Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Portsmouth — Maybe you have one on your block.
I’ve got a couple down the street from me that are starting to take root.
They are called zombie homes. They are homes that have been abandoned and ignored and soon become a dumping ground for trash and a refuge for squatters.
This Portsmouth woman has been living next door to one for five years.
“I love this neighborhood. I love our neighbors. I love how close it is to work. And living next to this property has made me really regret moving into this neighborhood,” said one Portsmouth resident during an online public forum hosted by the Portsmouth Neighborhood Association in January. “It’s emotionally draining to look outside my window every single day and see this garbage heap. That’s what my son’s bedroom window looks out on. … I think my biggest question and comment is even when the property is in compliance, like they put up the fence and they pick up the garbage, it’s still a disgusting house that’s boarded up on a dirt pile. And after six years, how long should we have to live next to that?”
“It’s still a disgusting house that’s boarded up on a dirt pile. … After six years, how long should we have to live next to that?”Testimony from a Portsmouth resident about the zombie home next door.
How they become abandoned varies. It could be the home owner passed away and a transition occurs when the estate is in limbo. Maybe developers could have purchased them and are waiting — sometimes for years — for permits, financing and the right time to bulldoze and redevelop the lots.
And they also become zombiefied when the homes are foreclosed upon and the residents walk away or are forced from their American dream.
For this last example, a market research company estimates about 1 in every 12,500 homes is a zombie home due to foreclosure. But many in the industry are wondering if that number will grow once COVID-19 relief protections expire.
Oregon’s statewide foreclosure moratorium expired on New Year’s Eve 2020. And the federal CARES Act foreclosure moratorium, which covers the approximately 70% of home loans that are federally backed, expires at the end of March.
According to a story by KATU Channel 2, a U.S. Census Bureau survey found that about 82,000 Oregonians are “not confident” they could make January’s mortgage payment. And about 111,000 Oregonians said they were not current on their mortgage payments as of mid-December.
In Portsmouth, frustration bubbled up about two Zombie homes, one of which you’ve probably seen if you’ve been shopping across the street at the New Seasons on Lombard.
At a neighborhood forum sponsored by the Portsmouth Neighborhood Association in early January, representatives from Portland’s Building Development Services, North Portland Neighborhood Services, as well as Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office.
Commissioner Ryan’s office blew off follow up questions from NOPO This Week as of our podcast recording deadline on Sunday or on Monday.
The two Portsmouth homes in question are at 6330 N. Lovely Street and at 6183 Lombard. Both have been the subject of numerous neighbor complaints and code violations over the years, racking up thousands of dollars in fines.
But both properties are reportedly in the process of being demolished. The Lovely Street property will be developed into apartments or condos. The owners of the Lombard property plan the same for it, but are waiting on financing.
And according to BDS the system is working as designed. The goal is to keep people in homes. Once homes are abandoned, property owners are required to maintain them. If not, BDS issues violations and then fines. Most property owners address violations promptly. Often times, there is a reason for delays in getting the property redeveloped. For example, many developers changed plans when zoning laws were changed to allow more multi-family housing, including duplexes and triplexes, on nearly any residential lot.
For those that don’t and continue to ignore their properties, the city has a path for foreclosure.
Unfortunately, the system is dependent on neighbors reporting violations. Don’t assume someone else has called it in! You can call 503-823-2633 (823-CODE) or file on an online report whenever you see a problem.
You can also learn about the property by looking them up on Portland Maps and entering the address and check the permits section to see if any violations have been issued. You can also check to see if any redevelopment is in the works. And If the information you find there is confusing or unclear, email: BDSCustomerSuccess@portlandoregon.gov.
Nathan is an award-winning freelance content marketing producer (words, video, audio, strategy). He also is an award-winning newspaper reporter. He has an MBA and a BA in Editorial Journalism. He is a past director of SEMpdx’s digital marketing conference, and past director on the Society of Professional Journalists’ executive committee. He has two great kids, likes to sail, ride his road bike, and make beer.