As a life-long Portlander, I’ve seen the city change dramatically. The streets I walked as a child going to school at Humboldt Elementary and Jefferson High School in the historic African-American neighborhood are unrecognizable as I go to school now as a teacher in the same school district. I still love Portland, but worry about rapid gentrification and skyrocketing housing costs. Over backyard BBQ’s with friends, we share this worry, but struggle with what we can actually do to make a difference. However, during my recent home sale, I found some ways to be part of the affordable housing solution, and I want to help other homeowners in Portland to join in.
I was actually part of gentrification, buying a house in 2005 off Killlingsworth and benefitting from a market at the time that strongly encouraged homeownership. At that time, our street was a mix of older African-American families and younger Caucasian families. Fast forward 12 years, the neighborhood has dramatically changed, with most long-time residents having left or been displaced, including my own family.
See, my life didn’t turn out like I thought it would. After my divorce, I decided to sell my house, but with hesitation. I didn’t want to sell to a developer who would tear down the house and put up two skinny houses or a flipper who would do superficial repairs and then charge the next buyer thousands more. Could I sell to a local family, a first-time homebuyer, perhaps one whose family had been displaced? I needed to earn enough to purchase another home, but I also wanted to be community-minded with my sale.
First, I reached out to non-profits in the affordable homeownership industry, and one culturally specific non-profit helped me hold an open house while I tried to sell it off the open market. But even when I offered it at a below market price, and tried to advertise to my fellow Jefferson alum and local families, no family made an offer. Perhaps my house was still unaffordable for low-moderate income households. Moreover, I couldn’t reach enough potential buyers just using my own social networks.
In looking for another solution, that’s when I came across Proud Ground and their realty services for the community. Proud Ground creates permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families so they can live or remain in the community of their choice through their community land trust model. Proud Ground offers real estate brokerage services for community-minded buyers and sellers on the open-market who want to make a difference in their community. All commissions earned from the community realty services support Proud Ground’s work to create permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for low-and moderate-income households in the community.
I listed my home through Proud Ground’s real estate services, who helped me create a covenant potential buyers had to sign, ensuring they would live in the house for five years. Over five days I got multiple offers from buyers willing to sign the covenant and I successfully sold to first-time homebuyers. The realty service fee went back to Proud Ground to invest in low-moderate income homebuyer’s affordable homes. I also donated a portion of the proceeds back to Proud Ground to invest in displaced families in N/NE Portland and the African-American Alliance for Homeownership.
During this process, I learned many small ways to be part of the affordable homeownership solution. If you’re selling, you can:
- Give preference to FHA and VA loans and first-time homebuyers.
- Put a covenant on your house that ensures the home is owner-occupied for five years. This excludes investors looking for rental properties, flippers, or teardowns.
- Use Proud Ground so your brokerage fee goes back into the community to support low-moderate income, first-time homebuyers.
- Donate a portion of your proceeds, or if you can an entire house, to affordable housing non-profits, like Proud Ground, the African-American Alliance for Homeownership, the Portland
- Housing Center, Hacienda Community Development Corporation, Asian and Pacific Islander Improvement Improvement Association, or Native American Youth and Family Center.
As an individual, the affordable housing crisis facing our city seems daunting and my own effort seems small. But I love Portland, it’s my home, and I hope my small decisions inspire others’ small decisions. Together, we can be part of the affordable homeownership solution.