Portland has implemented a program to address living conditions in rental housing that requires registration of rental units, inspections for compliance with health and safety codes and enforcement action in problem cases.

The vast majority of Portland landlords are providing safe rental housing. In the case of the property at 31 East Oxford St., having exhausted efforts to achieve voluntary compliance, the city pursued condemnation action against the landlord rather than condemn tenants to continue living under unsafe, crime-ridden and vermin-infested conditions. At the same time, the Neighborhood Prosecutor, the Housing Safety Office and the Social Services Division partnered with community allies to assist the affected tenants.

I grew up in a neighborhood held hostage by criminal activities, in a home our landlord refused to maintain. My family lived in substandard housing because it was all my mom could afford. Our city did little to identify bad landlords and pursue compliance with health and safety codes.

My family situation improved when a young Legal Services attorney helped tenants organize. And when tenants decided to escrow rent money until the landlord bought the buildings up to code, he helped to put the plan into action.

I am proud of the city staff who are working to address unsafe housing conditions in our city.

We do not know the cause of 31 East Oxford St. tenant Margaret Peters’ death, and we perhaps have no right to know the full story of her life. Still, her death while in the process of struggling for safe and affordable housing is a tragedy that challenges us to work harder.

As we have implemented the new Housing Safety Office, the volume of complaints about housing conditions has increased. We welcome this as a sign that the word is getting out; the city is listening; we will take action; we care.

Jill C. Duson

chair, City Council Housing Committee; candidate for re-election to City Council

Portland