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The Real Estate Beat

Welcome to our special coverage of how real estate and housing are closely intertwined with bicycling in Portland. We’ll track the latest bike-friendly developments (both commercial and residential) and share our analysis of how low-car trends are impacting the places we live and work. The Real Estate Beat is edited and produced by our News Editor Michael Andersen.


Portland’s housing supply still isn’t keeping up with population, but it’s falling behind more slowly

Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Screenshot 2015-05-21 at 10.34.41 AM
*2010 housing figures reflect an upward readjustment from information gathered in the decennial Census.
(Data: Census Bureau, summarized here)

After eight years of failing to add housing units nearly as fast as new residents were arriving, Multnomah County nearly kept pace in 2014, according to Census estimates released Thursday.

The shortfall in new units since 2005 has led to the country’s worst chronic shortage of rental housing in the most desirable parts of Portland as residents have competed for the largely unchanging number of homes in the central city. That’s led to rocketing home prices and rents, forcing many to live in less bikeable areas further from the urban core.

In 2014, a wave of new apartments hit the market and the City of Portland has led the region in both single-family and multifamily housing starts. The population still grew faster than the number of housing units, the Census estimated, but by a much smaller margin.

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Portland’s most affordable neighborhoods to bike from (for now)

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015
High Crash Corridors campaign launch-3
Number one is poised to get better.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

The Willamette Week bike issue came out today, which makes this the one day a year when we stoop mooching off their generally excellent reporting and they get to mooch off ours. (Seriously, y’all, no problem.)

But one piece in their nicely put-together bike issue falls clearly in the “wish we’d done that” category: a tally of median single-family home prices per Portland neighborhood ranked by the time it takes to bike to the city center.

“Portland has long been thought of as a cycling mecca for one big reason: Affordable homes were close enough to work to commute by bike,” Willamette Week’s Tyler Hurst writes in the piece, more or less accurately. “Housing prices rose by another 6.6 percent last year, and a February project by Governing magazine found the city is gentrifying faster than anywhere else in the nation. Does the promise of an affordable, bikeable Portland still hold up?”

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City debates cutting park fees for small homes, hiking for big ones

Friday, April 24th, 2015
N-NE-SE Portland Good-Bad-Ugly Houses 84
Backers say the proposal would encourage smaller, more densely built houses.
(Photo: Mark McClure)

For years, almost every new home built in Portland has paid thousands of dollars into a city fund that pays to buy and develop parkland. But so far, the size of the home hasn’t affected the size of the fee.

If it were built today, a 900-square-foot bungalow would pay the same $8,582 parks fee as a 3,100-square foot 4-bedroom.

But in a proposal that could shift the local economy toward building smaller homes — and potentially provide a boost for bike infrastructure funding — the Portland Parks Bureau is suggesting that its fees on new homes become proportional to the number of people who are likely to live in them, based on their square footage.

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Possible sale of downtown Post Office could be golden opportunity for bikeway

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
usps map
A Portland Development Commission map of the “Broadway Corridor.” The PDC is meeting this afternoon to re-up their negotiation to buy the post office site at the base of the Broadway Bridge and fast-track a planning process for the area.
(Image: PDC)

If Portland’s main post office signs a deal to relocate, a huge payoff for biking could be hiding between the lines.

As the Portland Development Commission meets this afternoon to consider putting up $500,000 to reboot negotiations over moving the operation from the Pearl District to a new hub near Portland International Airport, advocates and planners are watching with great interest.

Redevelopment of the eight-city-block post office site could create the space and funding for a new built-from-scratch bikeway from the Broadway Bridge straight down into the Park Blocks, across Burnside past Director Park, and into the city’s biggest cultural district and Portland State University.

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Where growth went: How different cities answered America’s urban rebound

Thursday, March 26th, 2015
occupied units portland
The orange line shows Portland-area housing patterns in 1990; the brown line shows it in 2012.
(All images: UVA Demogaphics Research Group)
Want to sponsor this great column? Get in touch.

If affordable proximity is one of the keys to great bike cities, understanding Portland’s biking boom means understanding its urban development decisions 20 years ago.

To see how our metro area grew, it’s useful to see how dramatically different things have gone down in different U.S. cities. A fascinating new website from the University of Virginia gives us a new way of looking at exactly that.

