The faultline between the Portland-that-was and the city-that-will-be is Interstate Avenue. The North Portland area is slated for a major overhaul over the coming decade; the backbone of the project is an extension of Tri-Met's tracks intended to connect the much-neglected neighborhoods of North Portland to the city's core. But urban developers have long worried that such improvements will come at the expense of current residents, who will no longer be able to afford rent and property tax increases in the spruced-up neighborhoods.

Over the past year, that issue has been handled gingerly, with vague proposals by City Hall for rent-assistance programs and so-called anti-displacement campaigns. But in recent weeks, the issue has taken on a desperate sense of urgency and pessimism.

Just days before Christmas, the Oregon Supreme Court determined that the Portland Development Commission (PDC) has been taking tax money that is not necessarily theirs. Responsible for orchestrating urban renewal in town, PDC was hoping to coordinate a wide-reaching project that would bring both development and stability to North Portland. For the project not to displace any of the current working class families living there, all of the puzzle's pieces had to fit together. But the recent court decision has put PDC in a holding pattern, uncertain about the sources and amounts of future funding for urban renewal projects.

With funding for Tri-Met's extension already in place, that part of the urban renewal project will unroll in the next few years. However, the future of projects like loan assistance for home buyers--meant to counteract any ill effects of large-scale development--are no longer certain.

"What it means in terms of affordable housing is [that] there will be a reduction in our capacity to fund," says Bob Durston, the Chief of Staff for City Councilman Erik Sten. "Competition [for project funding] will be that much sharper," admits Durston. "How much will be left for community revitalization will be a question."

The ramifications of the court decision against PDC remain uncertain. Shilo Inn, who filed the original lawsuit against PDC, is considering widening their lawsuit into a class-action suit. If successful, funding for future PDC projects would most likely be diminished even further.