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

Posted by on April 29th, 2015 at 3:27 pm

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?”

Hurst defines the problem well:

Consider that the median income for a family in Portland is around $50,000, which financial advisers will tell you means they should not spend more than $315,000 on a house. Also consider that the national average commuting time is 25 minutes each way. So can you find an affordable house in a place that’s about a one-hour round-trip commute to downtown Portland by bike? It’s increasingly difficult.

And Willamette Week’s pick for the most affordable biking neighborhood? It might not come as a surprise if you’ve been on the streets in the area lately:

The best bet for bikers is probably Foster-Powell. There, houses are selling for about $262,000, and the round-trip commute is 66 minutes. And the neighborhood looks to get even better with an upcoming “road diet” plan for Southeast Foster Road. Starting next year, the city will spend $5.5 million to build bike lanes and remove two of the busy thoroughfare’s five car lanes.

“Stripe” would probably be a better word here than “build,” since the $5.5 million will go almost entirely toward walking improvements, not white paint. Ok, to continue…

Two other mid-Southeast neighborhoods are close behind: Woodstock and South Tabor. However, South Tabor is the better value for bikers as living there shaves 12 minutes and nearly three miles from your daily commute. It has a better bike score to match: 84 compared to Woodstock’s 77.

Creston-Kenilworth—roughly the area south of Powell Boulevard between 28th and 50th avenues—also stood out. Homes there are selling for a median price of $330,000, and the cycling commute is 50 minutes.


Missing here, of course, is the fact that lots of jobs and other destinations aren’t downtown; the main reason so many people bike to jobs there is probably that it’s relatively expensive to park there. Census figures suggest that the neighborhoods with the highest bike-to-work percentages are actually in retail-dominated neighborhoods like Northeast Alberta and Northwest 23rd.

In Portland as in most cities, proximity to the core is a pretty good proxy for the underlying factor that drives almost all our transportation decisions: were the buildings in the neighborhood built in an era before we expected everyone to own a car, or after?

But that’s forgivable. In Portland as in most cities, proximity to the core is a pretty good proxy for the underlying factor that drives almost all our transportation decisions: were the buildings in the neighborhood built in an era before we expected everyone to own a car, or after?

The other thing worth adding here is that the article doesn’t mention the existence of 42 percent of Portland’s households: people who live in attached housing units. It considers only single-family homes.

The main disadvantage of a single-family home, of course, is that you can’t fit very many of them onto the same piece of land. The more expensive land becomes, the bigger that problem becomes — and the more important it becomes for cities to allow some other sort of housing to be built.

Sadly, Portland doesn’t seem to be talking much about removing its ban on building multi-family housing on 69 percent of the residential land in the city’s innermost 3.5 miles.

Maybe next year.

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.

WW’s bike issue is online and it includes a full ranking of the city’s neighborhoods. Check it out or just pick up a copy.

— The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here. This sponsorship has opened up and we’re looking for our next partner. If interested, please call Jonathan at (503) 706-8804.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

  • Kristin April 29, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    Wow my neighborhood actually made a list. Creston-Kenilworth is affordable, and it only takes me 15 minutes on my laid-back singlespeed to get to SE industrial area, mostly flat too.

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    • 9watts April 30, 2015 at 8:08 am

      I appreciate the temptation to rank neighborhoods, and thus to default to *new* house prices (even though 609,456 of us are already here, and paltry few of us are in the market for a house), and compare commute distances to downtown (even though most of us don’t work downtown anymore):
      but what irks me is the opportunity Willamette Week missed, to structure this piece around actual people with real-as-opposed-to-statistical commutes. Jonathan’s ridealongs, and the comments from people here, especially when he profiles someone with a cross-town commute like N Portland to Hillsboro, strike me as far more useful, interesting, thought-provoking, and true to life.

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      • davemess April 30, 2015 at 12:09 pm

        Fair point, but the amount of time and man power that kind of work would require are probably a lot more than the WW wants to invest for what is essentially a throw away article for the paper.

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        • 9watts April 30, 2015 at 8:45 pm

          Another reason I hang out here so much. 🙂

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  • Charley Gee April 29, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    I live in Creston-Kenilworth and it is an amazing neighborhood for bike commuting not just for work but for recreation. Less than 10 minutes to tons of great areas. Trying to get by Cleveland HS during the school year, though, can be harrowing. We usually take SE 33rd to Clinton to avoid the Cleveland craziness but that route adds an extra hill (not that my waistline minds).

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    • davemess April 29, 2015 at 6:37 pm

      That’s easiest place to cross Powell for a really long stretch. Can get a bit backed up though.

