Race, Renters, and Serial Segregation in Portland, Oregon and Beyond
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Homeownership may be the American Dream, but renting is the American reality for nearly half of Portland, Oregon’s residents. In Oregon, where I conducted fieldwork from 2014 to 2017, a statewide ban on rent control, the prevalent use of no-cause evictions, and the lack of renters’ protections pushed Portland residents, especially renters, into a Housing State of Emergency. Many renters in this housing crisis are forced to rent and face the threat of being repeatedly displaced as their apartment units change hands from investor-to-investor. These investor landlords used no-cause evictions to remove tenants from their homes and to quickly empty entire apartment buildings, flip the buildings, and increase their rate of return. As gentrification increased the rent in Portland, it also push low-income people and communities of color as they moved to the suburbs in search of scarce low-income rental housing. Employing ethnographic methods of participant observation and in-depth interviewing, this dissertation explores the inequalities built into the rental housing system for different groups of vulnerable tenants in Portland. A qualitative analysis revealed that families of color and low-income residents not only experience serial displacement as renters, but also serial segregation.