StreetTalk with Roger Valdez, Seattle for Growth

StreetTalk with Roger Valdez, Seattle for Growth

“A proliferation of product type enables consumers to make better choices. If the choices are limited, competition increases and prices increase. More is better,” Roger Valdez, Seattle for Growth

Seattle Housing Advocate and Forbes Writer, Roger Valdez, Explains the Difference Between Advocacy and Public Relations

Roger Valdez is the embodiment of my two work passions—public relations and real estate. As the Director of Seattle for Growth, formerly Smart Growth Seattle, Roger has been advocating for more housing options in every Seattle-area neighborhood for all kinds of incomes, from micro-housing to mansions and tenant housing to owner-occupied. 

His nonprofit has been at the center of well-known Seattle real estate debates for more than five years. That’s why he was able to snag a regular column on Forbes.com — that he does not pay for — representing the Emerald City’s housing market. Abiding by a quota of two posts per week, many of his columns are specific to Seattle-area policies and issues, but PR people will be happy to know that he sometimes references the sources we send his way on Forbes. He’ll even delve into another state’s issues so if you’re in any kind of communications role for a real estate, construction or housing entity, getting to know Roger would probably be a good idea. This conversation traversed between heady real estate policy, inventory and pricing topics; and edgy PR tips that might leave some of us shaking in our boots. High-level thoughts on how journalists can influence the housing market and policy are intertwined with real-life examples of how he relates to the press. The conversation gets really interesting when Roger relates urban living to a social mashup forcing us to work through uncomfortable situations, like homelessness and crime, together. So you’ll surely be entertained as we near the end of the episode where Roger’s tips for getting included in his columns can be found.

How the Press Affects Consumer Sentiment

As I stumble over the difference between what a “median” and a “mean” price is (you’d think I’d remember this from my real estate agent days), Roger gets into how the press, especially the Seattle Times, can use shocking language to influence opinion or confirm existing biases. For example, pointing to “Average Prices” to sum up how the housing market is doing within a headline can negatively influence buyer sentiment. Roger concedes that the article is factual, but buried at the end is the explanation about what’s truly going on in the market. Headlines can strongly deter would-be homeowners because they don’t read the full article.

“Using average prices and wages to measure our so-called crisis is an abuse of averages,” Roger says. “The easiest thing the press can do is confirm people’s bias.”

Waging a Press War: Advocacy versus PR

In his role at Seattle for Growth, Roger publically brings criticism to reporters and editors. It’s not that he’s getting huffy when they’re not writing the story he wants, but it’s situations like the above that get him worked up. “When it comes to price, dig into what the dynamic is,” he says. “How can we better utilize data to talk about the market?” Roger says that he might think differently about blatantly fighting with the press if he were representing multiple PR clients. One burnt bridge could affect all the clients. He points out that he’s an advocate in the broadest possible sense. Beyond just aiming for the story, an advocate is in it for the long haul, attempting to change the way we think, ultimately affecting policy. He recognizes the press as having huge power in this regard. So if he feels that they are misunderstanding an issue and unintentionally swaying people, he’s going to do everything in his power to correct that — whether that be complaining directly to the newspaper’s staff, commenting with a correction online or utilizing his own channels to post about it. “If a story is really bad someone will get hurt because of it,” he says. One thing is for sure: Roger is not coy. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Roger doesn’t think his bold approach with newsrooms actually hurts his chances of future stories. “They get where I’m coming from. Hearing criticism makes them think twice.” But again, he reminds us that he wouldn’t be as aggressive if he were solely working in a PR capacity.

This is a special edition of StreetTalk, a podcast about Portland’s (and Seattle’s) ever-changing communal landscape.

Podcast: Roger Valdez: Forbes Columnist

Podcast: Roger Valdez: Forbes Columnist

Seattle Housing Advocate and Forbes Writer, Roger Valdez, Explains the Difference Between Advocacy and Public Relations

Roger Valdez is the embodiment of my two work passions—public relations and real estate. As the Director of Seattle for Growth, formerly Smart Growth Seattle, Roger has been advocating for more housing options in every Seattle-area neighborhood for all kinds of incomes, from micro-housing to mansions and tenant housing to owner-occupied.

