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Biking and walking advocates testify at inclusionary housing hearing

Posted by on December 14th, 2016 at 7:26 am

(Photos: City of Portland)

(Photos: City of Portland)

The first hearing for the City of Portland’s Inclusionary Housing Zoning Code Project took place at city council today and biking and walking advocates showed up to support the proposal and urge council to pass it.

As we’ve reported for years now, there’s a clear intersection between affordable housing policy and cycling: The most bike-friendly neighborhoods are also the ones where we’ve seen tremendous market pressure exerted — and many of them are now unaffordable to many low and even middle-income Portlanders. And according to the National Household Travel Survey, low-income households drive much less than those with high-incomes.

One way to make neighborhoods more affordable is to require developers to build affordable housing units in their new buildings. Otherwise they’ll sell the units at whatever price the market can bear — and that happens to be a lot of money in Portland’s red-hot housing market. The result is a sort of forced migration of people with lower incomes into neighborhoods further away from the city center.

Portland wants to stop this trend by passing a set of code changes that will require developers to offer a portion of their units at a lower price and then set them aside for qualifying renters or buyers.

“We are creating a segregated city when it comes to access… Walkable and connected communities are a privilege in this city.”
— Noel Mickelberry, Oregon Walks

Yesterday city council held the first of two hearings on the proposed code changes. Among the people to testify were Oregon Walks Executive Director Noel Mickelberrry and outgoing CEO of the Community Cycling Center Mychal Tetteh.

Tetteh’s organization held a ride this past summer called Gentrification is Weird that educated people about how communities of color have been displaced throughout Portland’s history. “Over the past three years alone,” he said, “We have seen rents in Portland’s neighborhoods increase by as much as 10% per year. That is weird.”

Mickelberry had strong words for council. “Because of skyrocketing rents and history of underinvestment in parts our system, walkable neighborhoods are only available to those with the money to afford living there,” she said. Mickelberry added that she believes Portland’s current policies (or lack thereof), “Are creating a segregated city when it comes to access.” “Walkable and connected communities are a privilege in this city,” she continued, “as you are twice as likely to hit and killed while walking in our low-income neighborhoods.”

Council is expected to host another hearing on this issue and then vote on the new code changes next week. You can stay updated on the proposal and learn more at PortlandForEveryone.org. Yesterday’s council session featured several expert panelists and is very enlightening. You can watch it on YouTube.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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  • Mike December 14, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Portland’s housing crisis is a bubble waiting to burst. Portland is no longer a desirable city to live in given the congestion. political mismanagement (poor schools?), and a faux high-tech economic base. Then there’s the BIG ONE lurking out of sight just around the corner. Yes, the Big One will be the final decider. Stay tuned!

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    • Brian December 14, 2016 at 8:30 am

      I just put a 3 br house up for rent and got 6-8 inquiries in a few days from out of towners. I guess it is still somewhat desirable.

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      • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 8:51 am

        It’s desirable, I just don’t know if people understand the struggle they’re going to go through if they move here without a job and a BA in sociology with just a couple of years in the work force.

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        • John Liu
          John Liu December 14, 2016 at 9:07 am

          Is there any city where a sociology BA with minimal work experience is going to have it easy?

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          • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 9:14 am

            You would think that some college, let alone a bachelor’s degree would at least provide enough without having to be on food stamps and having to live with five roommates, but I guess not. The world only needs math and health occupation majors, right.

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          • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 10:34 am

            A city with a lower cost of living would give people more flexibility and financial options.

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            • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 12:27 pm

              I’m just going to build on this for a second… getting your financial house in order when you are young is critical for setting the stage for security later in life. Doing that is difficult if you are paying most of your money for rent (or entertainment, or whatever). Saving $100 when you are 25 is far more valuable than doing so when you are 45, what with compounding and all, especially if you do so in a tax-deferred account like an IRA or a 401k.

              Portland used to be a place you could live for cheap, pay off your debts, save money, buy a house, and so on. That is no longer true, and never will be for most people, no matter how many buildings full of high-end studios we build.

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              • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 9:24 pm

                hear, hear.

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            • David Hampsten December 15, 2016 at 2:58 am

              I live in such a low-cost community. By moving from Portland a year ago to Greensboro NC, I save on average about $600/month on expenses, mostly on vastly reduced rent, but also lower income taxes and cheaper transit. That said, the cheaper transit here doesn’t work even half as well as Portland’s or runs as frequently or as many hours in the day; food here is lower-quality; heating and cooling cost more; over 75% of city sidewalks are missing; and bike infrastructure here is at about the same level as Portland in 1982. Since I never learned to drive, I don’t get any benefit from living in the (officially) most car-friendly city in America.

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              • Brian December 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm

                Yeah, but how are the local trails?

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    • bikeninja December 14, 2016 at 9:17 am

      I agree with Mike, a bursting housing bubble will take care of rents. Most of these large apartments are not owned by old time landlords but turned in too financial instruments like the Mortgage Backed Securities of the last housing bust. Once conditions change many of these instruments will fail and those owning them bankrupted. They will then be resold for a lower price, bringing down the cost of the the property and enabling lower rents no matter the intital cost of the property. Rents must eventualy equalize with the ability to pay of a cities tennents.

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      • Spiffy December 14, 2016 at 9:35 am

        or we become another Detroit and everybody moves away…

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      • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 10:36 am

        Landlords will only lower rents when they can’t get higher rents. Even if they buy the building in a fire sale, they won’t pass the “savings” on unless they have to.

