Social Justice Starts at Home: Introducing Portland Collective Housing

Portland Collective Housing has been around for years and currently owns two houses, one in the Southeast and one in North Portland.  But who are they, and what makes them so darn special?  Read on.

What is Portland Collective Housing?

Portland Collective Housing is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization providing low income housing.  PCH is dedicated to creating sustainable high density housing in the Portland metro area.  PCH owns two houses on behalf of its membership, who in turn manage PCH.  The result is an egalitarian housing system that promotes principles of mutual aid, environmental sustainability, and affordable housing.

How does PCH work?

PCH’s mission is to take real estate out of the profit-driven real estate market so that the space can be used to create an affordable, sustainable community.   The ownership model PCH uses is different from some co-ops in that individual members do not build any equity, meaning no one person will ever profit from the sale of a house.   In order to start new PCH houses, PCH has depended on personal loans from supporting community members to make the down payment for the property.  Resident members pay monthly membership dues, the rent, to cover loan and mortgage repayment.  PCH makes efficient use of already existing residential properties.  Of course with only two houses this effect is tiny.  We’re working to make it huge!

PCH has income requirements for our residents.   Specifically, 75% of the residents must make 80% or less of the median income for Portland.   Additionally at least 20% of residents must qualify as very low income, meaning they make 50% or less of the median income.   We easily meet and ‘exceed’ these requirements.

Mutual Aid and Equality

PCH strives to promote a society based on the principles of mutual aid.   This means sharing stuff and helping each other, as well as sharing skills.   Skills like how to get repairs done, or how to run a consensus meeting.   Also skills like how to read a budget and how to approach interpersonal conflict constructively.   These skills are essential to sustaining and growing our organization.   With an informed, skilled, and active membership, PCH aims to equalize power and ensure that individual members have ownership over decisions.   Decisions are made by consensus at house, board, and general membership meetings.


Living together collectively means sharing.  Sharing a kitchen and buying food in bulk.  Sharing heat and light.  Sharing almost everything actually, including the proverbial (and literal) kitchen sink.  In practice this takes a great commitment to community, but it also means that we’ve dramatically reduced our ecological footprint.  Writ large this translates into less energy and raw materials spent making that stuff and less waste once the stuff has reached the end of its useful life.  Its also just a really efficient way to live.

PCH maintains and repairs its two properties with the health of the planet in mind.  PCH properties have grey water collection systems, recycled house paint, on demand water heaters, and recycled insulation.  These eco-friendly measures have caused our utility bills to go down while the environment benefits.

So Portland Collective Housing is about democracy in housing, environmental sustainability, and pooling resources. What we’re doing right now with two houses is already having an impact, and we hope this model can spread.  We want to take more houses off the speculative housing market and put them under the control of the people who live there.  We want to create accessible low income housing for more people and popularize the practice of of sustainable property management.

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