“A proliferation of product type enables consumers to make better choices. If the choices are limited, competition increases and prices increase. More is better,” Roger says.

His nonprofit has been at the center of well-known Seattle real estate debates for more than five years. That’s why he was able to snag a regular column on Forbes.com — that he does not pay for — representing the Emerald City’s housing market. Abiding by a quota of two posts per week, many of his columns are specific to Seattle-area policies and issues, but PR people will be happy to know that he sometimes references the sources we send his way on Forbes. He’ll even delve into another state’s issues so if you’re in any kind of communications role for a real estate, construction or housing entity, getting to know Roger would probably be a good idea.

This conversation traversed between heady real estate policy, inventory and pricing topics; and edgy PR tips that might leave some of us shaking in our boots. High-level thoughts on how journalists can influence the housing market and policy are intertwined with real-life examples of how he relates to the press. The conversation gets really interesting when Roger relates urban living to a social mashup forcing us to work through uncomfortable situations, like homelessness and crime, together. So you’ll surely be entertained as we near the end of the episode where Roger’s tips for getting included in his columns can be found.

 

How the Press Affects Consumer Sentiment

As I stumble over the difference between what a “median” and a “mean” price is (you’d think I’d remember this from my real estate agent days), Roger gets into how the press, especially the Seattle Times, can use shocking language to influence opinion or confirm existing biases. For example, pointing to “Average Prices” to sum up how the housing market is doing within a headline can negatively influence buyer sentiment. Roger concedes that the article is factual, but buried at the end is the explanation about what’s truly going on in the market. Headlines can strongly deter would-be homeowners because they don’t read the full article.

“Using average prices and wages to measure our so-called crisis is an abuse of averages,” Roger says. “The easiest thing the press can do is confirm people’s bias.”

Waging a Press War: Advocacy versus PR

In his role at Seattle for Growth, Roger publically brings criticism to reporters and editors. It’s not that he’s getting huffy when they’re not writing the story he wants, but it’s situations like the above that get him worked up. “When it comes to price, dig into what the dynamic is,” he says. “How can we better utilize data to talk about the market?”

Roger says that he might think differently about blatantly fighting with the press if he were representing multiple PR clients. One burnt bridge could affect all the clients. He points out that he’s an advocate in the broadest possible sense. Beyond just aiming for the story, an advocate is in it for the long haul, attempting to change the way we think, ultimately affecting policy. He recognizes the press as having huge power in this regard. So if he feels that they are misunderstanding an issue and unintentionally swaying people, he’s going to do everything in his power to correct that — whether that be complaining directly to the newspaper’s staff, commenting with a correction online or utilizing his own channels to post about it. “If a story is really bad someone will get hurt because of it,” he says.

One thing is for sure: Roger is not coy. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Roger doesn’t think his bold approach with newsrooms actually hurts his chances of future stories. “They get where I’m coming from. Hearing criticism makes them think twice.” But again, he reminds us that he wouldn’t be as aggressive if he were solely working in a PR capacity.

 

What is Good Journalism?

“Journalism is not an easy job,” Roger admits. “A good article needs to help the discussion.”

He’s quick to dole out compliments for good journalism, pointing to an article by David Kroman on Crosscut, which examined the proposed fees Seattle landlords would face when raising their rents by a certain amount. In the article, David interviews a source in Portland, where this bill has already passed, to hear how it has affected things here.

This way of digging into the story is the epitome of honorable journalism for Roger. Uncovering every angle to fully understand all aspects, combined with broadening the language so that situations aren’t overly simplified is what the Seattle real estate market needs right now and who better to play the role than its local journalists?

 

Getting in Roger’s Forbes Column

Just like quality journalism could use a discerning touch, successful PR efforts require the same amount of discipline. To possibly garner a mention in his Forbes.com column about the Seattle real estate market, Roger offers the following advice:

  • Tailor your pitch for each press audience.
  • Don’t make it confusing so he doesn’t have to do too much sleuthing.
  • If it’s a broad press release involving multiple parties, tell him which player you are representing in the story.