        Rents are not based on the purchase price or the cost of development; they are based on what people are willing to pay.

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    • dwk December 14, 2016 at 9:46 am

      Spoken like a small town Oregonian…..
      Congestion is bad but have you attempted to get around Seattle or SF?
      They are about twice the price of Portland. People (with money) will continue to move here because despite your small minded world view, it still beats Kansas….
      It may not be for you or others, but the growth on the West coast will continue.

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      • bikeninja December 14, 2016 at 10:48 am

        Just because people will continue to move here does not mean rents will go up. Without economic activity to support high wages and high rents you can end up with a high density of hobo-camps. Millions of people have steadily moved to the capital city of Kinshasa but that does not mean it has a high rent economy.

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        • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 12:32 pm

          You are assuming that those who move here don’t have the means to support themselves. Silicon Valley companies are moving whole teams here because the cost of living is less. Those people have high paying jobs, and are happy to pay what looks to them like bargain rents.

          The problem is that people without the skills to get one of those jobs are screwed.

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          • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 12:41 pm

            If they can pay to play, just make it more expensive to play. $15 dollar min. wage for the guy/gal pouring the beer doesn’t seem so bad when the guy/gal receiving the beer makes 5-6x times annually as the server. If we assume this is Portland’s new luxury class, we have to prop up the service industry workers with better pay and benefits.

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            • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 12:51 pm

              I’m somewhat neutral on the $15 minimum wage. On the one hand, it may help people currently earning less. On the other hand, it will encourage employers to do everything they can to find ways to employ fewer people. Also, prices would likely rise for everyone (whether this would be significant or not is an open question).

              I generally support a higher minimum wage, but if it’s too high, it may create an even larger pool of the perpetually unemployed/unemployable. I don’t know what constitutes “too high”.

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              • Adam H. December 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm
              • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 1:26 pm

                I struggle with the same logic. I’d hope the wage hike would have a multiplier effect throughout the regional economy and raise all boats, but if employers begin cutting employees’ wages back to a point there it zero net gain in take home earnings, all of it would be fruitless.

                I like to eat and drink out and often use the $6 pint as a sign of the times, but I agree, food and drink will have to be more expensive if there’s a wage hike.

                This may be somewhat of a tangent, but I recently heard on Think out Loud about the closing of Cha Cha Cha on Williams st. The owner said they could not find someone to cook for the starting wage. I suspect the wage is less than $15/hr. Also, the owner mentioned that many of his employees drive from Gresham and surrounding suburbs because they cannot afford to live in Portland.

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    • eawrist December 14, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Any research base for these multiple, expansive arguments (with the exception of turbidite evidence for the “Big One”)?

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      • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 12:35 pm

        +1 for “turbidite”

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        • Brian December 14, 2016 at 1:08 pm

          +2. I had to look it up.

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          • X December 14, 2016 at 1:53 pm

            Here’s a turbidite for you. If the Oregonian says there’s a boom, go short.

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    • Chris I December 14, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      There will be a correction at some point, but unless there is another tech bubble burst, the underlying factors driving the growth in Portland will not change. If we see major contraction in our growing software sector, expect housing prices to drop a lot. I’m not sure if that is going to happen, though.

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      • bikeninja December 14, 2016 at 1:30 pm

        I would change the word untill there is another Tech Bubble Burst. The current tech bubble is not driven by the sales and profit of the Tech companies involved but by the flow of easy Zirp ( zero interest rate policy) money from the Fed flowing through the financial industry in to Tech stocks and start-ups. As soon as this money dries up, which is inevitable. the Bust will be Legendary.

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        • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 9:33 pm

          Is that true, though? Isn’t it also significantly driven by the massive shift (pickpocketing) of billions of dollars from creative professionals to tech? This sad fact persists, with no end in sight, to the tune of billions a year.

          “In the past decade, an enormous reallocation of revenue of perhaps $50 billion a year has taken place, with economic value moving from creators of content to owners of monopoly platforms.”


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  • J_R December 14, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Requiring developers to build some affordable units in their buildings will result in them raising the prices on the other units or constructing their buildings elsewhere.

    Think about all the components of a building that are fixed. The foundation; the structure; the sprinklers; the roof; the elevators. Do you think you can make those cheaper for affordable units? Think about the things that are required regardless of the unit’s cost, like lots of insulation, energy efficient windows. Those don’t change.

    The only things that can be cheapened are some of the finishes like flooring, countertops, and appliances.

    The only way for a developer to make his project pencil out if some affordable units are required is to increase the price or rent of his other units.

    If you think being a developer is the road to riches and that rents and sale prices are excessive, maybe you should become a developer and rent your units for less. If you don’t have the funds to become a developer, you can at least put your IRA money into a stock or exchange traded fund that is a developer, contractor, or real estate investment trust. There are plenty of choices from the large mutual fund families. You can start your investment with less than $1000.

    I’m not a developer, just someone who majored in economics and has a business.

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    • Gary B December 14, 2016 at 9:49 am

      “The only way for a developer to make his project pencil out if some affordable units are required is to increase the price or rent of his other units”

      Of course. I don’t think many people are under the impression that there is a different way this works. The only question is whether you think that’s a good idea.

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      • I wear many hats December 14, 2016 at 10:00 am

        Don’t the tax breaks make the affordable units break even for the developer? I think the tax breaks help the developers more than the affordable units hurt the developers, but I’m no policy expert.

