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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.

Safety and Security

Crime Count

26% of the city’s property crimes in 2012 occurred in East Portland.

For individuals and whole communities, a sense of safety and security is a cornerstone of health. The benefits of establishing a safe and secure living environment go beyond protecting residents from direct threats such as injury and crime. When residents feel safe and secure, they’re more likely to spend time outdoors, interact with their neighbors and explore their surroundings. As a result, entire communities benefit.

Perception plays a key role in establishing safe and secure property conditions. Properties that appear unsecure or neglected have a tendency to attract illicit activities and wrongdoers. But well-maintained properties, which advertise a zero-tolerance policy toward crime, draw responsible actors and activities. Multifamily property owners and managers can influence residents’ sense of safety and security with some simple actions and practices.

Safety and Security Benefits

Resident Health
and Wellbeing

A safe and secure property protects residents from crime and accidental injury. By taking actions to deter crime and correct safety hazards on site, apartment owners can shield residents from accidental injury and other threats to person and property.

A safe and secure property encourages healthy outdoor activity. Residents who feel safe where they live are more likely to spend time outdoors, exercising and socializing with neighbors.

A safe and secure property reduces stress on families. Real or perceived security threats can create tensions at home, especially when parents are afraid to leave their children alone for even a few minutes.


Property Performance
and Condition

A safe and secure property invites responsible tenants who care about the place they live. Residents who feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings are more likely to form ties with their neighbors, put down roots in their neighborhoods and contribute to the upkeep of their homes.

A safe and secure property discourages criminal activity. Persons involved in illegal activity may intentionally apply for residence at apartment buildings that appear unsecured or unmaintained. Likewise, a property with signs of neglect may attract unlawful activity that is unrelated to your residents.

A safe and secure property saves costs. Unit turnover may increase when residents perceive a lack of safety or security. Moreover, if your property has too many police service calls and is deemed a Chronic Nuisance Property by the City of Portland, steep civil penalties will apply.



Safety and Security Solutions

    Management and Maintenance

    Proven Results

    Property owners and managers who participated in the City of Portland's Landlord Training Program reported an increased sense of personal safety for both tenants and neighbors.

    Communicate that your property is well guarded by maintaining an orderly site.

    • Pick up litter and debris daily.
    • Remove graffiti immediately.
    • Post and enforce a policy that unauthorized vehicles will be towed.

    Rid your property of injury hazards.

    • Keep stairs safe by installing slip-resistant finishes on treads, and color or textural contrasts at nosings.
    • Cracks in sidewalks present trip hazards and project the wrong image.

    • Prevent slips and falls by repairing cracks in pavement and correcting grading that causes water to pool on the ground.

    Make repairs and improvements to discourage and prevent unwanted intrusions.

    • Make sure door and window locks on all units are in good working order.
    • Replace broken windows as soon as they’re observed.
    • Properly maintain fencing so it effectively directs pedestrian traffic and keeps out unwanted activity.

    Install and maintain sufficient outdoor lighting to prevent injuries and discourage intruders. Follow these tips:

    • Create an evenly lit outdoor environment that efficiently disperses light toward the ground, not into the atmosphere.
    • Provide soft, even light. Avoid high-power bulbs, as many people’s eyes can’t adjust quickly from spot-lit areas to relative darkness.
    • Install timers or photo-sensitive switches to turn lights on automatically before dusk. Make sure to seasonally adjust timer settings.
    • Illuminate exterior doors, alcoves and other recessed areas of buildings and fences that could potentially conceal illicit behavior.

    Maintain clear sight lines to minimize opportunities for concealed behavior. Good visibility is your best weapon against illicit activity.

    • Remove fencing that creates difficult-to-observe areas.
    • Trim or remove landscaping that obstructs sight lines. Be especially careful to maintain clear views of outdoor play areas, areas adjacent to windows and doors, and areas along walkways.
    • Install a window, eye viewer or door scope in the front door of each apartment unit.

    More Safety and Security resources.