About the guest: Roger Valdez

Roger Valdez has been involved in public policy in the areas of education, health, and housing for the past 20 years. He is Director of Seattle For Growth, a housing and growth advocacy organization pushing for more housing supply for all levels of income in Seattle, and a columnist for Forbes.

Connect and follow Roger on social media:

This episode of PR Talk is brought to you by PRSA Oregon

Throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington, PRSA provides members with networking, mentorship, skill building and professional development opportunities – whether you are a new professional fresh out of college or a skilled expert with 20 years in the industry. Check out PRSAoregon.org for more information on how membership can help you grow and connect.

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Episode 202: The Hunger Project — Jen Carter

Episode 202: The Hunger Project — Jen Carter

Oregon is the only state in the nation that keeps getting hungrier.

Jen Carter knows about hunger. Not as the former Kitchen Manager of a drop-in center for homeless youth. Not as the new Program Assistant for Metro HomeShare. Not as a current Advisor the Hunger Free Leadership Institute (H-FLI). But as a former fellow for H-FLI, Jen understands.

“The women in my family have had the urge to feed with each successive generation. The need for extra food passed down in the genes with wide hips and a love for butter. Gardens became a family tradition,” Jen wrote in her application essay for acceptance into the H-FLI fellowship. “I was never conscious of not having enough as a child. There was always food. There were treats that tasted of soil and the delta breeze. My parents fought over debt, borrowed money from grandparents, took a second job cleaning houses — but there were enough fresh strawberries to stain your lips red.” 

The essay moves on to explain that while people go hungry, there is enough food through farms and personal gardens. However, we lack the resources required for harvesting and delivering that food to the needy. A boilerplate at the bottom of the article points to the state’s nationally leading Farm to School and School Garden Programs as answers. Recently on the chopping block, a bill supporting grant funding for these two programs passed unanimously in this summer’s legislature, preserving the 4.5 million program for schools statewide.

H-FLI may have been part of that successful outcome. Created by Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon, the Institute is an eight-month training program that empowers and supports community leaders (“fellows”) in their quest to end hunger on a local-level. Jen discusses how the fellows are representative of the communities they serve. Many have experienced hunger firsthand, whether that be through working in a food pantry or receiving its services.

With Oregon coming in as the country’s sixth hungriest state and the only state that’s experienced an increase in hunger over the last few years, we need people like Jen in our corner.

“Each year we are getting hungrier, but we have one of the best Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs [SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps] in the nation. Why?” Jen rhetorically asks. “The rise in cost of living isn’t being matched with the rise in wages. As rents increase, access to food decreases.”

Through the conversation I discovered that getting access to food isn’t always a given, depending on where you are, how your population is voting, the cost of your rent and even the color of your skin.

Many of you already know that women, especially of the single variety, hold a spot on the list of the disproportionately hungry in Oregon, but Jen dives a little deeper, painting a picture of what hungry looks like here.

Rural populations — These communities see a lot of “underemployment,” which means that their employment is often seasonal and unstable. While Portland offers programs to address this, many other areas do not because food is legislated differently throughout the state. However, the Oregon Food Bank is stepping in to help these communities with an eastern Oregon office and Partners for Hunger Free Oregon also spearheads initiatives for these communities.

Minorities — Jen says that 30-40 percent of African Americans are hungry in Oregon. These massively disproportionate numbers are caused by systemic racism that has continuously displaced African Americans. Not only were blacks banned from owning property in the early days, there were restrictions on where you could live. The allowable areas constantly moved, making it nearly impossible for many to build up equity.

Even recently, minorities are being displaced. Take the Memorial Coliseum for example: established African American neighborhoods were torn down during its construction. This type of gentrification is still happening today in North and Northeast Portland.

Constantly being on the move can take a massive toll on vulnerable populations. Not only does it deter equity — imagine being pushed into an area where you don’t know your neighbors, can no longer walk to your store and must find a new place of worship. Your entire community and network is displaced. Moreover, costly rental deposits and multiple application fees are paid with every move — probably coming out of your family’s food budget.