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    • soren December 16, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Requiring developers to build some affordable units in their buildings will result

      housing is not an elastic market geographically and it’s demand curve is often kinked (econ 101). thus, developers in high demand urban areas, like portland, are not likely to lose money due to anemic inclusionary zoning proposals. moreover, the economic literature suggests that the largest barrier to affordable housing supply is exclusionary zoning, not rent regulation. why is it that “free”-market critics of regulation almost never call for opening up portland’s exclusionary residential neighborhoods? it’s almost as if critics of rent regulation believe that a so-called “free” market for renters (e.g. “those people”) is fair but a “free” market for wealthier homeowners is unfair.

      in summary, there is little empirical evidence that rent regulation discourages supply (in the usa) despite the friedmanite strawmen that defenders of our crony capitalist housing market build.

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      • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 11:52 am

        Aren’t there a lot of renters living in single-family zones? In fact, that’s where some of our most affordable housing is (at least in SE). I’ve seen zero evidence of any anti-renter bias in my many years involved with the communities of inner SE.

        That said, I agree with your conclusion, and anticipate no significant drag on the housing market as a result of the IZ proposal.

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  • m December 14, 2016 at 8:04 am

    People who advocate for rent control almost always have never actually lived in a city with rent control.

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    • bikeninja December 14, 2016 at 9:28 am

      This sounds like one of those old time conservative talking points to me. My son lives in an apartment in Washington Heights in NYC in a building which is mostly rent controled and most of the neigborhood is rent controled. Because of rent control most of the families that have lived there for 40-50 years have been able to stay, unlike portland where long term tennants are evicted and exiled to the outer reaches of gresham, speeding gentrificaton and income stratification.

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      • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 10:38 am

        “Been able to stay” or “been unable to leave”? Actually, both may be true.

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      • Chris I December 14, 2016 at 12:29 pm

        Rent control is great if you want to live in the same apartment for decades. Good luck trying to move, though.

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    • rick December 14, 2016 at 9:55 am

      Staten Island had many potholes and crumbling roads and a giant lack of bike lanes when I lived there in 2011.

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    • Champs December 14, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      I’m not exactly advocating for rent control, but there’s a smack of unfairness when renters are unprotected from the caprices of a landlord with fixed loan payments (if any) and legal insulation from large property tax increases.

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  • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Affordable housing is great, but it means nothing if the city can’t get the wages up. Pretty dire for someone that has a college degree and makes $12.50/hr with 20k in college debt, I meet people like this all the time. Sure, we’re at 5.0 unemployment—some economists say full employment—but do you really consider 32 hours in the service industry without benefits full employment? Or you can do warehouse/manufacturing for $15/hr, but work out in Beaverton or Tigard. Great, now you have to have a car or spend two hours commuting via Trimet and bicycle because you live in a 400 sqft studio on Williams st. But wait! You’re within walking distance to a tasty $6 pint of beer! How wonderful.

    I can’t imagine what it’s like when you have dependents…

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    • Spiffy December 14, 2016 at 9:42 am

      as a lower-middle-class/upper-lower-class family with 1 kid it was impossible to rent a home west of 82nd… even living east of 122nd required having a roommate to help with bills…

      central-middle-class seems to get you west to about 50th if you look for months…

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      • Spiffy December 14, 2016 at 9:44 am

        meant “even living west of 122nd”

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    • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 12:42 pm

      If you owe $20K, and your earning prospects are $12.50/hr, I would argue you might want to spend a few years somewhere with a lower cost of living building some job experience, and getting your finances in order. It’s not like Portland is the shining city on the hill, and the rest of the country is a wasteland.

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      • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 1:29 pm

        Where, like Casper, WY as a part-time bank teller for US Bank?

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        • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 1:39 pm

          I would suggest lunch-shift short-order cook in Fargo, ND.

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          • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 2:05 pm

            Hey, oddly enough I’ve applied to a doctoral program there for Physical Therapy!

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          • David Hampsten December 15, 2016 at 3:11 am

            It’s -10 in Fargo right now, with an expected high of +7F. Care to go on a bike ride? You might want to wear a snowmobile/motorcycle helmet. I did when I lived in nearby Grand Forks ND.

            That said, housing is pretty cheap out there. But then it’s cheap here in nice warm North Carolina too.

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      • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 9:40 pm

        No, Portland is the ONLY place, NO place is more wonderful, it will make ALL my dreams come true, I WILL reinvent myself here, there’s the MOUNTains and the COAST and the COFfee and the BEER and people are just so wonderfully WEIRD and the DOnuts! and you don’t even KNOW you don’t. even. KNOW! have you ever lived in a big city, huh? snort! are you aware of how much better it is here? you think THIS is traffic? you think THIS is expensive? you take this place for granted you you you you you ignorant local shutup shutup shutup shutup!!!!!!


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        • David Hampsten December 15, 2016 at 3:12 am

          Sooo Portland! You hit it right on the head! Perfect hipster attitude!

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          • Matt S. December 15, 2016 at 8:58 am

            Its hard to leave Oregon when you were born here. The landscape and how I interact with his has informed my identity and I have a difficult time detaching from my identity. Plus, all my friends and family are here.

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            • Hello, Kitty December 15, 2016 at 11:58 am

              I totally get that, and, to me, is the tragic part of our current situation. On the other hand, if Oregon is all you’ve ever known, there’s a lot of benefit living somewhere else for a while, getting a taste of something different. This is not all there is.

