Working Together: Portland’s Zoning Ordinance and the Magic of Community Organizing

“We [heart] our mobile homes!” Displayed across a hand-painted sign, packed with countless signatures, this passionate message rang clear as policy, planning and advocacy became intertwined during the breakout session on Portland’s Zoning Ordinance. This session was part of the 15th Innovations in Manufactured Homes (I’M HOME) Conference hosted by Prosperity Now in Portland, OR last month.  

Tom Armstrong, a supervising planner with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, provided attendees with an overview of Portland’s Manufactured Dwelling Parks (MDP) zoning project. Equipping the audience with data about manufactured housing parks in Portland, Tom set the stage to discuss Portland’s new zoning project and how it affects affordable housing.  

The session was moderated by Andrée Tremoulet of Commonworks Consulting and utilized a “storytime” approach which gave attendees an inside look into both how and why this zoning plan was created. The panelists discussed the 2016 closure threat of Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park that happened when the park’s owner made plans to sell it to a developer. Tom was joined by Claire Adamsick, senior policy director for the City of Portland as they discussed working with Commissioner Fritz, and the proposition of Portland’s 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The aforementioned plan notably included a policy aimed at protecting and preserving manufactured housing parks as a low- to moderate-income housing option.  

During the discussion about policy and zoning research conducted by the nonprofit, Living Cully, the panelists seamlessly transitioned from a discussion surrounding planning and policy to one of community advocacy.  

Local leader Cirilo Garcia recalled the passion and determination of residents during the Oak Leaf campaign to save Portland communities and generate zoning change. Cirilo vividly detailed the dedication of Oak Leaf residents during the campaign citing their collection of more than 2,000 postcards, their meetings with councilmen and their citywide canvassing.

Panelists discussed the 2017 commitment from Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to move forward with the MDP zoning project and were later joined by Andrés Oswill, landlord-tenant policy coordinator for the City of Portland, to discuss partnership between the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and the residents of Oak Leaf. This collaboration brought forth the first draft of the zoning proposal in April of 2018. 

While attendees listened intently, images of community members adorned in orange shirts with phrases like “we love our home” and “mobile homes = stability” played on the screen. Panelists recalled the pivotal moment when residents achieved the first of many victories as the commission adopted the proposal, sending it to City Council just one month later.  

The close of the session included a nod to the official passing of the new zoning change which saved 58 mobile home parks in Portland from closure. This change continues to preserve communities as it protects 3,000 affordable homes citywide.  

While we continuously strive to successfully advocate for manufactured housing in the affordable housing arena, success stories like these remind us of the importance of working together. In doing so, we can ensure that we continue to best support families nationwide as we work to advance our vision of ensuring everyone in our country has the ability to obtain homeownership.  

Thank you to all of our sponsors, particularly our Marquis Sponsor Wells Fargo, for making the event possible!

Want to stay up to date with our work and the latest news in the manufactured housing space? Join the I’M HOME Network 

To see presentations, attendees and other items from the conference, check out the conference materials. 

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