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Steve L.

Mr. Hallberg’s point was that many more poor families would be better served if the money were used for Section 8 housing AND rehabilitating the existing Hillsdale Terrace instead of just rebuilding. He Says, “The Section 8 program is very popular. Most housing authorities, including Portland's, have multi-year waiting lists that exceed the waiting lists for public housing.” He goes on to say, “Hillsdale Terrace could be rehabilitated for a fraction of the $40 million proposed to rebuild it.”

What is missing in two O’ articles and the LTE by Jennifer Brownell on the same subject, are the opinions of the people that currently living in the Hillsdale Terrace. From what I know, these families know the Terrace is run-down and they would like it to be nicer, but they would like the development rehabilitating in a phased way, that would not rip the families out of their current neighborhoods, schools and support network of friends.

I think the discussion of whether there is a stigma or not is a little academic, as there are many clues to socioeconomic status, in addition to where you live.


The Projects (double entendre intended) may improve the visage, but can it change the oft mentioned culture of poverty?

Actually, have you seen the buildings up front? The HAP never allowed for a remodel option; that's not where the federal money was.

But I think other solutions can work better...like 10% affordable housing requirement for apartment and condo projects over specific number of units. Or improved section 8 housing rules that are similar to the 10% rule, but with greater incentives for building/housing owners.

And another thing I don't like about these Projects is that they live down to the 50 year US lifespan for buildings, and that just doesn't seem sustainable. That was one of the reasons why I was opposed to tearing down the Memorial Coliseum as well.

But my post is meaningless; the process is indelibly entrenched.

Peter Smith

if anyone can add to what Jane Jacobs said on this, i'll be impressed.


Peter - what exactly did Jane Jacobs say on this?


Jane Jacobs has obviously said nothing on this particular situation, but she said enough to let us guess what she might say. The first poster is probably most accurate: The focus needs to be on how residents of Hillsdale Terrace view the community that exists now. Hillsdale may not be as good as public housing plans now put into place, but is it so irrevocably flawed that it should be raised to increase that plot's density and improve connections to the rest of the community?

The only way to know is to ask the residents in and around it. Judging by the pictures (having never been), it looks like the current design falls into most of the 'garden city' pitfalls that Jacobs derided in most projects: We'll give them lots of grass so we can point to how nice the poor have it here. That said, residents here have probably done what residents anywhere do: created community (whether 'we' see it, or value it, or not).

Here's my hunch on what Jacobs would say: Observe the project. Is there life? Is there community? If not, is it a design issue? Or is it a land-use issue? That is, is the problem with Hillsdale Terrace the buildings, or is it all that supposedly beneficial grass? Wouldn't it be better if there were actually something to do in this community? Something that might actually (heaven forbid!) bring in people from outside the community itself?


I grew up poor but fortunately not in a place with public housing. Had I been warehoused, I am not confident my mom would have gone back to college to improve our future. Everyone we lived around was just like us but not poor. It made doing better seem possible. People knew we were poor, sure - but I didn't face the kind of stigma the kids who got on the school bus from a place where only the very poor kids lived. Those kids had it rough.

Of course people who support public housing are just trying to do the right thing and it probably makes them feel good that they're doing something for poor people. But I would rather we focused on finding ways to empower the poor to feel good about what they are able to do for themselves.

The money would be better used for education and providing for people to live in the neighborhoods where they feel they fit best. To varying degrees, that is what the rest of us are able to do, why should the poor be any different?

Steve L.

Here is an excerpt from a good comment by “hff58” on the Willis IMO.

“Continuing to build concentrated housing for low-income tenants is not good public policy. Architects, planners and politicians seem to think that we can design our way out of social problems. While good design might produce better results than in the past, where is the proof that public housing projects are our best and most efficient solution for housing low income citizens? No one seems prepared to question this belief. All the players have some stake in keeping the funding alive as program creep enlarges the mission and the bureaucracy that supports it. All at a cost to our pocketbooks and the fabric of our city.

I like Section 8 as a primary tool for housing low-income residents since it makes use of available private housing, actually allows people to self-select their own housing units, requires them to connect with the community -- all very empowering and humanizing for a population that needs support. It provides a level of dignity that puts the control back into the hands of the tenant. Why would HAP want to deny choice to their clients?

For the entire comment go to the Willis IMO link above.


Steve L quoted a comment that stated: "While good design might produce better results than in the past, where is the proof that public housing projects are our best and most efficient solution for housing low income citizens? No one seems prepared to question this belief."

In fact the consensus is that public housing is an experiment that failed. Federal funding for public housing (new construction) is practically non-existent. Funding for the Section 8 program is woefully inadequate -relative to the need. And Section 8 is not a solution if landlords won't accept Section 8 tenants, or if the units that are available are not close to jobs and other support services that very low income people need.

Regarding the Hillside Project, 60 units is hardly a large concentration, and physically the building looks a lot like a million other apartment buildings in this area. To extend its useful life makes a lot of sense, socially and economically. To compare it to Pruitt Igoe is meaningless - not only because of the difference in scale, but because the Pruitt Igoe model was decommissioned in the 1970s, very few were built on the West Coast - and NONE in Portland --and all high rise projects have now been demolished.

And there has never been adequate funding to truly test alternative approaches - witness the short-circuiting of the effort to transform Columbia Villa not through design but through providing social services to tenants. It was easier to just bulldoze the thing and repackage it as a "new urbanist" experiment where only the most "deserving" of the poor get to live -- as long as they behave.

As far as the stigma of growing up in "the projects" the NYTimes did a good article on public housing as a launching pad for successful New Yorkers. The occasion of the article was the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor - who grew up in public housing - becoming a Supreme Court Justice.

This is a great time to have a debate on public housing -- there are so many misconceptions about it -- and thanks to Brian for posting on this topic!

Tom Udell

As the owner of the apartment building across the street from Hillsdale Terrace, I can't help but note that many of these comments are more about general theory of public housing, rather than about this building and this community in particular.

I've never actually been inside Hillsdale Terrace, but looking at it always got me a little jealous. Those buildings are newer than mine, and built more solidly than mine, and have bigger units then mine. And yet mine still turn a tidy profit, while still affording enough cash flow that we can continually repair and improve them.

So I was astonished that someone wants to tear Hillsdale Terrace down and spend $100M to build new buildings. I understand that they are not great architecture, but if anyone takes a look at my buildings across the street, you'll see some REALLY NOT great architecture. And yet even Springcreek has a certain charm to it, the charm coming from the site (not so different than across the street), the community, and the management.

If you send a bunch of architects out to decide what buildings need to be torn down because the architecture is not good enough, then I want to own a demolition company. I LOVE good architects and good architecture but they don't usually make good developers.

A brand spanking new building across the street from my building will be very nice for me personally. Yes, it's low income housing but the old ones are low income housing as well. New buildings across the street will enhance the value of my property. Just the same, I think it is unconscionable to even THINK about spending $100M, or half of that, to replace the old buildings, no matter where the money comes from. There are hundreds and hundreds of old buildings in Portland that need replacing more than those. In fact, why not replace MY buildings. They really NEED replacing. Why would ANYONE ever have built buildings in Portland with flat roofs?

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