rights

  • Short term rentals

  • Community development

  • Housing trends and growth

  • Homelessness

Following roundtable discussions, the group reconvened to talk solutions for housing in East County, including building community support for affordable housing, legislative fixes, and strengthening the safety net for people experiencing housing instability.

“We all know that East County is a unique, diverse and amazing place,” Commissioner Stegmann said. “It is up to each and every one of us.”

The monthly East County forum features different topics and presentations at each meeting.  To receive updates about this work, sign up to receive the newsletter.