As the charter commission race enters election day, last night Portland City Council (which is 100 percent Democrats) voted for a moratorium that prohibits any shelters from being built in the Portland Bayside neighborhood for the next six months. The vote was 6-3 and the Bangor Daily News focused on the locals in the neighborhood pushing for this temporary ban. I am certainly not surprised urban home owning liberals would support such a move , I don’t think it’s the center of this story at all. The counselors who voted against it seem to be tight lipped on what’s going on, but I think we can look at clues and see what “housing experts” and various real estate connected folks are saying.
Despite the lack of press coverage on the ongoing issue, Councilor Tae Chong, a former Portland Police Liaison, has been front and center pushing this moratorium. You may remember Chong claiming Black Lives Matter was a white racist movement last year, he sparred with immigrant activists online and really showed his regressive side. In the recent Bangor Daily piece Chong claims “We are in no way shutting down any shelters whatsoever” which is the truth and “It’s only new construction or new renovations to emergency shelters.” which certainly is correct but why? Oddly enough the Bayside neighborhood groups made the absurd statement that the issue is about “lack of equity” which at best is code for “we don’t think it is equal that homeowners and homeless live close”. Another ally to this moratorium Belinda Ray a former registered Green, who became a Democrat once elected who is not seeking reelection because she is working full time for Greater Portland Council of Governments. Oddly enough the Greater Portland Council of Government claims homelessness is a problem , we can only wonder why Ray voted for the moratorium.
It is not my goal to dismiss the literal anti homeless folks or NIMBY’s of Bayside but I refuse to believe they are the core drivers of what is happening. One does not have to be deep into understanding housing value or real estate politics, to know prices would rise without the homeless shelter. Leading up to the moruaturm nothing productive happened on finding a new site and it seems this motraturm is an attempt to prevent a newer shelter in Bayside. One can clearly see that condos would be worth more if not surrounded by social service centers or shelters.
Our first interesting online comment comes from the Director of Advocacy at the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce who is a self proclaimed YIMBY. What is funny is many YIMBY’s online claim to be for homeless shelters and would call such a moratorium “NIMBY” but Dundon decides just to go with some licensing whataboutism that cannot be taken seriously. This leads to the next conversion with another YIMBY that might offer hints at the twisted Reganite worldview the “Yes in My Backyard” crowd promotes
In the end despite the limited press coverage and lack of statements from those against the motraturm , I think a few points have emerged. First and foremost the The Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce supports more building of condos in Bayside. Gentrification never rests and it is a cheap excuse to claim the city needs better rules for homeless shelters. It also slipped out that the Chamber has some private shelter ideas. I’m sure the private sector could find ways to make profit by billing the government for homeless shelter use, just like they do with private prisons…. Finally the large philosophical question is will Portland keep its commitment to helping any and all homeless folks who show up? That’s how it has been for a long time and nothing short of well run public shelters will do to keep that commitment. It’s important to keep an eye on this situation and demand dignity and respect for all unhoused people. Meanwhile some Democrats seem to be trying to make room for more condos and private homeless shelters , both of which Portland doesn’t need.