Portland is thriving! Driving here this morning, what did you see? I saw a lot of cranes. Our city is rising, literally! Our city is growing, attracting more industry and people who will continue making Portland one of the most desirable places to live. Portland is on the rise, and that’s a good thing. But there’s a cost.
Housing. The increase in both rents and home prices are the highest in the nation. Our housing costs have gone up more here than anywhere else in the country. In fact, Portland City Council has issued a Housing State of Emergency because too many of our hardworking neighbors can no longer afford to live here and many are ending up on the street.
If you are a bank teller, a childcare worker, a bus driver, you can’t afford a two bedroom apartment. If you are a teacher, a construction worker, even a nurse, you can’t buy a home anymore. So my question to you is: is Portland really rising, if we’re leaving people behind?
It’s easy to think we can’t solve this problem. We’re all bombarded with hundreds of news articles about this crisis. Look at San Francisco and Seattle, we worry we can’t stop it. But here’s the thing: we can solve it. We have the resources and the know-how right here in our city to solve it. Habitat is solving it.
For those of you who don’t know about Habitat, this is no give away. Families put in 500 hours of sweat equity building their homes, and then pay monthly on an affordable mortgage. Because people like you volunteer and donate, we help families help themselves become independent.
Housing affects every area of a family’s life: their health, their education, and their financial stability. Owning a home has a lasting impact on a family’s future. But the future is hard to visualize. So last spring we went back and asked all the families who have purchased Habitat homes in our 35 years how homeownership changed their lives. We heard from families whose kids have now grown up, some starting families of their own. And these are some of their stories.
No one likes to get sick. Now, imagine your kids are sick because of where you live. Let me take you back to 2010. A young couple and their three kids are living in a small two-bedroom apartment. Mold is growing on the walls and windows. All three children are sick with asthma. That’s when Sindimwo and Tinya came to Habitat, desperate for a solution. A year later, they purchased their Habitat home in southeast Portland. Since being in their Habitat home all three children are healthy and thriving.
Our survey shows that 79% of families who previously had housing-related respiratory illness—and let’s just stop and think about how that is an actual phrase housing related respitory illness. That phrase shouldn’t even exist. 79% of families with respiratory illness no longer have symptoms after moving into their Habitat homes. Sindimwo, Tinya and their kids are able to rise, because we did not leave them behind.
We all want to provide for our families. And if we can’t, we feel like failures. Back in 2005 a single mom with a two year old daughter was living in a cramped apartment that had leaky plumbing. The sink in her bathroom was literally falling out of the wall. She’d have to move again. This meant a huge stress of putting down deposits and all the expenses that come with moving. She was worried it would be impossible to provide a stable environment for her daughter. I also had a two-year-old daughter when I met Tuyen 11 years ago, and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to not have a safe place for my daughter to grow.
It wasn’t until they moved into their Habitat home in the Cully neighborhood that Tuyen and her daughter found stability. I was at that home dedication 11 years ago, as saw the relief on Tuyen’s face knowing she was now stable. Tuyen is proud of where she lives and proud that her daughter, who is about to start high school, as is mine, won’t have to move again. 77% of Portland Habitat homeowners said they felt significantly more confident and secure since moving into their own Habitat home. Tuyen and her daughter are able to rise, because we did not leave them behind.
Multnomah County has a graduation rate of 64%, and one of the highest dropout rates in the country. Back in 1999 a young mom was worried about just that. Elizabeth Joseph had five kids and wanted to keep them in the same school so that they had stability and could be successful. Because of Habitat, Elizabeth was able to afford to stay in her northeast Portland neighborhood as home prices increased. All her kids stayed in the same school until they graduated, some are now in college and they all have good jobs. 83% of Portland Habitat homeowner children graduate high school. A stable home has a profound effect on education. This is Elizabeth now, in front of her Habitat home. Elizabeth and her children were able to rise because we did not leave them behind.
Isn’t this great? Habitat is doing great things! In fact, Habitat has done so much good that it was named nonprofit brand of the year. And some people think we are doing so well that we don’t need their support. We need you! We need your time. We need your money. We need your resources. None of this would be possible with you.
Our city is rising. And with this rise we have choices to make. It’s easy to do nothing when you’re not the one in need. But if we really want to be a city on the rise, we cannot leave people behind. Will you join me?