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    • SilkySlim April 30, 2015 at 9:37 am

      C-K for the win!

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  • Adam H. April 29, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    Makes me feel better about the house I just bought in South Tabor.

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    • Tyler Hurst April 29, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Big high fives to you right there.

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    • Tyler April 29, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      Boom! We bought in So. Tabor a few years back. Love it.
      Welcome to the ‘hood

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  • Champs April 29, 2015 at 4:33 pm

    FoPo was a secret until maybe last year. I thought about moving there, but it’s a lousy market for renters, even by Portland standards.

    The new secret: people who don’t want to own have better chances on the other side of the river. Market rate in the Alphabet and thereabouts is competitive with anywhere else in town. So much for Felony Flats.

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    • gutterbunnybikes April 29, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      Like I said yesterday (day before), South Tabor is one of the best kept secrets in Portland, but I also said it wouldn’t last.

      The beauty of South Tabor is that there really isn’t much in it but houses, which is why it doesn’t score real well on walking scores – though you’ll be hard pressed to ever get more than a quarter mile from some of the most frequent buses (9 and 4- which is only going to get better) in town.

      However it’s surrounded by everything else. Gateway/205, Eastport, Lents, FoPo, Hawthorne, Woodstock, Montavilla, Division/Clinton, Hollywood, East Moreland and even Lloyd can all be gotten to in 20 minutes or less depending on where you’re at in the neighborhood and how fast you ride.

      Depending where you’re heading downtown, I can get to the airport, Clackamas Town Center, edge of Gresham, Sellwood, Cully and Alberta in about the same amount of time – which is largely why this neighborhood scores so high on bicycle travel.

      Welcome to the neighborhood, you chose well.

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      • gutterbunnybikes April 29, 2015 at 6:00 pm

        Coulda swore I clicked to reply to adams post above,

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      • Adam H. April 30, 2015 at 2:24 pm

        Yeah, we’re right on 52nd (at the edge of the neighborhood) so we’re close to the restaurants on 50th and Division. Looking forward to the new Green Zebra on that corner, too. The only thing South Tabor doesn’t have is a grocery store within a 15 minute walk (although FuBonn is close by).

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        • gutterbunnybikes May 2, 2015 at 8:07 am

          New Seasons on Hawthorne- just less than 1 mile from the corner of 52nd & Division
          Freddies on Hawthorne -Just over a mile from the same corner
          Safeway (39th & Powell) – About the same as Freddies

          Each of which is closer than Fubon from your end. And it is about as far as the QFC on 55th and Burnside. (about a mile and half)

          This part of the grid every 20 blocks is one mile- you can set your odometer to it.

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        • Linda May 4, 2016 at 8:41 pm

          Winco is coming in the next couple of months at se 82nd & Powell!!

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  • maccoinnich April 29, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Given the strength of the real estate market, it’s a mystery to me why there aren’t more condo buildings under construction in close-in Portland. Almost every multifamily building built this decade has been rental apartments. It’s not like its still 2010 and there is a glut of condos leftover from the 2000s

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    • Black Butte Porter April 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm

      My advice: Do not ever buy a condo, townhouse or other home with shared walls. You have to live with whatever noise the neighbor makes, and most make some noise. Also, most have almost no yard for pets, etc.

      Also, you lose control of your monthly expenses – the HOA board has to cover their costs to maintain the place – if something big occurs you could be hit with assessments of many thousands of dollars. The dues always go up. If you own your own single family home you can go out and paint it once in a while if it needs it, and if the roof is looking a little old, you can wait a year or so, or go up with a bucket of tar and patch it if you don’t have the money to fix it.

      Most developments in this area in the past 10 or so years have had lawsuits due to construction defects. Your HOA will get estimates to make repairs, then hire a lawyer on contingency to take the builders to court, and when you win the lawyers keep 37% of the take – leaving the HOA with a huge shortfall of needed funds to make the repairs. I think this is an intentional criminal fraud in this state involving the law firms, contractors, county permitting agencies, etc – and apparently the state and county don’t care enough to do anything about it. The county makes $$ on the permits to fix the construction defects, as do the lawyers, contractors, construction defect investigators, etc, etc, etc….

      Stay FAR AWAY from HOAs. I speak from experience. Very bad experience. And that kind of experience is what makes for good judgment.

      Stay in control of your $$ – don’t let a “board” decide your monthly costs.

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      • maccoinnich April 29, 2015 at 9:59 pm

        Your bad experiences aside, there is a growing demand to own housing within a short distance of Downtown. There are no large undeveloped areas of land within a short distance of Downtown that can subdivided for a significant number of single family homes. Long term the only to way to accommodate this demand is by building condos.