              Most of Portland is now populated by people who left the places they had roots. It’s part of the American tradition.

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              • Matt S. December 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm

                I ask myself the same question. I’ve applied to graduate school out of state and I’ll follow the opportunity if it presents itself. My partner and I have thought about the Peace Corps, so that’d take us out of the area. I have looked at other jobs out of state, but to me, it’s just not worth it. Portland is too good of a city to leave. Jobs for what they are and where they’re located aren’t attractive enough to move for. My partner has a great job/pay, I’m the one struggling and even then I’m not really struggling. I just haven’t been able to live up own personal standards. By all accounts, I’m far more successful than my parents and when compared statistically to the rest of the country (median salary, etc..) I’m still doing okay.

                It’s about finding that balance of career fulfillment and happiness.

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                • rachel b December 15, 2016 at 4:56 pm

                  “Its hard to leave Oregon when you were born here. The landscape and how I interact with his has informed my identity and I have a difficult time detaching from my identity. Plus, all my friends and family are here.”

                  My comment wasn’t aimed at you, Matt S. Was just having fun w/ the prevailing mania amongst newcomers that there is NO PLACE ELSE ON EARTH!!!! 🙂

                  I’m from here too, born and raised and lifelong. Hello Kitty says “Most of Portland is now populated by people who left the places they had roots. It’s part of the American tradition.” Which is true, and which makes me sad (and makes them happy–“Hey! We’re all new here! Tabula rasa! Let’s reinvent this place!”). I think too many escapees, too many rootless re-inventors makes for a kind of overall bleak, desperate, frantic disinvested me-focused landscape, personally, and I feel it in the very air. Portland’s a changed place, and (from my observations) abrim w/ narcissists now…which explains the driving.

                  I hope things work out for you and yours to stay put. Best of luck. I myself am looking for an avenue of escape, every day. Damned sad, considering I had thought I’d be here to the end of my days.

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  • Snowden December 14, 2016 at 8:46 am

    The success of this policy all rests in the details and implementation. The basic premise is that the City will offer various incentives to developers in exchange for including low income units in their projects. If the right balance of incentives aren’t provided, then developers will pull up stakes and not build at all, which could actually worsen the current situation.

    I’ve talked with several of my developer clients about this and they are all taking a very cautious, wait and see attitude. Word is that there is a flurry of activity to get projects submitted to the City in advance of this change. Beyond that, no one is really certain what will happen. I strongly suspect implementation will result in a significant decrease in the number of building applications in the first 12-24 months, until the impacts are really understood by developers.

    Because of these uncertainties, this policy may or may not be successful. Support from this constituency shouldn’t be a kneejerk reaction.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 14, 2016 at 9:11 am

      I don’t think housing advocates are naive Snowden and they would all acknowledge that this has to be done with a scalpel, not a hatchet. They are very well-informed about the very policies and it’s far from their first rodeo. I strongly encourage folks to listen to the testimony from John Mulvey and from the MIT Economics professor from the hearing yesterday. They both laid out the case for why reform of the code is imperative.

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      • Snowden December 14, 2016 at 10:08 am

        I’m not suggesting the housing advocates aren’t versed in the details, but I do believe that even the most knowledgeable of them won’t really understand the impacts until we’re a few years into implementation. This type of policy is tinkering with the economics of these deals. As such, it’s difficult to get it just right. We’ll be throwing the dice so to speak. Not suggesting we shouldn’t, this may be a viable solution, but I don’t think that positive outcomes are certain.

        And, I suspect that many if not most of your readers are not intimately familiar with the details. Not a criticism, this stuff is complicated, but it is why I suggest that people shouldn’t just automatically jump on the bandwagon and support it.

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    • Hello, Kitty December 15, 2016 at 12:00 pm

      The other danger, of course, is that the public will be taken to the cleaners if policy makers believe all the hype that changing the rules will drive all developers into bankruptcy.

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    • soren December 16, 2016 at 10:03 am

      I strongly suspect implementation will result in a significant decrease in the number of building applications in the first 12-24 months

      funny how this slowdown has not materialized in other similar markets that have implemented IZ (e.g. burlington*, boulder, santa fe, seattle, san francisco, san diego, NYC)

      *bernie sanders was among the first to implement IZ when he was mayor of burlington. it was a huge long-term success.

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  • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Where do you think affordable housing should be built? Say, along Williams, Alberta, Mississippi, Dekum, 28th and Glisan, Belmont, Hawthorn, Stark, The Pearl? These are all desirable places to live within walking distance from many amenities. Not to mention you’re close in from the downtown center making for an easy commute on bike. But here’s my question that kind of breaks it all apart, why would you want to live in an area where the services around you are so expensive? Maybe St. Johns is still affordable for the lower income family of four to go out for dinner or go see a movie. But to go out on Alberta, you’re looking at a min. 35 bucks for just burritos and soda at one of the cheaper Mexican restaurants. Without tip.

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    • rainbike December 14, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      The city can fix that by forcing restaurants to sell a certain percentage of their menu items at a loss.

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      • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 12:44 pm

        That meat will be grain fed of course 😉

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        • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 1:01 pm

          How gouache.

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    • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 9:49 pm

      Har. 🙂 And very good point, Matt S.