The chart above shows Portland at two key moments in American urban life: the orange line for 1990, when urban crime levels were near their peak and many central cities were seen as charity cases for their suburbs; and the brown line for 2012, when the economic boom of some U.S. cities was accelerating the country out of recession.

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Affordability alliance? Some neighborhood leaders back low-impact infill ideas

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015
townhomes on ankeny
Townhomes, like these on SE Ankeny, are currently the most common middle ground between apartments and single-family homes. Some neighborhood leaders want Portland to provide more options for moderate levels of density.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A slate of ideas for increasing Portland’s housing supply with fewer visual changes to its central-city neighborhoods is getting warm reviews from influential neighborhood association leaders.

The list of policy proposals, compiled by local indie developer Eli Spevak last month after a conversation with Tamara DeRidder of the Rose City Park Neighborhood Association, includes concepts such as legalizing internal divisions of existing houses and scaling transportation, sewer and parks fees based on home size.

The general theme of the proposals: allowing more housing in Portland that offers more density than single-family houses but less than four-story apartment buildings.

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Guest post: A progressive Portland developer’s plan for an affordable infill policy

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Greenwood Avenue Cottages (Ross Chapin).
(Photos courtesy Eli Spevak)

This is a guest post by Eli Spevak of Orange Splot. Spevak, who the Portland Mercury once described as “the coolest condo developer ever,” develops small, often freestanding homes in single-family neighborhoods with a goal of increasing the city’s supply of housing that’s both affordable and environmentally low-impact.

Neighbors bemoan the demolition of older homes and the scale of new ones – and worry for the character of their neighborhoods.

Demographers see the trend toward more and smaller households – and wonder where they’ll be able to find enough right-sized and affordable homes.

Planners recognize that we can’t rely only on high density centers and corridors to accommodate all expected new residents; neighborhoods will need to play a role too.

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Housing and transportation advocates plan to pack hearing for affordability bill

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
SE Division street scene - photo by Michael Andersen
SE Division Street has a frequent bus, two parallel neighborhood greenways and many shops within walking distance — but prices in the area are so high that many residents own cars anyway.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Oregon’s 20-year ban on a common affordable-housing policy could be headed for the dustbin, based on what happens after a hearing in Salem next Monday.

The policy, known as inclusionary zoning, would allow city governments to require that new buildings within certain areas include certain ratios of lower-rent housing units. Backers call it a useful tool for preventing desirable parts of town from becoming homogeneously wealthy.

Inclusionary zoning is entirely banned in two U.S. states: Oregon and Texas. House Bill 2564 would remove Oregon’s ban.

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Define ‘compatibility': Ben Ross on the evasive language of zoning

Friday, February 6th, 2015
N-NE-SE Portland Good-Bad-Ugly Houses 84
Which is incompatible with which, and why?
(Photo: Mark McClure)

Why does Portland require every new house to have a driveway big enough to fit two cars?

Why do we forbid most lots from having two separate dwelling structures unless one is 25 percent smaller than the other and has a roof with an identical slope?

Why do we ban second kitchens within a single home unless the owner essentially pinky-swears that only one household will be living in the building?

In a city where a chronic shortage of housing in walkable and bikeable areas has driven prices up and up, driving major changes in the culture, these aren’t trivial questions.

The most familiar answer to all of them is one of the most-used words in urban zoning: “compatibility.” But what exactly does that mean?

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As Portland’s job growth continues, business leaders tout bikes and transit

Friday, January 30th, 2015
Leonard Barrett of Beam Development atop an eastside office building remodeled in 2013 that now houses 350 workers. In 2005, Beam had planned to demolish it for a parking lot, but high biking and transit use changed the owner’s mind.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

While the organization that says it speaks for local business interests continues to oppose major investments in biking, walking and mass transit, actual local businesses are continuing their embrace of the amenities we’ve built so far.

Hillsboro-based Lattice Semiconductor said this week that it’s sold its Hillsboro headquarters and is moving 100 executive and administrative workers to U.S. Bancorp Tower in downtown Portland. The Oregonian described it as part of a “tectonic shift in Oregon technology” that is channeling tech jobs to the central city rather than Washington County.

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