Seniors — The rise in housing costs mean more and more seniors are going without. When burdened between choosing food and medication, housing, or transportation, many will forgo the food. Wouldn’t you rather skip a meal than spend a night on the streets?

Jen’s new position as Program Assistant for Metro HomeShare can help ease that burden for seniors and others. Through the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, the group helps Home Providers stabilize and retain their housing, while offering access to affordable rent or services to Home Seekers.

Part movement and part organization, as Jen defines it, HomeShare’s ingenious response to rising home costs is to play matchmaker — connecting people who need a place to live with people who need help paying the rent or mortgage. Extra services could also be part of the package. The elderly, busy, or disabled can incorporate home maintenance and maybe even errands into the agreement. HomeShare puts it all together.

Beyond groups like HomeShare, there are many resources available that aren’t being utilized by everyone who needs them. The reasons stem beyond the idea that people don’t know about them (although that might sometimes be the case), and can be pointed to situations such as:

  • Unreliable access to transportation.
  • Working two jobs, therefore unable to visit during open hours.
  • Recent immigrants battling fears of needing to identify themselves. Although most food pantries (including the Oregon Food Bank) do not check identification.
  • General government mistrust that’s been passed down through family history with foster care or law enforcement.

How can people help?

Jen advises us to first visit: www.oregonhunger.org to see what kind of help is needed. However, the ideas she rattled off included:

  • Volunteering for the Oregon Food Bank.
  • Asking how your local food pantry needs help.
  • Harvesting once a month for a community garden.
  • Participating in letter writing campaigns.
  • Calling your local representative to state your opinion on issues affecting hunger.

This is Episode 202 of StreetTalk, a podcast about Portland’s ever-changing communal landscape.

Episode 201: The Hunger Project — Kyle Camberg

Episode 201: The Hunger Project — Kyle Camberg

“Hunger Isn’t Seasonal,” Kyle Camberg, Sunshine Division.

The Hunger Project, Kyle Camberg

Kyle Camberg, Executive Director of the Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Divison

I was so happy to have gotten the chance to interview my friend Kyle Camberg, Executive Director for the Sunshine Division, as I launched my first foray into the growing issue of feeding Portland’s needy on StreetTalk’s new series; The Hunger Project. I have worked Kyle in many capacities and can say that he’s the PR person’s dream when it comes to creating joint marketing campaigns between nonprofits and corporations. Veracity is lucky to have clients that want to get involved with the community in meaningful ways. Sure, writing checks is important, but it’s the physical act of doing something that is the PR person’s gold because this is what garners more “ink.” This mindset comes naturally to Kyle as we work together to create community relations campaigns that help others, while showing Veracity’s clients in a positive light and, most importantly, educating the masses.

Education is exactly what we are attempting to do with this second StreetTalk series we are calling The Hunger Project. Did you know that a staggering 75% of students qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch in east Portland districts? Portland itself hovers around 46%, “which isn’t great but it’s considerably better,” Kyle says in the latest episode of StreetTalk.

Portland Sunshine Division Meeting the Growing Needs of Portland

About the Sunshine Division

We begin by delving into the Sunshine Division’s unique history, which was started by a few Portland police officers in 1923 in response to the area’s growing need for food. The officers smartly kept their idea separate from any governmental entity because “they didn’t want a politician coming in to mess things up,” Kyle recalls a retired police officer saying.

The Sunshine Division is its own nonprofit organization which strategically partners with the Portland Police Bureau to keep police precincts armed with food boxes so that officers can easily deliver them to needy individuals whenever the need arises. A food and clothing bank that is open to qualifying individuals six-days-a-week allows the group to participate in school backpack and outreach programs; while also providing resources to neighboring charities in and around Portland. While the Sunshine Division utilizes in-kind donations from the police department, such as delivery trucks and a major volunteer pool in the police officers themselves, it does not benefit from any federal grant money; relying on generous benefactors instead.

Hunger is a Moving Target

With Portland’s skyline morphing through the buzz of construction, tourists flock to the City of Roses while more and more companies move international workforces to what used to be an underground, sleepy Pacific Northwest town. However, our city’s popularity is taking its toll on vulnerable populations. With rents rising in areas that used to be affordable, diverse populations are pushed out.

