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Equity atlas displays regional disparities

Map shows changes as low-income people move in
by: Merry MacKinnon, Jill Fuglister, co-director of the Coalition For A Livable Future, displays a recently published Regional Equity Atlas that uses census data and identifies growth trends through regional maps and by neighborhood. The atlas tracks indicators of inequity.

As Portland has grown, many low-income households, unable to afford higher rents, have left their neighborhoods and relocated to less expensive parts of Outer East Portland and East Multnomah County.

Last summer, a Portland nonprofit published a regional equity atlas depicting that transition over the last 10 years, as well as other demographic indicators of economic inequity in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area, including Outer East.

'Clearly, Outer East Portland is where we're seeing problems concentrate,' said Jill Fuglister, co-director of Coalition For A Livable Future. 'In our region, child poverty is most concentrated in Outer East Portland.'

Too often, in Portland and nationwide, policymakers and planners ignore questions of equality and people get left behind, Fuglister said.

'There is a clear disparity,' she said. 'For example, upper income communities have much better access to nature and parks in the region.'

But maps, such as those in the atlas that identify communities shortchanged by growth, are hard to ignore. The atlas includes depictions of the changing demographics by race, income, housing affordability and child poverty rates. The coalition hopes the atlas will be used as a tool by previously ignored communities to influence decisions on future growth and development, resulting in more resources directed to low-income neighborhoods in Outer East Portland and elsewhere.

In early December, Fuglister briefly presented the equity atlas findings at the first meeting of East Portland Action Committee. Issues facing Outer East Portland neighborhoods, generally linked to growth, are on the Action Committee's agenda. The committee will create an East Portland Action Plan, which, when completed next summer, will become a blueprint for improving livability in Outer East Portland.

In the atlas, one example of an issue identified is sidewalk access to schools. Researchers found that many schools in Outer East Portland have no sidewalk access, which raises safety and health concerns. Unless they're driven to school, children must walk in the street or along unpaved parking strips.

'In Outer East Portland, we found a big cluster of high poverty schools, with high rates of free or reduced lunch, and they also have poor walk-ability,' Fuglister said. 'And if their parents are driving their children to school, that means the children aren't getting that exercise.'

Although a date hasn't yet been scheduled, sometime in January Fuglister and other coalition staff will hold a public meeting in Outer East Portland to discuss the equity atlas. Fuglister recommended that those interested in attending the meeting should first study the atlas, which is available online at www.equityatlas.org.

'The meeting will be to engage people in a conversation about equity issues identified by our research, as well as other issues, such as jobs and healthcare, that weren't identified,' Fuglister said. 'It's mostly for people who have read the atlas, so we're hoping people will be prepared.'

To find out more, visit the coalition's Web site at www.clfuture.org or call 503-294-2889.