Rep. Rashida Tlaib talks housing policy in Portland
If a housing policy talk sounds like a sedate happening, you haven't been in Portland long.
Though far away from her Detroit congressional district, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib ended up vowing to block traffic to prevent the Rose City from spending public dollars on a new sports stadium during an affordable housing crisis, calling it a "terrible, really bad idea."
"I know they're going to try to gaslight you. 'Oh my god, we're going to go somewhere else.' Then go — Bye. — See you," the congresswoman said. "Trust me. Give them ten years. They're going to push you out and take your homes and take your parks and take your schools when you're not looking."
"Mayors come and go. City Council members come and go. But neighborhoods don't go anywhere," she continued.
Her comments drew the loudest applause of the mid-day event, and served as a big-league reminder that — despite the $910 million raised by city and metro housing bonds since 2016 — many Portlanders remain worried that rising rents are coming for them, too.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who hosted the Saturday, Jan. 25 public forum inside the Jefferson High School auditorium, reiterated his calls to make Section 8 housing vouchers an entitlement akin to food stamps or Medicaid, as well as to create a renters' tax credit and remove the caps on building public housing known as the Faircloth Amendment.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib says her favorite part of visiting Portland is the â€œgreat coffee shops.â€ pic.twitter.com/LPjmmwPjPn— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) January 26, 2020
"More and more, people are understanding that housing is a right." said Blumenauer, who released his "Locked Out" report on federal housing last September.
It's worth noting that Portland's government housing authority, Home Forward, has not built new publicly-owned housing in many years, because the feds stopped funding it. Instead, many of the city's gleaming affordable housing complexes are built by private developers who agree to keep the rent low for a few decades in exchange for a reduction on their federal tax bill.
Without getting bogged down in specifics, the town hall was still a chance for a crowd of several hundred to meet Rep. Tlaib, who has received nationwide attention both as a democratic socialist and as one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress in 2019.
The eldest of 14 children, the first-term congresswoman said she's the "mama bear" of The Squad, a group of four from the House of Representatives, headed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Tlaib's Michigan district is third-poorest in the nation, and she said housing was just one intersection of her vision for anti-poverty programs, investment in health care and education and a Green New Deal.
"It feels so incredibly awesome when it's The Squad and Earl that is voting no on the defense bill," she said. "One aircraft carrier, get rid of one, and we can actually end homelessness."
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