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Development plans focus on equity in search for solutions to affordable housing

PMG PHOTO: COURTNEY VAUGHN - A stretch of Barbur Boulevard near Southwest Taylors Ferry Road is part of the West Portland Town Center plan.Since April 2019, we have been meeting as part of the Southwest Corridor Equity Coalition (SWEC), a broad-based Southwest Corridor community group, to drive a community-led planning effort focused on creating and realizing a vision for the future of this area.

As you drive down I-5 through the Terwilliger Curves, you might not always think of the West Portland Town Center. But it's home to us and much of Portland's last naturally occurring affordable housing close to downtown, as well as neighborhood parks, schools, mosques, trails, churches and some great small businesses.

West Portland Town Center is also the last town center in Portland without a comprehensive plan for the future. The effect is that city departments aren't guided by any community's vision while engagement continues about bringing light-rail and the pressures of growth threaten the preservation of naturally occurring affordable housing.

Nuhamin Eiden, Unite OregonFortunately, a draft West Portland Town Center Plan has recently been developed. The Plan was built with broad engagement from different parts of the community. For us, who work with renters, immigrants, and others in the area to improve access to economic opportunity, affordable living, and a higher quality of life, we believe this plan must not exclude the needs of all households, regardless of income and employment status. Advancing equitable development in the corridor requires a collaborative approach between all who work, play and stay in this community.

The draft plan seeks to preserve the community's current valuable assets and prepare for future, dramatic improvements. Elements include protecting existing multi-family affordable housing from gentrification, identifying areas to create more affordable housing with co-located early childhood education and human services for families and seniors, while envisioning more parks, greenways, areas to walk, and a new multicultural center, celebrating our neighborhoods' diversity.

Maybe not all of Portland knows where this neighborhood is. The diversity of cultures from East Africa to Latin America may be surprising. The West Portland Town Center Plan lays out a vision that includes all our neighbors, centered in equity. We encourage the city to adopt the plan as it moves through the approval process.

We are members of the West Portland Town Center Community Development Workgroup and have been meeting over time to shape this plan. We encourage all of Portland to come check out why West Portland Town Center has some of the best Kenyan tea, wood-fired pita bread and walking trails in the whole city.

Nuhamin Eiden, Unite Oregon

Kim McCarty, Community Alliance of Tenants

Mohamed Salim Bahamadi, HAKI Community Organization

Khanh Le, Unite Oregon

Todd Struble, APANO

Chris Chiacchierini, Neighborhood House

Bobby Cochran, Willamette Partnership

Terri Preeg Riggsby, Tryon Creek Watershed Council

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