At the beginning of 2022, I felt like I was living in a sitcom. I had a cozy apartment in the same neighborhood as my partner and many of my friends, and within walking distance of both of my jobs. I lived near a beautiful park where kids played baseball in the summer, and a quaint neighborhood grocery store where I knew the cashier by name. It wasn’t uncommon for me to take an early evening stroll, run into a neighbor friend, and spend a good 45 minutes catching up on the street corner. After moving cross-country twice in my early twenties, I felt like I had finally found it – a home where I wanted to stay.
Unfortunately, my landlord had other ideas. When it came time to renew our lease, she informed us that her intent was to sell the unit as a condo. I was disappointed, but we had plenty of advance notice – with enough persistence, I’d find somewhere soon enough, I told myself. My partner’s lease was ending around the same time, so we excitedly opted to move in together and look for a place of our own.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how wrong I’d been. Persistence alone could not change the fact that there simply weren’t full-time rentals available – and the ones that were, were often well out of our budget. Even when there was a listing that fit our parameters, our calls and emails were met with radio silence. The showings we did get were always last minute – we never knew more than a day ahead of time – which wasn’t easy to navigate when both of us worked two jobs with no paid time off. I showed up for one viewing and waited outside in the pouring rain for twenty minutes, only for the landlord to inform me that she’d actually rented the unit to someone who did a virtual tour the day before. At another viewing, a landlord told me within five minutes that she simply didn’t think we made enough money to afford the unit – despite the fact that I hadn’t even shared our income information with her yet.
My lease ended, and we still had no housing. My partner still had a month on her lease, so I moved all my belongings into her sublet bedroom. We didn’t know where we would be living in a months’ time. My partner was waking up at 5am every morning to scour the listings before they disappeared. Finally, a week before the lease was up, a combination of luck and a family connection secured us a one-bedroom apartment on the other side of town.
We were elated – and disappointed. It was much less space than we had hoped for, and both ofus were paying more in rent than we had been previously – not to mention I was leaving behind the idyllic neighborhood to which I had grown so attached. But what other choice did we have? Meanwhile, when my parents visit from out of town, they have their choice of short-term rental units – one of them being my old apartment, which was not sold but instead converted to a Vrbo by my former landlord.
When the stress of our small space hits a peak, I find myself fantasizing about what could be. What if there were more rentals available? What if I could move back to my old neighborhood? Looking forward to the November election, I’m hopeful – hopeful that with the passage of Ballot Question B, our story, and ones so much worse than ours, can become a thing of the past.
Erica Snyder-Drummond (she/her) is a proud Portland resident, a documentary filmmaker, and a baker. Previously she has been a campaign canvasser, an immigration advocate, and a server. You can see more of her work at www.ericajsd.com.