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Healthy Housing
A Handbook for Portland Property Owners

A number of local efforts have recently shined a spotlight on the relationship between the built environment and the health of low-income Portlanders. Poorly designed housing; a lack of sidewalks and safe crossings; and limited access to recreation, schools, nature, places for social interaction, vital services, preventive medical care, and healthy food all contribute to health challenges that disparately affect low-income residents and communities of color.


This web-based handbook provides ideas for creating healthier living environments for residents of multifamily rental housing properties. Its intended users include property developers, owners, managers and even residents. The handbook covers six health-related topics identified as primary issues of concern by East Portland residents. But its contents are relevant to all Portlanders, and even to those living outside the city.

The connection between housing and health

Where we live determines much about the quality of our health. A growing body of research suggests that people with healthy living environments have fewer chronic health conditions and diseases and enjoy a longer life expectancy. Conditions that contribute to a healthy living environment include good access to nutritious food, safe outdoor recreation space, a reliable and robust public transportation system and opportunities for safe and pleasant walking and biking. Whether these conditions are present depends in great part on the location and quality of one’s housing. Read more on housing and health »

Project background

In 2012, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability convened a team of community organizers, health policy professionals and technical consultants. The team’s objective was to learn from the day-to-day experiences of multifamily renters, including youth, about the impact of their housing on their health. The project team worked closely with East Portland residents, who shared stories and offered suggestions for how their homes could be made healthier and safer. These ideas and concerns were then brought to a group of developers, property owners and apartment managers. This volunteer group offered a variety of solutions, ranging from affordable quick fixes to longer-term property investments. “Healthy Housing: A Handbook for Portland Property Owners” is the result of this collaborative effort.

The team thanks the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at the Northwest Health Foundation for supporting this project. Read more on project background »

Why East Portland?

Where exactly is East Portland?

For the purposes of this project, East Portland is the area east of 82nd Avenue, west of 162nd Avenue, south of Columbia Boulevard, and north of Clatsop Street.

The City’s inquiry focused on East Portland because of its concentration of multifamily rental properties, diverse resident base, increasing population pressure and unique development history.

Portland’s most ethnically and culturally diverse neighborhoods are found in East Portland. Due to the influx of newly arrived Portlanders and residents moving from other parts of the city, demographers predict that over the next 25 years East Portland’s population will grow faster than in any other part of the city.

Compared to the rest of the city, East Portland has…

  • A deficiency in parkland, with poor pedestrian access to existing parks
  • Few supermarkets, farmers’ markets and culturally specific food centers
  • Poor connectivity of sidewalks and crosswalks for pedestrians and cyclists
  • A lack of cultural and social amenities, such as libraries, community centers and performance venues
  • The highest percentage of land zoned for multifamily dwelling units

Because East Portland’s residents do not have convenient access to healthy amenities, renters must rely on their apartment communities to support a healthy lifestyle. Read more on East Portland »

Project partners


We thank the many advisors and volunteers who were involved in this project. We are especially grateful to the residents who shared their experiences. Read more about project participants »


For more information about this handbook, contact Emily Schelling at Housing Development Center,, 503-335-3668.

Who lives in East Portland?

  • One-fourth of Portland’s population
  • Lower-income households – East Portland residents earn 40% less per capita than other Portland residents
  • The city’s greatest concentration and largest population of immigrant and refugee residents

Explore health-related amenities in East Portland

This detailed map shows locations of farmers’ markets, bike lanes, grocery stores, health care facilities and other amenities in East Portland. To give a complete picture of this community’s environmental-health strengths and challenges, it even includes fast-food restaurants. Download the PDF.