Housing, Life & Portland

Once a month we will feature a guest contributor…this month Melinda Williams shares her struggles with finding affordable housing in Portland.

Why can’t I find AFFORDABLE housing in Portland?
Not Gresham. Not Vancouver.
Not Hillsboro or bloody freaking Beaverton!
I want to live in Portland. Eastside preferred.

I need to live near public transit.A couple of frequently running bus lines preferred.Near the MAX would be nice but not extremely necessary.Now is that asking for too much from the Portland housing market? I don’t think so, but here’s my story anyway.
I haven’t had roommates since I was in college.
I’ve always been able to afford to live alone, while working full time job.

I’m 33 years old and I don’t want or need roommates!
Why, you ask? Because I’m a grown ass woman with fairly stable employment and benefits. Why should I have roommates? Or live in Gresham or Beaverton for that matter? Would someone PLEASE explain it to me!

Rental prices have become so expensive in Portland that I am forced to consider roommate housing. Oh, heaven help me! It’s the last thing I want to do. But the Craigslist postings have convinced me that I really, really don’t want a roommate. EVER.

Craigslist housing is complicated for folks of color in Portland because they know that they’re most likely going to end up living with white people. So we try to read between the lines of the ads, looking for clues of race/ethnicity or progressive social justice-ness because IDEALLY white people who are organizing are more aware of their own person issues around racism than those who are not. IDEALLY. Progressiveness is not a guarantee that we won’t have to deal with a white person’s racism or unconscious prejudices but theoretically it’s better than non-Progressiveness…kinda.

Coming home from the world is supposed to be a safe haven from the racism (and other general -isms) and microaggressions of the world outside of it.  Your home is the one place that you don’t have to deal with any of the BS. I don’t want to have to spend my home time teaching white people about the ways in which racism is an everyday thing for me! I did that in college and
I won’t do it at home without a paycheck involved.

My other problem with
Craigslist postings is that everyone feels the need to emphasize that people should be clean.  I’m sorry but shouldn’t it be assumed that people are going to be clean!  It seems like a logical assumption to me. I mean seriously you are sharing space with others, clean up after yourselves! And the fact that people feel the need to emphasize cleanliness means that it is a problem with roommates in Portland.

Oh and that BS about
wanting someone quiet (Oh don’t freaking get me started on this one! It’s racial for me),
who works M-F between the hours of 8am and 6pm is ridiculous! Since when do strangers get to dictate how I exist in the world!  And who the hell in Portland works those
hours?  Definitely not the social justice or social worker type folks. If
you do, then you obviously aren’t committed to the cause anyway! (You do hear the sarcasm in that statement, right?)

There is so much more
I could say, but I will end with my two cents on the availability of mass transit. For a city that is supposed to be super green and committed to less cars on the road, Trimet has cut transportation to some of the more affordable(ish?) sections of the city.  Those sections also happen to be more racially mixed and lower economic areas as well. So here’s the conundrum.

Supposed you can’t afford to own a car (or choose to be car-free) and you live in an area that you can afford to live in but now you can’t afford to get to the job that allows you to be able to afford your apartment or house. Or if you are me, you want to live in a more racially and economically mixed area of Portland but you would
lose your job if you aren’t near a RELIABLE transit line. In a nutshell, it sucks.

Housing in Portland is generally a frustrating experience for an awful lot of people, but add race to your search and you up the ante.  I am a Southern black queer working class woman and all those aspects of my identity impact my lived experience in Portland. It’s a lot of ante upping which means my housing search has dragged on for many frustrated months. I’m still looking for a housing situation that will meet my criteria. I haven’t given up, but I am taking my time. Only one thing is certain: I will be living alone.

Melinda Williams moved to Portland from Arkansas six years ago because it was too hot in Arkansas and the rain in Portland was lovely. She loves ranting because there really isn’t any better way to communicate. This is her first published rant. 

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