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  • Travis December 14, 2016 at 9:47 am

    St. Johns experiences this within the neighborhood. Close-in St. Johns has high bike/walk scores. TriMet options and ease are far better too. Schools are walkable. Outer St. Johns is severed from the business district and transit mall by Fessenden, Columbia Blvd, and distance. The outer reaches lack services beyond convenience stores. Family car dependence is a reality — especially without bike knowledge and personal comfort.

    The fear and what we’re watching: With improvements eventually coming to Fessenden in 2018 (calming, pedestrian medians/crossings, lights, etc), the corridor is ripe for re-development. BUT it is the perfect place to consider (and protect) affordable housing (and bring the 16 back out). I envision a small grocer, diners, community music spaces, day cares, hardware, bike shop, etc (trying not to think too white). There are many large vacant lots and abandoned buildings.

    Meanwhile, us closer-in folks put on our privilege hats and gripe about more distant neighbors using their cars on ‘our’ residential walkable paradise streets to access Fred Meyer, Safeway, and our swanky boutiques. What real options do they have (or that they could possibly feel they have)?

    While I mention distance above, it is actually the lack of distance that threatens the possibilities for Fessenden. Something to watch.

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    • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 10:43 am

      “Protecting” affordable housing is exactly the right word. Redevelopment raises prices, even if it also increases density. Want affordable housing? Preserve what you’ve got, because you won’t be getting any more of it (pending the outcome of the experiment that is the topic of this story.)

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    • Stephen Keller December 14, 2016 at 11:12 am

      As someone who lives on the “port” side of the St. Louis/Fessenden corridor, I can attest to this. We are close enough to walk to the St. Johns business core and frequently do so, but crossing morning and evening commuter traffic is harrowing. Even at the lights it can be troublesome because drivers (especially those turning), frequently fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk or they crowd pedestrians hoping we’ll go faster, I guess and making the crossing experience considerably unpleasant. We will sometimes walk toward the west and get into the neighborhood west of Lombard. Of course, getting across the northern end of Lombard after it crosses St. Louis can also be tricky due to higher speeds and lack of safe places to cross.

      I consider our location fortunate. The folks I really feel for are those who life north of Columbia and west of N. Portland Blvd. They are almost completely cut off.


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      • Stephen Keller December 14, 2016 at 11:14 am

        “…those who live north of Columbia…”

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      • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 12:47 pm

        I looked at this section on Redfin.com. There’s houses selling for 550K. I did see one for 160k, but it was entirely gutted from the inside for a rebuild. There was a 8,000sqft lot with a boarded up house for 400k. 5,000 sqft cleared lot for 120k. I think this neighborhood is already going the direction of Williams and Albina.

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        • Travis December 14, 2016 at 1:59 pm

          Perhaps. This is why we need to protect the affordable options we still have.

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        • Stephen Keller December 14, 2016 at 2:43 pm

          That is very true. I could not afford my house my were I in the market today. 25 years ago, St. Johns was very affordable, partly because it was somewhat removed from downtown. Now days, it has become trendy; likewise the Kenton district. I’ve seen 800 sq. ft. Sears kit homes sell for $300K in the past year.

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          • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 9:53 pm

            Five years ago St. Johns was significantly more affordable, wasn’t it? So was Milwaukie. Things started going completely insane only in the past 2-3 years.

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  • rick December 14, 2016 at 9:53 am

    What if Irvington and Ladd’s Addition had high-density zoning?

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    • rainbike December 14, 2016 at 10:15 am

      Pigs would fly.

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    • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      Ladd’s has a surprising amount of “affordable” housing in it. Sure, the big, well kept houses sell for a lot, but there are many rooms for rent, houses subdivided into smaller units, and even a few apartment buildings, especially along Hawthorne (but elsewhere as well).

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      • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 9:54 pm

        Hmmm… Define a “surprising amount.” Just curious–have never heard this about Ladd’s.

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        • Hello, Kitty December 15, 2016 at 12:19 pm

          More than the zero that most people assume.

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          • rachel b December 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm

            On the edges? Like, 12th, or 20th right next to Division or Hawthorne? I guess I don’t really think of those spots as Ladd’s proper… I know there’s that one cute little multi-unit near Palio.

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        • stan December 16, 2016 at 9:42 am

          I live in Brooklyn and was going through Ladd’s last week and was surprised how many duplexes/small apartment buildings there are in Ladd’s proper.

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  • chris December 14, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Gentrification is good.

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    • Tony T
      Tony T December 14, 2016 at 10:38 am

      Gentrification is a mixed bag. I’ve probably benefitted more from it than most people on here, but even I can see that there’s a flip side that shouldn’t be ignored.

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      • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 12:34 pm

        If gentrification results in, for example, less crime, or rising property values for people who own their own houses, then it’s hard to argue it’s all bad. If it results in long-term residents moving out because their rent got jacked up, it’s hard to argue it’s all good.

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        • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 9:56 pm

          Property taxes rise, too. And quality of life–when things get too popular, too dense–declines…even (especially?) for property owners.

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          • David Hampsten December 15, 2016 at 3:21 am

            Actually, in Oregon they don’t, since a 1992 referendum. Property taxes ought to be reset at sale, but they are not, by law. Also property tax rates cannot rise more than 1% on any given year. In fact, the poorer East Portland has a much higher tax rate than inner Portland neighborhoods – the poorest are basically subsidizing the richest part of town.

