Housing and Gentrification: A People’s Climate Movement Issue

As we gear up for the April 29th Portland People’s Climate Movement, we will elevate the front-line communities who are leading the day of action. The Portland Climate Movement will not just focus on carbon-reduction and sea level rise (though those issues are vital, and impact our communities first and worst), but on all the intersecting issues facing communities on the front lines of environmental and climate justice.


Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) is focused on building a base of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth, parents and tenants in Multnomah, Marion and Washington counties, with increasing attention on the specific neighborhoods and communities where Asians and Pacific Islanders are concentrated, such as the region around SE 82nd and SE Division in outer SE Portland, one of the highest concentrations of Asians and Pacific Islanders in Oregon. As economic development and involuntary displacement shape where our communities live, study, work and play, our most vulnerable Asian and Pacific Islander communities are increasingly concentrated in some of the most under-resourced and politically marginalized neighborhoods.

“​APANO sees housing justice and climate justice as deeply connected,” says APANO’s Community Development Manager Khanh Pham. “This comes out of our growing analysis that climate change is not merely about geophysical impacts like hotter summers or increased flooding, but is also creating social impacts, such as rising home prices. The Portland metro region, with its abundant water and less severe climate impacts, is increasingly seen as a longterm investment among people who are thinking about the future of climate change and who have the means to move. Because the people moving in have higher incomes and more wealth, their in-migration results in higher rents and housing prices that push lower-income people and people of color out of their neighborhoods and often out of the city altogether, which is why we call this “climate gentrification.”

“APANO’s values really define our vision of justice for our community and for the world,” APANO Executive Director Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons says. “We work for a just world where all our families have the rights, recognition and resources they need to thrive, and their life outcomes are not tied to identity or social determinants of health. Everyone should have the social, economic and political power and resources to make healthy decisions for themselves. The health, well-being, and survival of our communities and the natural world should be understood as more important than individual profit, and supported through equitable distribution of wealth and resources. Institutions must be built around the inherent worth and dignity of all people and are designed and function as systems of care and support, not systems of criminalization and control. Communities need the skills, capacity and resources to organize themselves for change, collectively self-determine their needs and solutions, and control their own destinies. We stand in solidarity with communities who experience oppression and recognize that our liberation is directly linked to theirs.”

​Stable communities are more resilient communities. Strategies for climate resilience, therefore, must include policies, such as inclusionary zoning, rent control and other tenant protections, and massive investments in public and private affordable housing. Joseph concludes, “we at APANO are pushing to make sure that housing justice, and the needs of communities most impacted by displacement, are included in the climate justice policy agenda.​”

When housing is treated like a commodity for private gain, our communities suffer. When we recognize that home is more than just a building for rent, we can transition from privatized wealth to public good, a mutually-supportive system of cooperation and interconnectedness. When our housing is stable, our community can better sustain our lifestyles. When cities are dense and affordable, we can live closer to active and mass transportation infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or have shorter commute times if we do use cars. Recognizing the intersecting issues that fall within the scope of climate justice, APANO advances housing  justice as a key strategy in the movement for a just transition. Join APANO and other groups leading the Oregon Just Transition Alliance at the April 29th People’s Climate Movement March.

Posted in Against Exploitation.