Portland Sunshine Division Meeting the Growing Needs of Portland

“As you head east of the river, the need just grows,” says Kyle. “Gentrification has taken hold.” That’s why after 94 years, the Sunshine Division is opening a second location east of I-205, located at 12429 SE Stark St. “This pocket of Portland was annexed and forgotten, without many services. It’s a suffering part of the city.”

The second location will enable the Sunshine Division to reach the school districts needing them the most — Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose and Reynolds — expanding their reach to serve not just Portland but surrounding areas like Gresham, Fairview and Milwaukie; where according to Kyle the level of poverty is higher.

PPS Cuts Lunch Programs at 12 Schools

I brought up a rumor I’d read in the Oregonian about Portland Public Schools (PPS) cutting free lunches for all students at 12 schools this year. Kyle replied that he couldn’t represent PPS and that details may still be up in the air. I clarified that families who can go through the red tape, showing they qualify, will still gain access to the free lunches for their children.

But in the recent past if 40 percent* of families within a school were served by income-restricted programs, like food stamps, a federal program gave these schools funding to provide free meals to all students. This easy access to school day meals was probably a godsend for children whose parents weren’t able to fill out the qualifying paperwork. Kyle and I expanded on the point that many immigrants and refugees can’t participate in the hurdles of paper for various reasons including documentation concerns as well as cultural and linguistic barriers. What will these kids do if their qualifying families do not fill out the paperwork?

Additional questions stem from this lunchtime news out of PPS. What will the qualifications for summer and backpack programs be? Will it be harder for working poor to access these? It is becoming evident that the need for programs like the Sunshine Division is more crucial than ever. The broader capacity for outreach that a second location brings to the Sunshine Division will help refer needy families to the vital services they offer. 

The Non-Seasonality of Hunger

The main reason I wanted to jump on this issue of hunger right now is because one of the first things I learned while creating community relations campaigns for clients was that summer is a really hard time for hungry kids. During the school year they can get up to two meals a day for either free or reduced cost. But what do they do in the summer when access to free food isn’t a given? Yes, there are summer food programs but how do these kids travel to them? They may be miles away from these programs, without an able adult taking them. Stranded inside of their hunger.

The time to get involved is now or “any of the ten-and-a-half months of the year that aren’t around the holidays,” says Kyle. Amazingly the Sunshine Division has turned volunteers away during the holidays. While they always appreciate the help, the education needs to begin now. “Hunger is not seasonal,” as Kyle has coined before. This is a year-round problem that needs everyone’s attention now and ongoing.

Three Ways to Help

Kyle lays out three main ways to help any food relief charity.

  1. Volunteerism. The Sunshine Division is open six-days-a-week, putting generous volunteers to work on a daily basis running a retail operation (that is free for qualifying public), warehouse and public intake. You can either volunteer as an individual on a regular basis or as a group for a special one-time experience. School, corporations and community groups value the bonding that can occur when volunteering together.
  1. Host a food drive. This is the kind of thing I am talking about from a PR point-of view. Hosting a food drive either in your location or through your networks is a very active way to involve your audience in an issue you may care deeply about while also allowing your PR person to leverage your good-deeds through earned media.

The Sunshine Division has a wonderful partnership with The Barbers hair chain, which asks their customers to donate a dollar or more during a six-week time period. The funds are then given to the Sunshine Division to buy peanut butter—a solid, concrete item that the public can not only wrap their heads around but a visual that a PR person can turn into a press conference, photo opportunity, or press release to say the very least. Advantis Credit Union does something similar with a canned tuna drive each year.

  1. Donate. Financial contributions keep invaluable nonprofits like the Sunshine Division running. Kyle explains that you can’t run a charity without financial resources. If that were possible, the charity would actually be a volunteer organization that would likely display less in results and output. But Kyle qualifies this statement by saying “we are lean and mean.” With only 11 on staff, 94 years in existence and on its way to expanding its geographic reach through a second location, the Sunshine Division must be doing something right.

*I believe I misquoted this figure in the interview at 80%. No one said I was a numbers person.

