Subjects: Urban Studies, Human Rights, African-American Studies, Gentrification
15 years of gentrification in Portland, Oregon
What does the word gentrification make you feel? "Pain."
In the 1990s, Nikki Williams embraced the idea of gentrification. Fifteen years later she blamed it for "obliterating" her neighborhood. Priced Out is an emotional and investigative look at how rising home prices have displaced Portland's African-American community and reshaped the entire city.
Priced Out explores the complexities and contradictions of gentrification and life after the era of “the ghetto.” It powerfully illustrates how government policies and market forces combine to destroy and rebuild neighborhoods. Some embrace new investment at first, but few are left standing when new money moves in and old residents find themselves priced out.
Priced Out is a sequel to the 2002 documentary “NorthEast Passage: The Inner City and the American Dream.”
Produced in partnership with NW Documentary Arts & Media.
Awards & Selected Screenings:
St. Louis International Film Festival - 2017
Northwest Filmmakers' Festival - 2017
New Urbanism Film Festival - Best Feature Film
Hollywood International Film Festival Independent Documentary Awards - 2019
Festigious International Film Festival - 2018
Meet Nikki Williams
Williams is a straight-talking single mom who does not suffer fools gladly. Her only wish was to live in a healthy black community. In the documentaryNorthEast Passage, filmed in the late 1990s, Nikki worked to kick drug dealers off her block and fight off subsidized housing projects on her street. She welcomed gentrification. Over a decade later, she realized she was one of the last black people on her street. While Nikki wanted to see the neighborhood fixed up, she never thought “they would kick everybody out, fix it up, and tell everyone they can’t come back.”
Nikki is a homeowner. As we return to Nikki inPriced Out, we find her torn between grieving for the loss of her community and seeing the opportunity to sell her home and achieve economic freedom for the first time in her life.
What the Press is saying
"As fascinating to watch as it is devastating to comprehend" - Portland Mercury
"Not a problem confined to Portland" - Orange County Weekly
"Swart's powerful documentary should be required viewing" - Willamette Week
"Both [Northwest Passage and Priced Out] poignantly depict how the particular processes that displace and erase marginalized communities–and in these cases processes that displace black people and black neighborhoods–contribute to logics that naturalize gentrification. Priced Out also particularly shows the how the aesthetics and young, white demographics of gentrifying coffee shops (and I’m thinking about the recent controversy in Denver with its “happily gentrifying” coffee shop) and apartments act as violent signifiers to long-term, often non-white residents—who often also being displaced by huge rent hikes—that they are no longer welcome in their neighborhood." - Urban Cultural Studies
"Portland, OR, has experienced the mixed blessings of gentrification. Homes have been upgraded, new businesses have brought fresh life to the economy, and younger residents have enlivened neighborhoods and burnished Portland’s reputation for artistic, quirky lifestyles. Unfortunately, gentrification has also brought rent increases, alienation, and the destruction of established black communities like Albina. Filmmaker Cornelius Swart’s documentary notes that Portland has long struggled with its history of racism, from early “black exclusion” edicts to making location plans for urban renewal projects, sports stadiums, and superhighways at the expense of black neighborhoods (urban decay has also been a factor). Oregon is a landlord-friendly state that allows no-cause evictions and bans rent controls. Drugs, eminent domain, and red-lining practices have all worsened the problem, while residents in other neighborhoods oppose subsidized rentals as a threat to their home values. The film follows the plight of Nikki Williams, who once welcomed gentrification, but now feels alone and unwelcome in the area that she grew up in. Some black residents drive their children long distances to traditionally black schools, and others adjust, while Williams, feeling that “my skin is my sin,” finally moves to Texas. To its credit, Portland is trying to make amends, sponsoring “right to return” legislation aimed at drawing low-income former residents back to areas like Albina. Of course, this urban scenario is hardly limited to Portland, and this documentary could help spur fruitful discussion. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (S. Rees)" - Video Librarian
About the Filmmaker Cornelius Swart, Director/Producer
Cornelius Swart co-produced the prequel to Priced Out, Northeast Passage, with Spencer Wolf. Since then Swart has established himself as a reporter with a deep knowledge of the community. He published thePortland Sentinel, a community newspaper and hyperlocal website that covered St. Johns, North, and Northeast Portland, for five years. He has worked on staff at the state’s largest newspaper, The Oregonian, the state’s largest television station, KGW NewsChannel 8, and was director of content during the startup of the web-based news platform GoLocalPDX.com. Swart volunteers his time to the project.