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            • rachel b December 15, 2016 at 4:58 am

              Ours were doubled (reassessed) this year after a remodel (to an official duplex–within the same footprint). Weren’t that low to begin with. I hear through the grapevine that a lot of folks got hit this year with reassessments. We knew it’d happen and were braced for it–but not for a doubling… My fear is–what with the endless PPS bonds in the pipeline, not to mention the number of bonds the City throws at us nowadays–our property taxes will be so jacked up in no time, it’d be stupid to stay here.

              I wish they’d concentrate on getting NE Portland fairly assessed–assessments are WAY out of whack (low low low) there. I have a friend who paid just @ $300/yr for her property taxes for years. !! Low assessment combined w/ Urban Renewal deferrals (and something else?). Her house a couple blocks from the heart of the Mississippi neighborhood is now probably worth $650k at least. Including the newish ADU, more like $1 million. I know folks in outer SE and NE have been getting killed with their assessments for years (and no services coming their way for all those taxes)–way higher than in trendy NE neighborhoods.

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              • Matt S. December 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm

                Think about what you just said, a million dollar home next to Mississippi. It probably has original windows and needs a new roof. That’s why Portland is in a bubble right now, that’s crazy to me. Maybe it is that nice, I dunno.

                But for example, I house sat for a home on Alameda st. over off 47th. 3 bds 3.5 bths, it also has an ADU. Right now it’s on Zillow with an est. of 1.2 million. I know it’s away from Mississippi, but it’s a really, really nice house. A friend of mine, his brother and law lives with his mother over off Alberta and Mallory. He also thinks his mom’s house is worth almost a million. I laughed. I looked it up on Zillow, just under 600k. When you step into a million dollar home around here, you know it, it’s very different than a cute bungalow off of Mississippi or Alberta.

                I have another friend living off 21st in the Irvington neighborhood. This home is also really, really nice. I though it’d be worth a mil, it comes in at 800k on Zillow.

                I guess what I’m trying to say is that people are grossly over estimating their home’s value because of the frenzy we’re in.

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                • rachel b December 15, 2016 at 5:06 pm

                  You’re right, of course–everyone thinks they have a million dollar home, now. But some do. It (the Portland housing market) is undeniably crazy. This home has comps near the million mark. But even if it were worth “only” $600k, that blows my mind. I just can’t get over how expensive homes have become here.

                  There’s been a little lull in the market in the past couple months, I’ve noticed–a house near us doesn’t seem to be getting any action at all and is (I think) overpriced. I fully expect the frenzy to pick up again in January/Feb, though. Unless…maybe finally, pretty please, we lose our It Girl status at long last? Happy sigh of contemplation!….

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                • rachel b December 15, 2016 at 5:09 pm

                  Mainly, I grind my teeth at the knowledge me and mine have paid thousands upon thousands of dollars in property taxes while my friend (and much of chichi NE Portland) has paid a minuscule fraction of that. I feel even worse for outer SE and NE folks who have been royally screwed for years. Mult. County really needs to address the gross inequities in property taxation.

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                • Alex Reedin December 16, 2016 at 5:37 am

                  Unfortunately, the problem is not fixable by Multnomah County, I don’t think. I think it all stems from (Oregon) Measures 5, 47, and 50 – areas that were cheap when they were passed, still have ridiculously low property taxes because the taxes can only go up by some small percentage per year.

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                • Matt S. December 16, 2016 at 8:24 am

                  I understand how you feel about property taxes, well, I feel it through my partner’s parents. They live off Capital HWY over by PCC. They built this house 20 years ago. It’s pretty modest, but, the father is an architect, so it’s nice enough. They pay 7k a year in property taxes! Luckily their sweat and tears helped keep the mortgage low through building much of the home themselves. But $580/mth is a pretty good check to o’uncle PDX.

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                • Hello, Kitty December 16, 2016 at 1:07 pm

                  The fact is our tax system is totally broken. We need an alternative to property and income taxes.

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                • rachel b December 16, 2016 at 2:46 pm

                  $7000 (and some change) is what ours got doubled to this year, in the reassessment. !!!!! I just can’t help thinking it’ll be at $10,000 in no time, what with all huge the bond measures in the pipeline for the next umpteen years. It’s a big financial hit.

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      • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 12:52 pm

        It’s great if the previous generation bought many years ago cheap and inherit to the subsequent generation to sell super high. Displacement is terrible for people that are forced out, but maybe not as terrible for a property owner that can sale. Just all your friends and family are spread out over the city and the cultural identity associated with the neighborhood is no longer intact. Money isn’t everything.

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    • Brian December 14, 2016 at 10:39 am

      How so?

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    • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 10:43 am

      For some.

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    • Adam H. December 14, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      …for white people.

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      • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 1:03 pm

        Because other racial groups prefer run-down neighborhoods?

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        • Adam H. December 14, 2016 at 1:13 pm

          Non sequitur. The idea that white people moving into a black neighborhood to improve it for them is racist because it implies that white people are more civilized than other racial groups. Furthering the notion that gentrification is racist, it almost always results in pricing “those other racial groups” out of the neighborhood; so to the “gentry”, an “improvement” means less minorities. Gentrification works on the idea that a better neighborhood is one that has less minorities living in it.

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          • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 1:33 pm

            I do not assume that “white people moving into black neighborhoods” improve them.