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        • Brad April 29, 2015 at 10:09 pm

          There was an article in the Portland Business Journal to that effect. It mentioned condo interest in S. Waterfront right now far outstrips supply.

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        • davemess April 30, 2015 at 6:46 am

          That’s also assuming that the demand continues in the future (and I know, when have planners of governments ever been wrong in their estimates of anything…..). Portland has a poor job market (and has for decades). Will people keep flocking here after the trendiness of the city wears off? Who knows?

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          • maccoinnich April 30, 2015 at 10:23 am

            I would be much more willing to bet on rising population in the central city than declining population. I would much rather we planned for it.

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            • davemess April 30, 2015 at 12:10 pm

              Isn’t that why we have over built freeways and roads in a bunch of areas?

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          • Adam H. April 30, 2015 at 2:27 pm

            Where is your evidence to support your claim that Portland has a poor job market? Even if that were the case, South Waterfront is right next to the largest employer in the city (OHSU) whom is expanding even further.

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            • davemess April 30, 2015 at 3:34 pm

              This report is from 2010, and some articles have claimed that things have picked up since then. But you can see a decades long trend prior to that of above average unemployment, underpayment, and difficult job market.
              OHSU and others are expanding, hitting a very niche market of job hunters though.

              I know you haven’t lived in Portland long, but South waterfront was pretty much a ghost town for its first 5 years (with a LOT of empty units). It’s taken a while to pick up.

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            • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm
            • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
              Michael Andersen (News Editor) April 30, 2015 at 4:48 pm

              Portland’s economy is definitely above average.

              We currently rank 166th of 387 U.S. metro areas in unemployment. On GDP, we’ve been the fastest-growing in the country both since 2000 and since 2008, but I’m told that’s largely because a huge share of Intel and Nike revenues are assigned to the local area by the statisticians when they don’t necessarily translate into local jobs or income.

              We’re no Austin (nobody is Austin – 3.3 percent unemployment and growing like crazy) but we’re growing fast and we’re still finding jobs for most of the newcomers who want them, at least for now.

              We have lots of food stamp users because it’s relatively easy to get and spend food stamps here and the benefits are better than elsewhere. Different issue.

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              • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 9:57 pm

                If you had a good job market you would have very few on food stamps – it is THE issue discussed in the post above.

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              • Randall S. May 1, 2015 at 12:58 pm

                Not, not really. You can both have a job and still be on food stamps.

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              • gutterbunnybikes May 2, 2015 at 8:13 am

                Many large retailers and chain (and likely some not chain) restaurants rely on public assistance to keep their payrolls low. Some of these companies actually assist and coach their employees through the process.

                In many ways the public assistance system is a corporate subsidy for these industries.

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              • davemess May 1, 2015 at 7:16 am

                Growing fast and being a good economy are not the same thing though. It depends where you start growing from.

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              • Alex Reed May 1, 2015 at 1:16 pm

                Michael, although I’m not on board with the doom-and-gloom story of the business lobbyists, I don’t think the Portland area’s economy is one of our selling points.
                Unemployment: Somewhat below average during recoveries, way above average during recessions (we are export dependent and exports fall sharply during recessions).
                Wages: Somewhat above average nationally, slightly below average for major metro areas.
                Cost of living: Above average for major metro areas, primarily driven by housing costs. Considerably above average for the country as a whole.

                This adds up to a place with an OK-to-good job market (except during recessions) but a housing market that is priced out of proportion to our incomes. I think our quality of life is one big reason why people stay, but if housing prices continue to increase at the current rate without large wage increases to match, the Portland area will start to be less attractive to a good chunk of folks.


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              • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
                Michael Andersen (News Editor) May 1, 2015 at 4:08 pm

                Good points, Dave and Alex.

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              • Mindful Cyclist May 6, 2015 at 12:04 pm

                A little late to add this, Michael, but the part about food stamps (or SNAP benefits) is inaccurate. It is a federal program and the max benefits are the same everywhere. Even Oregon is below the national average:

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        • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 3:29 pm

          And one other thing about that lawsuit filed against the builder by your HOA – that lawsuit will make it almost impossible to sell your place until the lawsuit is settled and that usually takes about 2 years, maybe longer. Lenders don’t want to lend if there’s a lawsuit pending.

          AND the lawyers will inform all owners that they can opt out of the lawsuit, but they will still have to pay increased HOA dues if that is the final result. It just gets better and better.

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      • jeff April 30, 2015 at 10:40 am

        sounds like owning just about any home, anywhere.

