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‘Keeping Black Homeowners In Their Homes’: Oregon Man Is On A Mission to Fight Gentrification

Many people talk about reparations and the need to make up for hundreds of years of oppression and inequality impacting the Black community, but Randal Wyatt, 36, of Portland, Oregon, is doing something to make a tangible impact.

“I’ve always had this idea of creating a platform of reparations where allies can contribute group economics that’s community based where they can contribute their resources or finances wherever that may be and put it into the Black community,” said Wyatt, founder and CEO of Taking Ownership PDX.

Taking Ownership PDX is made up of contractors, realtors, businesses, and everyday citizens who come together to renovate and repair Black-owned homes that need some work at no cost to the homeowners, thanks to donor contributions.

“Fixing them up for free, and I knew it was a great way to keep the city off their back, prevent them from getting so many liens and fines. That’s something we get a lot in our community as it gentrifies,” Wyatt said.

Portland’s population is 652,503 according to the 2020 Census which further breaks down racial demographics at 77 percent white, 5.8 percent Black, 9.7 percent Hispanic or Latino and 8.2 percent Asian.

Wyatt grew up in Portland and has seen how the city’s housing policies have impacted the Black communities, resulting in gentrification and displacement which has taken its toll on the Black community.

“I got my degree in social science and a double minor in Black studies and sociology, so I’ve been studying white supremacy for many years, and I’m a biracial Black man in the whitest city in America, so I’ve been living the experience my whole life,” Wyatt said of his desire to help Portland’s Black community after earning his college degree.

In Portland, only 42 percent of Black families own homes, according to the 2019 census. A report from the city’s Bureau of Development Services revealed its property maintenance enforcement system disproportionately affects low-income Black homeowners.

The enforcement system relies on confidential complaints of apparent code violations. Between 2013 through 2017, neighborhoods with a higher percentage of people of color received the most complaints which includes uncut grass, peeling paint and more.

“Affluent white people move into the neighborhood and complain about their Black and brown neighbors’ upkeep even though there’s a wealth gap,” Wyatt said.

Although the city says more than 30% of the complaints were unfounded, the result left cash-strapped homeowners with thousands of dollars’ worth of fines and eventually liens. Serving as a stopgap is Wyatt’s Taking Ownership PDX which can help make necessary repairs, painting, waste removal, landscaping and more and avoid costly fines and liens on the property.

Wyatt says Taking Ownership PDX has helped restore 70 Black-owned homes since his company began in June of 2020 and has raised $700,000 dollars in grants and donations so far.

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