June 1, 2017

ICYMI: Between medical costs, food, seniors find it harder to make rent in Portland

Seniors are watching Portland's relentlessly rising rents eat up most of their Social Security or disability payments.

As Portland rents relentlessly rise, seniors can face an impossible choice: pay rent or buy groceries? The situation, a familiar one in cities and towns across Oregon, leaves elders at risk of losing their homes when Social Security or disability payments no longer come close to covering the rent.

The Oregonian reported about the rent hikes and evictions that threaten some of the city's lowest income residents:

Over the past 12 years, Social Security payments have lagged significantly behind the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Portland. They were about equal in 2005. Now, the same apartment is upwards of $1,000 a month while Social Security payments have increased to only about $733 a month, according to federal and county data.

That leaves many seniors finding that they just aren't going to earn enough to bridge the gap between what they make and what they owe until Portland's housing crisis wanes. Even those who live in tax-credit subsidized housing, which means the units rent at 60 percent of median area income, are struggling to stay in their homes.

There also are no shelters in Multnomah County specifically for senior citizens, though they and people with disabilities get priority in some shelters -- and are using them more than ever. In fiscal 2015, 885 seniors were housed in shelters. In the first three quarters of fiscal 2016, the number rose to 948 seniors.

Partly that's because the number of shelter beds across the county increased. Partly it's because more seniors are becoming homeless. Between 2013 and 2015, there was a 23 percent jump, according to the 2015 county survey of homeless people.

The article references a $90,000 two-year advocacy grant awarded by Meyer's Affordable Housing Initiative in 2015 to the Urban League of Portland to improve access to affordable, accessible, culturally-appropriate and safe housing Oregon's African American communities.

You can read the full story by reporter Molly Harbarger here.