This is Episode 201 of StreetTalk, a podcast about Portland’s ever-changing communal landscape.

It’s a Wrap! Final Thoughts on The Eastmoreland Project

It’s a Wrap! Final Thoughts on The Eastmoreland Project

Reflections on PR’s Duty, Podcasting & Making a Decision

Thank you for listening to me muddle through the discovery process regarding the proposed historic district (HD) in Eastmoreland. What could have very well been an indulgent project began as a way to find out the truth by listening to both sides of the issue. I didn’t want to staunchly remain within my own bubble of like-minded people, as we all so often do. So, I thought I’d ask some smart people some questions, that’s all. But then the idea of recording the conversations came to mind.

Recording conversations is a tool I learned from journalists. The first time this happened to me was when I was re-branding the Street of Dreams through PR. A journalist recorded our conversation with a hidden microphone. He didn’t tell me he was recording, but I should have known better. Ever since, I’ve realized that recording conversations could be the only way to capture their essence within a particular space in time. This helps me create press releases, articles or blog posts out of the important things my clients say. Of course, I always keep the recording device front and center.

But then the podcast was born — enabling emotions to be captured that simply cannot be translated through the written-word. In a world where information is hitting us from every angle, podcasts can help us download messages from the whole perspective. There’s so much more to be consumed than a 140-character tweet can give justice to. Also, people aren’t sitting down to read blogs anymore. Always in motion, our lives are too busy. With the invention of earbuds, podcasts enable us to learn as we go.

So, I thought, “Well, if I’m talking to informed and interesting people, I might as well record the conversations.” This is a larger issue than affects the HD but I’m also seeing that someone has to fill the balanced journalistic role that the media used to fill. The other day, my mother heard a Willamette Week reporter on the Lars Larson show talking about how the Laurelhurst HD was essentially a “rich” people’s problem. Well, that might be true but I didn’t know that real journalists were paid to state their opinions. Someone has to pick up the slack and present things fairly.

You’ll notice that I treated everyone the same in each episode, viewing each hour as their own sacred platform, guiding them so they are presented in the best light. That might be swaying from a journalistic integrity point-of-view, but I am a PR person. The best PR person can see the positive in every situation, business and person. Our jobs are to let that shine in the world. I hope that in some aspects I was able to do that with each of my special guests.

Now, as far as what am I going to do? I did say that we’d walk through my own decision-making process together. But over the course of these six weeks I’ve come to understand that people don’t care about what I’m going to do. Honestly, if they did, I believe we would have gotten a little more engagement with the podcasts. It is unfortunate that per NextDoor’s rules we were forced to remove the posts from the main NextDoor page — relegated to posting on only the opposition and proponent group pages where we’re definitely preaching to the choir.

So, what would I preach? Nothing. I’ve found that this is a personal decision without an answer. Or rather, positive aspects are found in both answers. Your gut instinct tells you where you’re aligned and my instinct doesn’t have anything to do with yours. But really, you ask, what are you doing? Nothing. It’s what I’d wished I’d done in the beginning. I trust that the process will unfold the way it’s supposed to. No matter how hard we try, none of us can control ultimate outcomes. Sometimes the best course of action is none.

P.S. A note from the husband, Mike Rosenberg

Just a bit of clarification on Amy’s points above. If you didn’t listen to the entire series, you may not know that Amy and I both signed letters of opposition in the early days before this podcast series was created. So, by doing nothing now, we are not actively in support of the HD. This is how I (and a lot of other people) think a process like this one should be. If you want to make a change and add regulations like an HD, the people should have to do something to support it, not the other way around.

Now, if I hadn’t opposed already, would I be getting my Objection in before the deadline? I’m not totally sure. But by not doing something, we would have been in favor of a huge change taking place in our neighborhoods. Weird. So in summary, on paper we both ended up opposed to this HD in Eastmoreland, but not by much.

What’s Next?

I appreciate the passion and effort of everyone saving our neighborhood, as both sides feel they are. But there’s bigger fish to fry. If nothing else comes out of this new podcast series, know that it has inspired us to continue with other issues. Next we’ll be examining food insecurity in Oregon.

