Black Portland: The Gentrification of Albina

1 Posted by - November 11, 2017 - Black History, LATEST POSTS

In the first entry, we introduced Portland’s Albina neighborhood–at one time, home to the largest concentration of Black people in the city. Now we’ll go into the area as it entered the 1950s.


Albina’s Decline Period

The 1950s saw the area’s Black residents attempt to make the best of their situation. They were frozen out of jobs in Portland and established their own businesses. The deck was stacked against the Black citizens as Portland’s development commission label the neighborhood “blighted” with poor housing conditions. Albina formed its own beautification board to clean up the neighborhood in 1961 but months later in 1962, the commission said that the area was even more “blighted.” At this time the area was home to 80-percent of Portland’s Black population.

Usually, when these announcements and surveys are announced there is some underlying objective. Instead of putting in the funds to turn around the blight in Albina, the city already had plans for the land.

New highways, a new arena, expansion to a hospital, and a new entertainment district were all in the books. The best land for all of this? Areas populated by the city’s Black population. Landowners and landlords would boot tenants and destroy buildings in order to sell off the land to the city.


Gentrification of Albina

While there were other attempts to improve the neighborhood and stem the fall of the neighborhood, the decline of Albina continued into the 1970s and 1980s. It wasn’t helped by aggressive housing practices, gang violence, and the arrival of crack during this period.

In a very familiar turn around, the late 1980-early 1990s saw the city of Portland invest in revitalization. This revived Albina offered lower prices of long-standing houses which had been fixed up. Instead of the Black population returning or remaining steady, those who were left continued to leave as White homebuyers moved in and increased the values.

For perspective, Black people made up around 80-percent of Albina’s population during the 1960s. By the 1990s, that dropped to just under 70-percent. In this decade, the Black population hovers just shy of 30-percent.


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