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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.


Affordable-housing alliance to city: Legalize ‘missing middle’ in bikeable neighborhoods

by on April 22nd, 2016 at 1:58 pm

2314-16 se salmon duplex built 1927
2314 and 2316 SE Salmon: built in 1927, illegal to build today. City Council could change that with the comprehensive plan it’s about to vote on.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

As Portlanders debate ways to deal with the city’s continuing surge of housing prices, a coalition of local affordable-housing developers and service providers says Portland can’t afford to continue banning so-called “missing middle” housing from most of the city.

Duplexes, triplexes, internal home divisions and two-story garden apartments are common throughout many of the neighborhoods Portland built in the early 20th century. Today, those neighborhoods are the city’s most walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly — but since 1959, city code has made it illegal to build more neighborhoods like that. Homes with multiple kitchens or space for fewer than two cars are forbidden even on most residential land in the central city.

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Portland’s best model for population growth without catastrophe is right in front of us

by on April 15th, 2016 at 3:52 pm

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2018 NW Everett Street, built 1910.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Part of NW Portland Week.

Portland’s “huge population boom” and “explosive growth” have driven such a painful housing shortage that it’s not uncommon these days to hear Portlanders wish the city would stop creating so many jobs.

Since 2008, the city’s population growth rate has been about 9,000 net new residents per year, or 1.5 percent.

But when many of the buildings that continue to define northwest Portland were built, Portland’s population was growing by 7 percent every year for years on end. In the decade of the 1900s, the city that started at 90,000 residents added 11,679 new ones every year on average.

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Average apartment building costs fell sharply during no-parking apartment boom

by on March 28th, 2016 at 11:13 am

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Southeast Ankeny Street.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

In 2013, when the Portland City Council began requiring most new apartment buildings of 30 or more units to include on-site parking garages, housing watchdogs warned that this would drive up the prices of newly built apartments.

Because the city still lets anyone park for free on public streets, they predicted, landlords wouldn’t be able to charge car owners for the actual cost of building parking spaces, which can come to $100 to $200 per month. So the cost of the garages would be built into the price of every new bedroom instead, further skewing new construction toward luxury units.

Three years later, rough data suggests that this could be exactly what happened.

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Could it work here? How Seattle’s big new housing compromise came together

by on March 15th, 2016 at 9:44 am

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Seattle’s recent housing breakthrough may have lessons for keeping bikeable parts of Portland affordable.
(Photo: Adam Coppola)

Here’s one way to think about the political battle over housing in growing cities, spelled out Monday at an Oregon Active Transportation Summit panel: it’s got three main interest groups.

One group is social-justice advocates and tenants. These people are generally interested in keeping prices lower one way or another, especially for the lowest-income people.

One group is environmentalists, businesses and the development industry. These people are (for various reasons) generally interested in increasing the number of people living in the city.

The third group is a highly active subset of single-family homeowners. These people are generally interested in maintaining or increasing the value of their property, especially while keeping things the way they were when they bought it.

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As state law passes, the fight for affordable proximity moves to City Hall

by on March 4th, 2016 at 12:36 pm

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A rally last fall to better protect Portland tenants from displacement.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

After years of fighting, a “grand bargain” on affordable housing passed Oregon’s legislature this week. But it won’t begin shaping Portland’s bikeable neighborhoods until after the city council takes action of its own.

Representatives for Mayor Charlie Hales and his council colleague, Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman, say that plans to do so are already underway.

Any city plan seems certain to include some level of “inclusionary zoning,” a measure that could require that up to 20 percent of units in some new buildings be sold and/or rented at discount prices to people who make less than 80 percent of the median income. (As of 2015, that 80 percent figure means that a family of three that makes less than $52,950 would qualify for the reduced-rate units.)

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City wants taxpayers to finance $26 million hotel parking garage next to light rail

by on February 24th, 2016 at 9:36 am

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An architect’s rendering of the proposed six-story parking garage in the Rose Quarter.
The viaduct on the left is Interstate 5.
(Renderings via NextPortland)

The city’s economic development agency agreed this month to have city taxpayers make an eight-figure bet that driving to the Rose Quarter area is going to remain popular for decades.

The Portland Development Commission voted Feb. 10 to borrow $26 million from one of its property tax funds to build a new 425-stall parking garage on public land between NE Holladay Street, Multnomah Street, 1st Avenue and 2nd Avenue, across the street from the Rose Quarter Transit Center.

Fifty of those stalls would then be resold to TriMet for an estimated $8 million, and the other 375 would be set aside for rental to the publicly subsidized 600-room Hyatt Regency Convention Center Hotel that’s supposed to go up across the street.

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Big shift in Salem: Realtors and some builders are open to housing price controls

by on January 14th, 2016 at 9:23 am

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Inclusionary zoning would let cities turn the voluntary agreements that have made the Pearl District relatively income-diverse into mandatory rules.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon just got some powerful new voices in support of ending the state’s unusual ban on a type of zoning designed to preserve income-diverse neighborhoods.

It’s a development that could slowly add up to a significant number of new apartments and condos in bikeable, walkable parts of Portland being set aside for lower or middle-income people.

The news was reported late Wednesday by The Oregonian, whose reporter Denis Theriault covered a state Senate hearing in Salem about “inclusionary zoning,” as the policy is known.

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After years of building, Seattle gets a new year’s gift: falling rents

by on January 4th, 2016 at 11:45 am

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New homes in Ballard, Seattle.
(Photo: Bejan)

The Portland metro area was one of the fastest job creators in the country in 2015, but a familiar neighbor has been neck and neck on that measure: Seattle.

The city to Portland’s north has ridden the success of Amazon and Microsoft, among others, to the country’s third-highest average wages. (Portland ranks 10th.) But all the money has come at a cost: Seattle rents are 20 percent higher than Portland’s, on average.

That isn’t likely to change any time soon. The most walkable and bikeable parts of Seattle remain even further out of reach for poor people than the most walkable and bikeable parts of Portland do today.

But Seattle’s recent real estate news suggests one way to at least stop rents from going even higher.

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Advocate! Tell the city how to change residential infill rules

by on December 18th, 2015 at 1:57 pm

2314-16 se salmon duplex built 1927
Built in 1927, illegal to build today.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Whether you hate demolitions, love garages, yearn to live in a duplex or just think the rent is too damn high, now’s your chance to let the city know.

All this year, the Real Estate Beat has been writing about the ways that Portland could increase the supply of homes in its bikeable areas without totally transforming its understandably beloved residential neighborhoods.

In March, we shared local microdeveloper Eli Spevak’s prescription for affordable infill, which drew praise from neighborhood association organizers. In April, we explored one of those ideas: charging lower development fees for smaller homes. In June, we looked at 11 medium-density buildings built before Portland’s 1959 zoning reform and asked why they should be illegal.

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Parking reforms could include paid permit zones in neighborhoods near main streets

by on December 7th, 2015 at 1:47 pm

parkinglead
Parking can be tight on N Michigan, just one block west of the popular commercial district on Mississippi Ave.

People who live on mixed-use corridors might be banned from parking their cars in nearby residential zones under a set of recommendations last week from a citizens’ committee.

After one small change, the committee unanimously approved the city’s proposal.

The committee, which consisted almost entirely of homeowners in residential zones, recommended that the city give its 95 neighborhood associations new powers to regulate curbside parking in their areas.

Neighborhoods would have to opt into the new permit program, and a majority of addresses in the area’s residential zones would have to vote for it. Residents of buildings in adjoining mixed-use zones wouldn’t get to vote.

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