Methods: Given that far more applicants qualify for housing than there are available housing units, the policy design provides a natural experiment with two comparison groups: those who receive housing (referred to as ‘returning residents’), and those who applied for housing and remain on the waitlist (referred to as ‘waitlisted residents’). This paper presents findings from the first and second phases of a longitudinal study. In the first phase of the study, the research team sequentially collected survey (N:98), interview (N:29), and focus group data in each of the first three Preference Policy buildings to open, engaging 69% of all returning residents. In the second phase, we collected survey data from a sample of waitlisted residents (N:64). Analysis of survey results from returning and waitlisted residents allows us to compare indicators of well-being between groups.
Results: We find that all applicants were dually motivated to apply for the Preference Policy by their need for affordable housing and their desire to live in the neighborhood. Returning residents reported very high levels of place attachment, with 91% indicating that “the history of the neighborhood matters to me”. Overwhelmingly, returning residents reported improvements to well-being since moving into their homes, including higher rates of civic and cultural involvement, improved convenience in accessing school and work, and decreased levels of prejudice. In contrast, waitlisted residents who live outside the N/NE neighborhood are more likely to travel outside their current neighborhood to access resources and amenities, are less likely to believe they have influence in their neighborhood, and are more likely to experience racial discrimination in their neighborhood.
Conclusions & Implications: Studying the effects of Portland, Oregon’s Preference Policy, we find that recreating housing access in a historically Black neighborhood benefits returning residents’ well-being in many ways, and that residents themselves may contribute to the well-being of their communities through above-average rates of place attachment and civic engagement. While historically, preference policies have often taken the form of exclusionary racial covenants and deed restrictions, findings from this study suggest that preference policies can be designed to advance racial equity.