Priced Out: Filmmaker re-examines the evolution of gentrification in Portland

Scenes from "Priced Out: 15 Years of Gentrification in Portland. (Courtesy of Cornelius Swart)

It’s been 15 years since a film about the gentrification of Northeast Portland detailed its effect on Portland’s African-American community.

A Portland filmmaker is back with a sequel to which gets a special sneak peek Sunday.

The film “Priced Out: 15 Years of Gentrification in Portland” examines how gentrification has spread beyond Northeast Portland to all parts of the city.

The film's director, Cornelius Swart, said the main subject of the 2002 film, “NorthEast Passage: The Inner City and the American Dream," Nikki Williams, asked him to re-examine the issue.

“What happened in Northeast Portland is that values went up very quickly and as people swooped in to take advantage of that increasing value, the existing residents got displaced,” Swart said. “The same thing's happening now all across the city, especially on the east side where the values are increasing very quickly and corporations and investors are coming in from all over the country and the world to take advantage of that.”

Swart says a worldwide gentrification is underway.

“We're now seeing kind of a reverse of the last hundred years of urban development in which people who are wealthy don't want to live as far away from the city as they can, they want to live as close to the center as they can.”

As gentrification takes hold in East Portland neighborhoods, activists are working to protect vulnerable residents from no-cause evictions and reversing a ban on rent control.

“When we did the first documentary, people didn’t really think about gentrification very much, now it’s a household word,” Swart said. “But people don’t realize that it has been going on for a decade or more.

“In Northeast Portland in the 90s, everyone wanted to see the neighborhood improve, everybody wanted to see investment, everyone wanted to see more people moving in to abandoned buildings, but the prices went up so quickly and there were very few protections for vulnerable residents.”

Selected scenes from the film will be shown this coming Sunday at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in North Portland as part of the Vanport Mosaic Festival, Friday through Sunday at various locations.

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