PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland area housing official was given a thought leadership award by an international land-use organization to commence research and writing on proven strategies to fight gentrification for Latinx communities in cities across the nation.
Rodolfo Rodríguez, the manager of public health programs and shelter operations for Washington County’s Department of Housing Services, was selected as the first recipient of Urban Land Institute’s Apgar Thought Leader Award. The biennial award includes a $1,500 honorarium from ULI to support the study.
Rodríguez’s winning proposal focuses on proven anti-displacement strategies in Latinx neighborhood redevelopment initiatives in the U.S. Through his research and writing, which will culminate in a published article in Urban Land Magazine, Rodríguez hopes to delve deeper into this subject matter and focus on tenant-led processes, innovative funding sources, mixed use-spaces, and culturally-reflective community design, policy, and advocacy.
“I’m excited and honored to be in this role. I recognize my privilege. But I also recognize the power I can do with it. For example, these little things like asking ULI to publish that press release in Spanish, that was the first time they’ve done that,” Rodríguez told KOIN 6 News. “Because of the demographic that I’m trying to represent and detect and uplift, I also commit to writing this body of work in Spanish so that it’s accessible”
Rodríguez is a member of ULI, which is a global, member-driven organization comprising more than 45,000 real estate and urban professionals dedicated to advancing a mission of responsible land use.
Rodríguez explained that his career, which has spanned several cities over the years–such as Austin, Texas, Denver, Colorado, and eastern Los Angeles, California–has focused on the intersection of how public health is impacted by land use.
“I have been a part of really cool initiatives in different cities across the country. And one of the things I realized was I haven’t had the luxury to really take time and space to write about those things, to share,” he said. “For me, it kind of was an opportunity to write about things I’m passionate about and things that are really paining communities that I’ve served in different parts of the country.”
Rodríguez explained his lens of knowledge that he’s fostered throughout his career was informed by his upbringing. He grew up in the border town of El, Paso, Texas, neighboring Juarez, Mexico, and observed how people in different sections of a broader community can have drastically different qualities of life.
“I grew up in poverty on the El Paso side. And that was skewed because Saturday and Sunday, I was always in Mexico with my grandmothers. And seeing poverty there was extremely…much more extreme and complex,” Rodríguez said.
In terms of his contribution on the topic of anti-displacement strategies for Latinx communities, Rodríguez said he plans to focus on elevating solutions and pointing to successes among redevelopment projects in the works, in cities across the country.
“It’s an opportunity to step onto a global platform, grab the mic, and also kick the door wide open to community and shed light. So I take it as an invitation to really lead the discussion through the lens of community,” Rodríguez said. “I believe that if this gets in the hands of the right people, it can start to have impact immediately.”
Rodríguez said he hopes to present his findings to the world at an upcoming ULI conference, either this fall or next spring.