    Take a free landlord training class

    Learn how to prevent illegal activity, curb property destruction and address maintenance problems from the Bureau of Development Service’s landlord training program.

    Partner with police to enhance site safety

    The City of Portland’s Enhanced Safety Properties (ESP) program is a partnership among property owners, tenants, police and neighborhood crime prevention staff that aims to keep residential rental properties safe and livable. ESP can help you by…

    • Providing landlord trainings on criminal activity prevention.
    • Recommending lighting, locks and landscaping modifications to improve security.
    • Preparing police reports of any police service calls to the neighborhood. (This can be extremely helpful in the event you need to establish evidence that one of your own residents is involved in illegal activity.)
    • Encouraging positive relationships between police and residents, property owners and property managers.

    Contact a crime prevention coordinator at ONI to learn more.

    Resident Communication and Education

    Encourage a sense of community among residents. When neighbors know each other, they are able to more readily identify suspicious people and activity.

    Provide a written notice reminding residents to follow general safety precautions. For example:

    • Always secure access to your unit. Lock the doors and windows when you’re not at home.
    • If you witness illegal activity, report it to property management or call the police.
    • Don’t leave your valuables in plain view.
    • Be aware of your surroundings.
    • Always monitor children. Keep a watchful eye when they’re outside playing.

    More Safety and Security resources.

    Help your residents create a safer property

    This Apartment Safety tip sheet, created by the City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement, advises residents on how to improve the safety of their homes.

    Get the word out to non-English-speaking residents

    Provide translations of notices and signs in residents’ own languages. Consider using pictures and icons to communicate across multiple languages. Or ask bilingual residents, including youth, to verbally pass along the information to others in their language community.

    Design and Construction

    Create common areas that invite resident interaction. Properties are safer when residents have opportunities to see and know each other.

    • Provide exterior seating and picnic tables.
    • Add a community room or outdoor area where people can comfortably gather.
    • Situate entryways and hallways around a common area.

    Signal to outsiders that private outdoor areas, such as unit patios, are off-limits. Intruders are more likely to steer clear of areas clearly marked as someone else’s property.

    This area has poor surveillance opportunities.

    • Use see-through fencing or shrubbery to define the boundaries of patios, yards and other outdoor areas that belong to individual units. Different paving material or a change in elevation (e.g., a sunken or raised patio) can also mark the transition between common and private outdoor space.
    • Make it easy for residents to see and be seen from their yards and patios. Incorporate stoops, terraces or other built-in seating into these areas.

    Provide delineated pedestrian/bike pathways to keep residents safe from traffic and encourage outdoor activity.

    • Incorporate changes in pavement texture to create clear distinctions between public sidewalks, driveways and pedestrian pathways.
    • Use pathways to provide separation between parking areas and units. (This will have the added benefit of cutting down on car pollution entering people’s homes.)
    • Minimize concealed or isolated routes.

    If designing a new rental housing project or adding more units, plan your buildings and site to allow for clear sight lines. Maximizing visibility fosters positive social interaction and deters crime.

    An established perimeter with a good sight line helps keep this property secure.

    • Place windows so they look out on parking lots, entryways and sidewalks.
    • Provide seating areas where people can gather and survey their environment.
    • If possible, orient laundry rooms and community areas next to play areas, so parents can easily supervise children.
    • Avoid designing entrapment areas (dead ends) where surveillance opportunity is limited.

    More Safety and Security resources.

    Learn how to design a crime-resistant property

    Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a site-design method formulated to deter crime and enhance quality of life for property occupants. The City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) offers a summary of CPTED principles and examples of good practices.

Rethink This Property

Rethink This Property

Enhancing Safety & Security

Health-related design solutions for real East Portland apartment complexes.

We asked a team of architects to recommend health-related design solutions for real East Portland apartment complexes. These drawings show some simple ideas for making a property safer and more secure.

Get ideas for creating a safe and secure environment. View the Enhancing Safety and Security slideshow.

Images by Constructive Form Architecture & Design