This is the final episode in The Eastmoreland Project, the first series of StreetTalk, a podcast about Portland’s ever-changing communal landscape.

Episode 106: The Eastmoreland Project — Randy Sebastian

Episode 106: The Eastmoreland Project — Randy Sebastian

Home-Grown Home Builder Weighs in on Historic District

As I sat down to interview Randy Sebastian, owner of Renaissance Homes, about the proposed historic district (HD) in Eastmoreland, he recalls humble beginnings leading to his perch as the number one home builder in Portland and Lake Oswego. Before building his first set of homes in the 80’s he was operating a food truck selling the perfect concoction of shaved ice, hot dogs and coffee. He later moved on to home building as he thought working outside, without the confines of a dreary office, represented the ultimate freedom.

After learning a little bit about Renaissance Homes and how Randy managed to stay in the game after creating a new company resulting from a Chapter 11 during the housing bubble, we turned to the drawbacks of the HD.

Since I am kind of running out of time (and want to enjoy what’s left of my Friday night!) I’m going to have to summarize the main HD drawbacks from Randy’s point-of-view. I thought I’d better get this posted before tomorrow since an easy way to Object to the HD is happening tomorrow (this Saturday) at Eastmoreland’s annual neighborhood garage sale. Notaries will be on-hand helping you Object to the HD (bring your ID) tomorrow at the Cooney Residence on the corner of Woodstock and Reed College Place from roughly 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

First of all, I’ll begin by stating that Randy said he’s only demolished two homes in the part of Eastmoreland that would be within the HD. Always entertaining, he relayed interesting stories about those two separate situations. I mentioned he’d need to represent all developers in the interview because it’s not just his company doing the demolitions. He’s fine doing that but said that there really haven’t been very many demolitions in Eastmoreland proper. This is because most of the homes are well-maintained and tearing those down doesn’t pencil out for many developers.

He says developers are looking for deals in which the land is more valuable than the home that sits on top of it. There aren’t too many of those in Eastmoreland. It’s generally due to poor maintenance that the land would become more valuable than the home. The damp Pacific Northwest makes it easy to let a home get away from you. A home riddled with mold and mildew, combined with an outdated floor plan, will go down in value. But in-migration to the state and Portland’s increasing popularity mean that our land values can only rise. Especially on a double lot!

This is where Randy brings in the old lady example, which I believe is valid. Let’s say an older widow hasn’t been able to maintain her house, creating a tear-down situation because mold and other issues make it too expensive to re-do the home. A developer will pay more for this type of home than the average potential buyer because of the land sitting underneath it. The insurmountable issues make the home too expensive for the flipper to re-do. While the new family is either overwhelmed by the work the home would require or finding out they can’t afford it when factoring in the remodeling costs. Or worst case scenario for the young family: they happily submit a bid for the home, only to be let down discovering they can’t get the mortgage because the home needs too much (this is a real concern, I remember this happening even in the good old days of selling real estate when banks would lend mortgages to your dog).

Here’s Randy’s main argument: It’s not fair for us to put something into place that would ultimately ensure that the little old lady made less money when trying to cash out on what’s likely her largest investment. The developers would pay her the most money for her house and they won’t even bother looking for opportunities within an HD.

Randy warns that if we put the HD into place all of us will feel the affects in our property’s resale value. Like it or not, we’re all probably going to sell our homes one day so we have to think about our future buyers. Whether or not they are developers, many buyers will not want to live in an HD because of the perceived restrictions it might bring to future remodeling projects. Real estate brokers warn that restrictions decrease your buyer pool. Randy says that even if we, as sellers, know that the HD process is easy (which he laughs about as he’s not too sure it would be) and the fees aren’t too exorbitant, many buyers could still be scared away.

I can’t remember if it was off or on-air but at some point in the conversation Randy said that real deals can be found in Irvington, not necessarily in the homes that are completely “done” but in the fixer-uppers because you wouldn’t be competing with any of the flippers nor developers. This sounds great to potential buyers, but how do you think the home sellers in Irvington feel about this?

This is Episode 6 of The Eastmoreland Project, the first series of StreetTalk, a podcast about Portland’s ever-changing communal landscape.