            It is generally true that as average income in a neighborhood rises, crime falls, regardless of race. It is also generally true that as average income rises, the physical appearance and condition of a neighborhood tends to improve, regardless of race. It is also generally true that as average income rises, property values rise as well, which benefits existing property owners, regardless of race.

            It is a value judgement about whether lower crime, better maintained buildings, and rising property values are good or bad (or, as I suggested elsewhere both good and bad). But that judgement is not a racial one.

            Your world view is very black-and-white. The world I see has much more variation and nuance.

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          • dwk December 14, 2016 at 1:57 pm

            past tense: gentrified; past participle: gentrified
            renovate and improve (especially a house or district) so that it conforms to middle-class taste.
            make (someone or their way of life) more refined or dignified.

            You make some of the most off the wall racist statements…..
            I think you are currently gentrifying your neighborhood if I am not mistaken.
            Most of southeast portland has been “gentrified” and there was not a racial component to it as far as I know.

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          • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 2:02 pm

            I do not know the origins of the word gentrification. I’ve assumed it to mean in the context of Portland—the displacement of the African American community in the NE quadrant of the city because of white middle class families moving in. The history goes (as I can remember): Vanport, large African American community working in manufacturing, flood, displaced to Albina where red taping doesn’t occur. City of Portland incorporates Albina. Years go by, systematic disinvestment in the community. One of the last remaining affordable places to live. People start moving in, tearing down houses, rebuilding, etc.. African American’s deal with increased property taxes, rent. People sell and move away. Community is fragmented all over the city.

            Please correct me if I’m wrong or miss details.

            If I interpret the word gentrification as how I’ve described above, I do think it’s a negative thing for the neighborhoods of NE Portland. The African American Community hasn’t had the political resistance to fight the systemic racist policies of the City of Portland nor the capital to invest into their own community.

            I imagine this type of stuff happens to poor white communities all the time, but there isn’t the racial history present like what the African American community has to deal with here in Portland. For the African American community, it’s race and class. Where as poor white communities, it’s just class.

            So when we talk about gentrification, I think we all need to talk about it in the context of what is happening right here in Portland. It’s a very sensitive subject.

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            • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 2:24 pm

              Why isn’t it “just class” in N/NE Portland as well?

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              • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 2:50 pm

                Because I don’t think white people have ever had to worry about not being loaned to or turned down for a job based solely on skin color.

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              • Adam H. December 14, 2016 at 11:08 pm

                Confusing class and race is classic white liberal racism. Class and race are intrinsically linked in America and to claim that something is classist but not racist is itself racist.

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            • dwk December 14, 2016 at 2:39 pm

              Some of the gentrification has racial implications, but is not that simple.
              Northwest was poor rundown white working class that became the “hippie” neighborhood in the sixties and seventies and has become now become one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Portland. There was nothing racial about its gentrification. Just location.
              Northeast was also about location, but there certainly was a racial aspect to the gentrification.
              It is mostly about money…..

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              • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 2:45 pm

                Just because different races are involved (at a macro level) doesn’t mean it has a “racial component” — I would reserve that term for issues where race is not simply coincidental to the driving factors, such as economics.

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              • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 3:04 pm

                Right, when I talk about gentrification in Portland, I refer to what is going on in the historically black neighborhoods of what used to be the city of Albina. Specifically the Boise-Elliot neighborhoods.

                Maybe I’m wrong, but there’s a history present in N/NE Portland that isn’t entirely applicable to the neighborhoods surrounding Hawthorne and Belmont.

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                • Hello, Kitty December 14, 2016 at 3:14 pm

                  True… they have their own history.

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                • SE Rider December 14, 2016 at 3:54 pm

                  So you don’t recognize that gentrification is happening all over the city?

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                • Matt S. December 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm

                  @ SE Rider

                  I do recognize that it’s happening all over the city, but my friends and I discuss the matter in reference to N/NE which appears to be experiencing the greatest upheaval of the inner Portland neighborhoods, anecdotally.

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                • dwk December 14, 2016 at 4:15 pm

                  Except that even in Northeast, it is not that simple.
                  How long have you lived here?
                  Mississippi, for instance, is an example of home grown (mostly white) business owners that made it happen on their own pretty much. No city support, it just organically took off before the developers got in. So, the history of a lot of Northeast is not black and white either.
                  The “upheaval” you speak of, had occurred throughout the city.
                  Lents will become gentrified and expensive in time, simply because of its location inside I-205.
                  Is getting rid of Meth houses a bad thing for the city?

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              • Adam H. December 14, 2016 at 11:10 pm

                The only reason that there were no black people to displace from those neighborhoods is because of Oregon’s racist past of banning black people from owning property in those neighborhoods.

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          • Sigma December 14, 2016 at 6:31 pm

            I live across the street from a black man who bought his house in 1990 for $35,000. It is worth at least $600k today. He walks to the new seasons on Williams literally every day and come back with a bag of groceries. Yes it has been bad for the community at large, but you can’t possibly claim that no member of a minority demographic group benefits from gentrification.

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            • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 10:06 pm

              (Some history. Not responding just to Sigma–apologies–hard to know where to jump in)

              Black residents of Albina were denied mortgages and bank loans because of their race. There was systematic disinvestment in the black community of NE Portland.

              “The real estate industry (government housing officials, Realtors, bankers, appraisers, and landlords), by denying access to conventional mortgage loans, played a pivotal role in perpetuating the absentee ownership and predatory lending practices that fueled the decline in housing conditions.

