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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.


Backyard homes are almost as car-lite as apartments on transit lines, study finds

Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Sally Spear, 63, moved into a 200-square-foot backyard cottage designed by her son-in-law Schuyler Smith, 33, in 2010. Smith now designs ADUs for a living.
(Photo by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

When it comes to cars, accessory units in backyards and basements are nearly as low-impact as big apartment buildings next to bus lines.

That’s the conclusion of a new state-funded analysis (PDF) that combines the results of a survey of Portland accessory dwelling owners with other recent studies to start examining one of Portland’s newest real estate trends.

The average rental unit in Portland brings 1.31 cars on site, according to the U.S. Census. For transit-oriented apartment buildings, that falls to 0.83 cars — and for accessory dwelling units, it’s 0.93 cars.

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Is Portland’s newest urban corridor good or bad? City is asking residents

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
SE Division street scene - photo by Michael Andersen
There’s nothing like a walk to better understand the impact of changes to a street.
(Photo M. Andersen/BikePortland)

Portland’s planning department is trying to figure out if the rapid transformation of Southeast Division Street will become a template or a cautionary tale.

On Wednesday night, it’s invited the public to attend a “community walk” to assess the rapidly redeveloping street and “consider zoning issues through a local lens.”

The walk is 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and begins at Piccolo Park, SE 28th and Division. According to the official description, city staffers will ask:

  • What’s working well or not so well regarding new development?
  • How can zoning code regulations help support a thriving business environment?
  • What building features, scale, or site designs will enhance the character of the area?
  • What design features will create a quality environment for future residents?
  • What are appropriate ways of creating transitions in development scale and activity between mixed use development and adjacent residential areas?

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New Relic’s palatial in-office bike parking is Portland’s answer to the Google bus

Friday, May 30th, 2014
in-house mechanic
Tech firm New Relic hires a mechanic to visit its Portland engineering headquarters and give free bike tuneups to its commuters.
(Photos by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Real Estate Beat is sponsored by Portlandia Home

In 2012, one of Portland’s fastest-growing employers told the managers of Oregon’s biggest office building that it would walk away from any lease offer that didn’t allow employees to bring their bikes up to the 28th floor office.

The company, software performance management startup New Relic, got its way. Two years later, its 180 employees in downtown Portland’s U.S. Bancorp Tower are enjoying the benefits: the most attractive commercial bike parking in the city and a workplace where bike-commuting is about four times more common than driving.

New Relic also seems to have kicked off a new local trend, the Portland tech scene’s version of Silicon Valley’s on-site laundry services and all-you-can-eat buffets: hiring a bike mechanic to come by the office for free on-site tuneups while the bikes’ owners are at work.

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Tribune finds support for limiting car use by microapartment dwellers

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
A rendering of the new micro-apartment building
permitted for Northwest Thurman near 23rd.
(Image: Footprint Investments)

Here’s a pretty simple solution for complaints that new “microapartment” buildings will swamp on-street parking: forbid some of the people in them from parking cars on the streets.

In a cover story of the current Portland Tribune, the concept gets positive reactions from a microapartment developer, a neighborhood association official and a sustainability think tank. And Portland Bureau of Transportation Director Leah Treat calls it “very interesting.”

The idea would only work in areas that use parking permit systems, such as (as of this year) much of Northwest Portland. It’s home to two new microapartment buildings, which use small bedrooms with shared kitchens and lounges to offer lower-rent units in high-demand areas at market price.

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Talking past the opposition: Ben Ross’s advice to advocates for city life

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
Maryland-based author, transit advocate and urbanist Ben Ross.
(Photos by M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Real Estate Beat is sponsored by Portlandia Home

People who speak out against investments in density, biking and public transit may claim to be motivated by things like traffic, parking or crime, Ben Ross said Monday at Powell’s Books.

But though they might not realize it themselves, they aren’t. And that means that addressing their concerns won’t silence their worries.

That’s Ross’s claim, at least. A successful volunteer transit advocate from the inner suburbs of Washington DC, Ross is on tour for his book Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, in which he tries to explain the causes of the developed world’s urban revitalization and offer advice for navigating its politics.

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Maybe this is why you can’t afford to rent in the central city

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
Yellow areas are zoned for single-family homes, blue for mixed-use and multifamily, gray primarily for industry and office (with some residential allowed), green for park and open space.

