Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives (PCRI), in conjunction with our Minority Homeowner Assistance Collaborative (MHAC) partners, is hosting a forum Tuesday, March 15, 2011 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. to address the challenges African-American seniors are facing to maintain homeownership.
The evening forum is an opportunity for Portland seniors to discuss the challenges they are facing—financial and otherwise. Just as important, it is an opportunity for PCRI and our community partners to connect with seniors to brainstorm solutions that will provide the assistance necessary to overcome these challenges.
PCRI and other MHAC partners will be available during the forum to answer questions and provide information about our free homeownership retention program. The program is available to assist Portland seniors with experienced, culturally-specific services including one-on-one counseling, individualized coaching and advocacy, connections with community services and direct financial assistance.
The forum will be held at Oregon Association of Minority Entrepreneurs (OAME), 4134 N Vancouver Avenue at Skidmore in Portland. For more information, individuals can contact Homeownership Retention Coordinator Shalonda Menefee at 503-288-2923.
Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, is a housing provider in King that became a hot topic for neighbors after a series of livability concerns this summer. PCRI has added an online reporting form to its website to permit it to keep informed of concerns of the increasing number of computer-literate residents. The form is at: http://www.pcrihome.org/contact_us.php
After the issues with PCRI managment were outlined in our blog, PCRI’s executive director, board members, and staff came to the KNA November meeting and pledged better cooperation and more open communication. At the December 8th meeting, PCRI’s Cyndi Natalello, Manager of Property Management, told KNA about the new tool for residents to keep on top of any problems.
A PCRI home in King being painted
Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives Executive Director, Maxine Fitzpatrick, Melvin Oden-Orr, PCRI Board President, Karen Gibson, PCRI Board Member, Ben Loftis, PCRI Housing Developer and Cyndi Natalello, PCRI Manager of Property Management all came to KNA’s November meeting to discuss their organization and to address community concerns outlined in our blog post in September. An informational video was shown about the organization that owns 88 properties in the King neighborhood and about 700 in total.
Ms. Fitzpatrick said that PCRI staff felt the organization was unduly negatively represented in the blog and that the attention went beyond what was pertinent to the interest of the neighborhood association. PCRI Board Chair, Melvin Oden-Orr outlined the many competing financial responsibilities of PCRI as it strives to meet mandates by city agencies and provide housing as its portfolio increases. He pledged that PCRI is doing its best to serve the residents of our community and urged patience.
The attendees discussed the issues and it was resolved that KNA and PCRI should work more closely to resolve misunderstandings and any issues that arise with PCRI properties or tenants. PCRI was recognized for providing a vital service in a city that has insufficient affordable housing. PCRI will come to KNA meetings quarterly, will be more responsive to complaints or concerns by residents, and will work strategically instead of reactively to problems.
Concerns about PCRI properties can be referred to PCRI Manager of Property Management, Cyndi Natalello at (503) 288-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read the meeting minutes here.
Visit the PCRI website here.
PCRI Offices on Martin Luther King Blvd
Maxine Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, and at least two members of the PCRI Board plan to give a presentation to KNA at the November 10th meeting. PCRI wanted to present last month but there was not enough time to notify any neighbors who would be intereted in coming.
Ms. Fitzpatrick was interviewed by KNA communications volunteer Trace Salmon in the wake of a brawl in front of one of their housing complexes. This incident, which resulted in gunfire, brought to the forefront concerns about how invested PCRI is in a common vision of a safe and livable neighborhood. In the interview, Ms. Fitzpatrick decried the tactics of neighbors who complain about such incidents by sending emails to PCRI management and Board of Directors instead of getting to know their neighbors and dealing with issues on a personal level.
With the scrutiny on PCRI from this incident, nagging questions about their property maintenance and rental strategy were also brought to light. A number of PCRI properties have lingered vacant for long periods and maintenance items have gone neglected. Since the story in our blog PCRI staff have been cleaning graffiti from their property and assessing maintenance needs.
A PCRI Property in King
At the meeting, it should become clear whether PCRI will act in good faith to meet its mission of providing housing to the large numbers of Portlanders who cannot afford it while respecting the desire of all residents, PCRI residents included, to live in a safe and crime-free neighborhood. After concerns were sent to the PCRI Board of Directors following the gunfire, the board chair responded that he was looking into what course of action PCRI should take. Maxine Fitzpatrick said that the incident in question seemed to her to be an isolated one that didn’t require PCRI action. Whether or not there is any action PCRI could take, the response thus far has been less than reassuring.
While Ms. Fitzpatrick is accutely attuned to history of NE Portland and the systematic, discriminatory disempowerment of African Americans and other racial minorities who were denied access to capital and mortgage loans for decades, she dismisses people who have recently come to the neighborhood who have higher standards than to be tolerant of gunfire. It leaves one with the impression that Ms. Fitzpatrick thinks PCRI’s housing mission is in conflict with middle-class values. If so, affordable housing will only continue to be further stigmatized in the court of public opinion and PCRI’s mission will continue to become more difficult to meet.
If you live in Northeast Portland, chances are that Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives is one of your neighbors. As one of the largest community development corporations in North and Northeast Portland with 700 rental houses and apartments, PCRI helps define what our neighborhood is like.
The non-profit organization was born from the housing discrimination scandals of the ‘60’s through the ‘80’s such as redlining and the abandonment of the area by traditional lenders culminating in the Dominion Capital case where aspiring homeowners were being bilked with excessive interest rates and contracts designed to prevent the accumulation equity. PCRI executive director, Maxine Fitzpatrick sat down with me to discuss PCRI’s mission, operations, and recent incidents at one of their complexes. Ms. Fitzpatrick explained how PCRI set out to keep housing in the long-term, mostly minority residents’ hands and slow the wave of displacement taking place due to gentrification:
“The Oregonian did the exposé that exposed Dominion Capital and their fraudulent practices. After that exposé they filed for bankruptcy so rather than let those 350 families that were living in those properties be displaced and the properties picked up by speculators, they formed PCRI to purchase the homes. At the time about 70 of those properties still had an active land sale contract so our goal was to work with those families to make them legitimate owners and keep the other 272 as affordable rentals because that’s what they were at the time. So that’s how we were formed—to purchase that portfolio.”
King neighborhood, once overwhelmingly African-American and mostly poor by the late ‘80’s, is now much more diverse ethnically, economically, and culturally. With diversity, often comes strain and misunderstanding. While residents generally value the improvements in the housing that has come with the influx of new, younger, residents fixing up older homes, community development corporations strive to provide the most housing for the very limited available dollars. Standards for housing construction, maintenance and upkeep, as well as resident screening and oversight are set by the CDC which has a primary mission to provide housing for the surplus of those who cannot afford market rate options. As a result, homeowners and subsidized housing residents’ dreams of living in safe and peaceful neighborhoods sometime intersect with the jarring realities of life.