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Introducing the Real Estate Beat

Posted by on July 23rd, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Milano apartments grand opening-5

The logo is no coincidence.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

I’m happy to introduce the Real Estate Beat, a new editorial focus that will be covered by BikePortland News Editor Michael Andersen. With his past experience as publisher of Portland Afoot Michael is the perfect person to cover this for us. He’ll help you understand why real estate development and housing issues have major implications for people who lead a low-car lifestyle. — Jonathan

For decades, Portlanders have been looking for bike-friendly, transit-accessible, walkable real estate to live, shop or work in.

Now, low-car real estate has finally come looking for us.

The evidence is all around. This year and next, dozens of new apartment buildings are rising in the central city without any on-site auto parking spaces, including the 118-unit Emery nearing completion in the South Waterfront and the 81-unit 37th Street Apartments on SE Division Street. These buildings are going up for a reason: Portland is fun, attractive and (compared to most of the United States) prosperous, all of which makes people want to move here, which has led to a deep and chronic shortage of rental housing.

By this spring, our rental vacancy rate was tied for the country’s lowest:

portland rental housing shortage chart
(Graphic: BikePortland)

Housing shortages are hard to solve because housing takes up space, and space in a vibrant central city is expensive. But housing that doesn’t require on-site parking is far more space-efficient. In a way you can measure in dollars and cents — about $20,000 for every on-site auto parking space that a building doesn’t have to provide — low-car life is helping solve Portland’s housing problem.

Change is afoot in the world of commercial real estate, too. Portland’s booming set of talent-driven tech and marketing startups have become important tenants of local office buildings, and they’re looking for real estate that best fits happy, healthy workers who like to bike, walk, run or skate to work. Hard-nosed retail analysts are looking at the value per square foot of storefronts with good bike access and concluding that bikes can bring more customers to a store without increasing congestion or making the neighborhood less pleasant. The commercial real estate market is responding by embracing outdoor bike parking and making indoor parking and showers standard at the region’s best office buildings.

Bikes aren’t the only mode that matters here — they’re just one essential component of the world’s growing enthusiasm for urban life. Walk Score, the Seattle-based web startup that has worked itself into the heart of the U.S. real estate industry, just added Bike Score to its Walk Score and Transit Score ratings as a way to evaluate the attractiveness of a given address. Nelson/Nygaard, one of the country’s leading transit consulting firms, has begun consulting with private developers who want to understand low-parking housing projects. The City of Portland is aiming to quadruple the residential population of downtown over the next 20 years.

And all this change matters — because the most important thing behind most people’s choice of how to get from A to B isn’t politics, money or weather. It’s the location of Point A and the location of Point B.

Or, as someone else once put it: Location, location, location.

Portlanders’ location preferences are changing, and the city and country are noticing. This is the history we’ll be writing together with Real Estate Beat.

Some subjects you’ll see us cover here:

  • the latest local apartment permits with low auto-parking ratios
  • major new commercial buildings on bike and transit corridors
  • amenities and prices at local bike-oriented apartments and condos
  • ways low-car development does (and doesn’t) keep central-city housing affordable
  • creative cohabitation strategies for Portlanders making the most of our existing stock of bikeable housing
  • the surprising link between food cart pods and downtown office space
  • in-depth interviews with the city’s smartest real estate professionals

Welcome to a story that is, in every sense, developing. If you know a real estate story that needs telling, get in touch.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Hart Noecker
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I’d also like to see a focus on the housing justice movement, especially where it concerns people being priced out of their homes to make way for new ‘real estate’ developments. Livable streets shouldn’t be for people earning salaries alone.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

How is the city going to quadruple the number of residents downtown when they enact minimum parking ordinances?

http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2013/04/porland_city_council_approves.html

There is no room to widen the streets for additional cars. Where will all of these stored cars go when they need to drive somewhere?

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

There is a ~250 unit, 14-story market-rate rental housing building proposed for SW Jefferson between 11th & 12th. (The public notice in the window of the “field work” space has an incorrect height.) There will be 90-something parking spaces in 2 underground parking levels. On the block bounded by SW Clay, Market, 11th, and 12th there are two buildings proposed for PSU student rentals, one 8 stories on the SE corner and the other 5 stories on the NW corner. (I could be off on those building heights and I know nothing about the designs, including any parking, but I would expect it to be minimal given the proximity to PSU, streetcar, etc.)

There is also a 1/2 block lot being cleared between SW Jefferson & Columbia on 2nd. The owners are expecting a 25-30 story building there, probably mixed use like the KOIN Tower nearby, but there are no announced plans at this time.

Eastsider
Guest
Eastsider

Thanks for covering this topic. Hopefully people (namely, Amanda Fritz) will realize that a substantial population in portland exists that does not want to have a mandatory auto parking spot at their their apartment for a vehicle they do not own. But I’m a little weary of the new apartments that use biking as a marketing gimmick in a patronizing way. Naming a building after a Trek Milano and using a bicycle logo and hanging a few bike racks in a storage room isn’t really accomplishing anything very groundbreaking.