Real Estate Beat is sponsored by Portlandia Home

Seven miles is an important distance in the world of bike transportation.

It’s about the distance a casual city rider can pedal in an hour, which studies show is the upper limit of the time most humans prefer to commute. It’s the distance where, even in the Netherlands, public transit trips become more popular than bike trips (and car trips are eight times more common than either).

So as Portland’s apartment rents have jumped an average 11 percent in the last year, with the tightest markets in North and inner Northeast Portland, the city’s biking population has felt it — in either their wallets or their thighs.

Here’s one factor at play in one of the country’s most persistent urban rental shortages: in two-thirds of Portland’s central seven miles, it’s illegal to build a multi-family building.

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Can new-fangled mortgages finance Portland’s tiny-home boom?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014
Kol Peterson, who also teaches classes for homeowners about developing ADUs, in his home.
(Photo courtesy Peterson.)

Real Estate Beat is sponsored by Portlandia HomePortland’s enthusiasm for building small and tiny homes has been so abrupt, so unusual and so locally unique that the home mortgage industry hasn’t figured out how to take advantage of it.

But people in both government and real estate who see accessory dwelling units as a boon for affordable density in bike-friendly, walkable parts of town are trying to help lenders catch up. And there are signs that it’s working.

As we reported last month, Portlanders are responding to the surging demand for local housing by building and/or permitting hundreds of accessory dwelling units. One in 10 new homes in some inner north and Northeast neighborhoods is an ADU, a city specialist says.

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Gallery: Here’s how Portlanders store their bikes at home

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Portlanders have created some ingenious ways to store and secure their bicycles at home.
The Real Estate Beat is sponsored by PortlandiaHome.com

Portlanders have known for years that we’re blessed with some of the best public and commercial bike parking in the country. But our private residential bike parking goes unsung, simply because it’s harder to photograph.

Last week, we asked readers to share shots of their residential bike parking setups, and got a big response. Unsurprisingly, some folks have put in some pretty impressive efforts. I’ve collected a gallery of noteworthy ones below.

Start with image (1) at the top from Brandon, whose “six-adult household in Lents” makes room on an interior wall for six bikes, one trailer and a bike pump.

And here’s what looks like an apartment setup (2), from Mike in Southwest Portland. Notice the precise placement of the red hooks on the ceiling joist:

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Photo collection: How do you park your bike at home?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014
residential bike parking shelter in SE Portland-13
A residential bike parking shelter in Southeast Portland.

The Real Estate Beat is sponsored by PortlandiaHome.com

Here on BikePortland’s Real Estate Beat, we write a lot about commercial and apartment/condo bike parking. But we’ve never covered the bike parking Portlanders are probably best at: cool ways to store bikes at single-family homes.

Let’s change that. Snap a photo of your setup and we’ll share the most interesting, creative, impressive, attractive, whatever.

When high-end prototypes are being stolen from local garages, this is a matter worth talking about.

If you’ve got a bike parking setup at home that’s worth sharing, text, email, tweet or Facebook message it to @bikeportland or to me directly: 503-333-7824 or michael@bikeportland.org. Include your first name and what city you live in.

And hey, if you know someone else whose parking setup is an inspiration, send this post to them.

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How Oregon’s unequal tax laws deter density where it’s needed most

Monday, March 24th, 2014
Big apartment buildings at spots like this, at 300 SE 148th Ave., are increasingly subsidized by Oregon’s 1997 freeze on taxable property values. The same law drives up the cost of new units in inner North and Northeast Portland.
The Real Estate Beat is sponsored by PortlandiaHome.com

Of all the problems with Oregon’s spit-and-chicken-wire property tax system, one of the strangest might be this: It rewards developers who build new apartment buildings in Gresham while driving up the price of new units in inner Northeast.

This redevelopment penalty is an obscure but growing side effect of a system that also props up home prices in the central city and puts a disproportionate tax burden on East Portland and other recently redeveloped areas, the co-author of a new report says.

“In certain cases, it’s a disincentive to develop or invest,” Jeff Renfro of the Northwest Economic Research Center said in an interview Wednesday. “Potentially a pretty significant disincentive.”

(more…)

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