              Many Black residents were denied the opportunity to own homes when they were affordable. Even after White flight from Albina in the 1950s and 1960s, Black home ownership continued to be restricted by discriminatory mortgage lending policies in the 1970s and 1980s, causing some to search elsewhere for ownership opportunities.

              During the 1990s, residential segregation between Blacks and Whites in Portland decreased so sharply that it ranked tenth nationally among metropolitan areas with the greatest declines (Frey and Meyers 2005). Ironically, although desegregation partly reflects the gradual opening up of the housing market, it also reflects the displacement of Black renters to suburban locations because of gentrification.

              In 2000, the African American home ownership rate in the city of Portland was just 38 percent, well below the national average of 46 percent. Recently the city, which has done a fairly good job of producing low-income housing, began trying to remedy the racial disparity in home ownership.

              While there are positive aspects to the revitalization of Albina neighborhoods, many Black residents wonder why it did not happen ear- lier, when it was their community. Portland is lauded for its livability—but livability for whom?”


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            • Adam H. December 14, 2016 at 10:57 pm

              “I saw a black guy at New Seasons so gentrification isn’t racist”

              Are you f-king kidding me? You realize that a single anecdote doesn’t disprove a point, right?

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              • Sigma December 15, 2016 at 8:59 am

                My point is that there are plenty of individual black people who benefited from gentrification. Fred Stuart, a real estate broker in the area for decades, who was running for city Council this past year, made that part of his platform. He is also black. I trust his opinion over yours.

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                • Adam H. December 15, 2016 at 10:58 am

                  Okay, but pointing out a few people of color that benefitted doesn’t negate the fact that the vast majority came out on the losing end of gentrification. That’s like saying racism doesn’t exist because we elected a black president twice.

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                • Hello, Kitty December 15, 2016 at 12:37 pm

                  Gentrification tends to impact poorer people of all races. It is no less tragic if the person impacted is white than if they are black (or a member of the dozens of other identifiable racial/ethnic groups in Portland).

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                • Adam H. December 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm

                  It is no less tragic if the person impacted is white than if they are black
                  This is patently false, and yet another example of liberal racism. Many white people who identify as progressive and pro civil rights are so blinded by their beliefs that they simply can’t believe something could be racist. Often you’ll hear “oh, it’s about economics or class, not race”, but they ignore the fact that average incomes for blacks and latinos are much lower than whites, or they can’t see why white privilege affords even low-income whites more benefits over low-income POC’s even if their incomes are exactly the same and they live on the same block.

                  Of course from an ethics standpoint, all races are equal, but this is simply not the way things work in the real world. Racism still exists, and what affects low-income whites (who still greatly benefit from white privilege, despite their economic standing) will affect low-income people of color far worse because of systemic racism. To ignore the racial factor and only focus on the economic factors does a great disservice to minorities who have historically been the victims of racist policies, and who are still suffering the effects of today.

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                • Hello, Kitty December 15, 2016 at 1:09 pm

                  People are individuals; they suffer as individuals. Please do not dismiss a person’s suffering because of their race.

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  • Stephen Keller December 14, 2016 at 11:48 am

    “…those who live north of Columbia…”

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  • John Liu
    John Liu December 14, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    In recent months there has been a huge rush to get permits in before the inclusionary zoning requirements take effect. I understand there are 15,000 units now in the development pipeline, all pre-IZ. Therefore, we won’t see significant numbers of IZ units hitting the market for 3+ years.

    IZ is essentially a trade-off. In return for some affordable units (20% is proposed), the public receives less tax to fund infrastructure and services (developers get tax breaks) while the neighborhood gets more people using that infrastructure and services (developers get additional units, no parking requirement).

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  • Champs December 14, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I don’t normally say this, but the block east of SW 2nd does look like the the perfect application for a protected bike lane.

    An island-style bus stop would also make sense, but of course it did on the Hawthorne viaduct, too. Hopefully the city has different ideas than the county?

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    • Champs December 14, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Oops, wrong post. I doubt this reply makes things any better.

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      • rachel b December 14, 2016 at 10:07 pm


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  • Greg Spencer December 14, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    While I think it’s a worthy cause to support affordable housing in close-in neighborhoods, I’m skeptical. Portland is fighting natural economic forces here and that’s a tough battle to win. I think the city should rather focus on improving transit, walking and cycling conditions in outer neighborhoods where the hard-pressed are already living.

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    • Hello, Kitty December 15, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      I would add the city should provide incentives to open neighborhood businesses and grocery stores that would provide some of the amenities that people want to have in their neighborhoods.

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  • SD December 14, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    Uniformly lower speed limits throughout the city and stop pretending that poor people don’t live in “residential” areas.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu December 15, 2016 at 7:10 am

    All that new housing supply is finally starting to bring rents down.


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  • Mike Sanders December 19, 2016 at 9:19 am

    I live in Sellwood, where gentrification is rampant, and rents are going up. I’ve been in the same 1BR apartment for almost 17 years. My rent will go up into the four digit range next March. That makes three increases within a two year period. Mike’s Restraurant (no relation to me) will close at year’s end to be replaced by a three story housing complex. Another went up two blocks from me last summer. The new units being shoehorned into this area by developers are sending rents upward at a never before seen pace. The rumor is that you can’t find affordable housing anywhere in Portland. Something has to be done. Incoming Mayor Wheeler, who takes office on New Year’s Day, will have his hands full dealing with the mess the outgoing mayorship left to him.

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