Induced demand – if you build a wider road to alleviate traffic congestion, the greater capacity just attracts more traffic. The same thing happens with parking. What are we planning to do with all the cars that Amanda Fritz and the rest of city council mandates that we add to inner Portland? Thankfully, we seem to have grown past the idea of road widening. We’ve even said no to widening I-5 into Washington. So, it looks like even more traffic and longer commutes during rush hour. Unfortunately, this affects everyone, not just auto drivers. Bikes,busses and streetcars suffer greatly in traffic congestion.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest
gutterbunnybikes

Gentrification in Portland will be here as long as the Urban Growth Boundary exists here (it was kind of invented here). In the 20+ years I’ve lived here it’s happened quickly in Sellwood, NW/Nob Hill, Pearl, LLoyd, Alberta, Mississippi. Happening currently but at a slower pace in St. Johns and Kenton (mostly spill over from Mississippi and Alberta there), Cully. And I’m seeing the starting of it in Montavilla, Foster/Powell, and somewhat even in Lents. And I have no doubt that in the next 10 years or so it’ll start spilling over the 205 into Gateway/205, Parkrose, down Halsey,Glisan, Division, and Powell.

It is the intended consequence of the UGB to do this. Which though it sucks if you’re poor (and believe me I’m by no means rich – I am the 50ish%) it does keep the city on a whole updated and clean. It also keeps suburban sprawl to a minimum which is also good. One need not look too far to see how most cities in the US are with rotted cores and all the “action” in the burbs.

And though the effects of gentrification are both good and bad I really believe that there is more good about it than bad. And like in all things you can’t have it all.

Spiffy
Guest

when the city lacks the backbone to resist the vocal motorists complaining about parking-free apartments then progress comes to a halt… they enjoy THEIR free parking too much to share, and like many issues that people shouldn’t be allowed to vote on they will likely band together to slow the progress of car-free living…

Anne Hawley
Guest
Anne Hawley

Thanks for doing this, Michael and Jonathan. No one is better placed than you and BikePortland to develop a strong counter-narrative on this issue. I’m tired of hearing that there’s “no market” for smaller housing with less parking. I look forward to trying to change some minds by pointing them to articles here.

Nicholas Caleb
Guest
Nicholas Caleb

Developers and investors getting rich off of greenwashed schemes that hurt the poor, gentrify, and are weak “solutions” for environmental crises. But the privileged liberal bubble gets to go a few decades longer without bursting. “Density” is the mantra of the privileged. Notably absent are any social justice concerns.

Get outta here with that “we’re doing it for the poor” crap. I’ll believe people are serious about density if Irvington and Eastmoreland go first.

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

> the most important thing behind most people’s choice of how to get from A to B isn’t politics, money or weather. It’s the location of Point A and the location of Point B.

Exactly. I hope that Portland, with its fairly bike friendly street grid and vibrant neighborhoods, can absorb the greatest majority of new people moving to the area because if Portland doesn’t, car-centric suburbia will.

The greater the population Portland can capture (and get walking, biking, and busing), the better we as advocates can push for regional funding of active transportation investments (compared to, say, the tens of millions Hillsboro is spending on widening Hwy 26, which counteracts much of our work by encouraging Portlanders to drive to Intel rather than take the max).

Peter W
Guest
Peter W

I’d also be interested in seeing coverage of policies that prevent small scale but wide spread increases in density (i.e. ADUs, tiny houses, etc).

This is an great read related to parking and housing:

http://daily.sightline.org/2013/06/05/whats-in-your-garage/

Hart Noecker
Guest

“Cities change, deal with it.”

Wasn’t that Robert Moses?

PC
Guest
PC

Hart Noecker said…

“You’re presenting a false dichotomy; that the only two options are markets or government.”

I mean, that would be a false dichotomy if that were what he were doing, but that’s not actually what I’m seeing Joseph argue. He’s talking about using government to shape the environment in which the market works via incentives. And that’s a vision which doesn’t preclude the input of an active, organized community, either.

ambrown
Guest

Joseph
The city needs to add to its housing stock to make room for future residents. If we don’t, those future residents will push out existing residents.
Therefore, somebody needs to be building housing, somewhere, at a pace that matches demand. Who is going to do this? Communities? Taxpayers? Or private investors?
We elect city leaders to make choices for us based on data. Some areas will change. We can either target that change or let it target us, because it’s coming, and the only thing you can do to stop it is to make your city an undesirable place to be.
Recommended 3

Joseph
Yes, yes, cynicism is a fantastic contribution to a genuine policy debate.
We know that private investors want to earn a profit. So you enact policies that make social justice profitable. If you have a housing shortage, you enact policies that make it profitable to build housing to address the segment of the market that is undersupplied.
If you fail to utilize private market to accomplish your policy objectives, then it’s up to taxpayers to address the market’s inability to do so with, in this case, government-owned housing, which nobody wants to live in or near to.
By requiring housing to be more expensive to construct (e.g., requiring parking or capping the number of dwelling units), you make it a less attractive investment, so less will be built. Instead, investors will try to maximize their profit by, for example, building higher-end dwellings whose buyers/tenants will more likely be able to absorb the cost of the construction in their unit. Since that market is presently saturated, investment in multifamily housing construction will stagnate.
If you make it profitable to build multi-family dwellings that can rent for $700/mo, then developers will do so. Under the present regulatory system, that would NOT be profitable, so you don’t see it happening.
Recommended 7

I like everything you said.

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

I’ve been following along. I think this article from Washington DC hits many of the same points. http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/19662/raise-the-height-limit-thats-part-of-a-bigger-question