A new series of maps, which spans Portland's inner-city neighborhoods as well as its suburbs, uses colorful graphics to highlight the region's most glaring social inequities.
In one map, swaths of pink, punctuated by slashes of magenta, coat a familiar map of Portland's most urban neighborhoods. All of the pinks – magenta being the worst – represent the minority homeownership gap in Portland. In some of the most traditionally Black neighborhoods, particularly in the Overlook neighborhood, the gap between White homeowners and homeowners of color is nearly 15 percent.
Other maps show the changes in distribution of impoverished children between 1990 and 2000; inequities in neighborhood access to natural areas and good schools; the changing demographics of people of color, as well as key trends in housing throughout the Portland region.
The collection of maps is called The Regional Equity Atlas and it is scheduled for public release later this spring.
Jill Fuglister is co-director of the Coalition for a Livable Future, the 70-organization partnership that initiated the equity atlas. At a recent meeting of community leaders, health care advocates and public policymakers, Fuglister explained the premise of the maps.
"The atlas is a tool for better understanding the people and places in our region," Fuglister said. "It looks at the opportunities that might be available to residents of some neighborhoods, but not others, and uses maps to explore the relationship between the two."
The atlas focuses on several populations that "have historically been left behind," Fuglister said, including communities of color and impoverished children.
"Clearly, there are other groups beyond these that should be considered in the context of equity – seniors, people with disabilities, for example — but with limited capacity we had to focus on just a few," Fuglister said.
Metro Councilor Robert Liberty, Fuglister and some of the atlas' authors have presented three opportunities for community members to learn about the maps and look at various topics included in the atlas – including inequities in homeownership, education and healthcare.
At a recent discussion of inequities in healthcare throughout the Portland region, as evidenced by the maps, Liberty said there is a definite connection between community design and public health.
Populations in some parts of Portland don't have the same access to bike trails, walking paths, parks and natural grocery stores, which, in turn, can lead to problems of obesity and poor mental health. Sprawl can lead to air pollution, endangering whole populations and threatening children with increased cases of asthma.
Liberty also talked about issues of isolation and said people tend to be isolated by race and living in high-density areas that are associated with higher crime rates and more violent death.
And, as great a tool as this atlas can be for policymakers throughout the region, Liberty cautioned people to remember that a lot has changed since 2000 – the last year of data included in most of the atlas' maps.
Populations are changing, Liberty said. "In the past eight years, the number of children who qualified for the free and reduced lunches in David Douglas (school district) increased from 39 percent to 79 percent," he said. "And we've seen more growth in this area from the international community. Thirty-five percent of this area's growth (over the past 10 years) was births over deaths, but between 25 to 28 percent of the growth is people (moving here from other countries)."
Liberty said policymakers would need to consider various cultural differences when planning communities to account for this type of changing population.
In addition, one of the most interesting things that this atlas points out is the movement of various populations of color, including the changes in where African Americans are living today versus just 15 years ago. Most of the Blacks who are moving away from inner North and Northeast Portland neighborhoods are heading further east, to Gresham, Fairview and Portland's Cully neighborhood. Many have moved north to St. John's or downtown Portland and several have gone west to Hillsboro.
Other findings released in The Regional Equity Atlas show:
Housing affordability in Portland's most urban areas has declined. In the Boise neighborhood, for example, the median sale price for a home in 2004 was $191,600 – a 153 percent increase over 1995 prices. And in the Eliot neighborhood, the median sale price for a home went up by 187 percent in nine years, to $239,100 in 2004.
The gap in homeownership between Whites and people of color has increased throughout the region, particularly in Portland's inner Northeast and Southwest areas.
Low-income residents and people of color have been displaced from inner-Portland neighborhoods.
Between the years 1990 and 2000, neighborhoods like Brentwood/Darlington, Arbor Lodge and Concordia lost a combined total of 1,610 people in poverty, while neighborhoods in East Multnomah County, like Fairview and Centennial gained 1,730 impoverished residents. The number of people living in poverty nearly doubled in Gresham's Rockwood neighborhood during the 1990s – in 1990 there were less than 1,500 impoverished people living in Rockwood. By 2000, that number jumped to 3,606.
Rockwood also gained an additional 4,850 people of color between 1990 and 2000; while the Sabin neighborhood in inner Portland lost 430 people of color during the same time.
About The Regional Equity Atlas
Livability Summit: The Coalition for a Livable Future will host the 2007 Regional Livability Summit from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 19 at Portland State University's Smith Center. Participants will review The Regional Equity Atlas at the summit and will discuss future sustainable and equitable development strategies for the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region. For more information, or to register, visit www.clfuture.org.EquityAtlas : The Regional Equity Atlas will soon be available to the public. To see sample maps or to order your copy of the atlas, which retails for $30, plus shipping and handling, visit www.clfuture.org.