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        • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 12:44 pm

          Homes are available that aren’t in HOAs. An HOA that only provides lawn service might be OK, but do not ever get involved in one that covers maintenance of your building. If you do, you will regret it. One exception being if you have unlimited funds; then it doesn’t matter if a 3rd party determines your monthly housing costs.

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      • Yoyossarian April 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

        Yeah, and a tree could fall on your house, a car could crash into it, you could do a remodel and the city could find something is not to code and make you fix it. Unexpected expenses are the norm for any type of home ownership. If you own a condo (I have for 4 years) it’s your responsibility to attend HOA meetings and make sure it’s being run properly, and most importantly that it has plenty of money in reserves. Sounds like you didn’t do your research beforehand, or were not involved in your HOA. An HOA isn’t a dictatorship, it’s an elected board representing homeowners.

        There’s not enough affordable single family homes in close-in neighborhoods. Condos are one way for someone to start building equity in a home, and maybe someday if it appreciates sell it in order to make a down payment on a larger condo or single family residence. You’re also forgetting that renters have insane instability in their monthly payments because a landlord can raise the rent to whatever they want. My HOA fees may go up, but in 4 years not more than 40 bucks total. I don’t know any renters that lucky.

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        • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 9:56 pm

          Even the HOA board has little control over costs – inspections for construction defects are typically required periodically by the CC&Rs and/or by state statute. Once those defects are discovered, and they always are, then the board must investigate how extensive they are, and must determine how to remedy the problem. Badabada Bing – you now have lawyers involved and it is out of control. Like I said before, I believe this problem is a criminal fraud and it’s embedded in the state law. Contractors and law firms, as well as the county permit office stand to make big $$ in this process – I’m sure they are lobbying the legislature to have laws written to perpetuate the criminal fraud and thus ensuring work for the future. The home owners will get to pick up the tab for costs not covered in the lawsuit BECAUSE they cannot sue for legal costs (and if that isn’t a crime I don’t know what is). Like I said before, bad experience makes for good judgment. Stay AWAY from HOAs.

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        • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 10:53 pm

          I forgot to say – if a tree falls on your house you will probably be covered by your homeowners insurance, except for the deductible, and some miscellaneous other costs like maybe your broken furnsishings, etc……

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      • Tait April 30, 2015 at 9:19 pm

        I wouldn’t say “don’t ever…” Just be aware of potential issues. A friend of mine has a condo on 0.2 acres (just for their half, i.e. actually has a usable yard). The joint wall is insulated and double-framed, and adjoins the stairway on both sides. There’s almost no noise transfer. There’s no HOA, so the only worry is splitting costs for joint projects (like replacing the roof) with the neighbors. And their neighbors are friendly and easy to get along with, so it’s all worked out splendidly.

        About half a mile away from them is a new single-family housing development. The issues you referred to with construction defects have plagued all of those houses, and they’ve had to completely replace all the siding not five years after they were constructed. I heard there were lawsuits involved in that, too, but since it’s individual owners each family has to pay for their own lawyer and file their own case. It sounds every bit as bad as your experience was.

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        • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 11:04 pm

          The neighborhood you mentioned that had to have the siding replaced is a good example of why NOT to be in an HOA. Since they were not in an HOA, an owner could elect to do nothing if they did not have the money right now for the repairs. OR if they have the skills, they could do the repairs themselves, saving thousands of dollars. If they had been in an HOA, they would have been involved in a lawsuit whether they wanted to be or not, and they would have to pay for a lot of inspection, lawyers, etc whether they wanted to pay or not; and then, they would have to live with whatever the HOA board determined their dues would be if the lawsuit did not cover all their expenses – and since the law firm takes over 1/3 of any settlement, the lawsuit NEVER covers all the expenses. And all that inspection, and the legal process usually takes 2 to 3 years. It’s the biggest crock of crap you can imagine.

          An individual owner can, if they have the money, hire someone to do the work, and be finished with the whole thing in short order AND they will have spent no more than they would have spent for lawyers if they had gone to court.

          HOA is a lose/lose. Take control of your costs – don’t allow others to have a say what your expenses will be each month.

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      • Paul May 1, 2015 at 12:05 pm

        Well it’s too bad a lot of condo buildings are built poorly and out of thin wood. Newer high rises downtown are good as far as noise goes since the floors are concrete and they have better double walls between units. I never had a noise issue there, and the places I lived while in Europe are all built from concrete and brick blocks which made them really solid and quiet. The older buildings where I lived typically had high (maybe around 10′) ceilings and the walls were thick and solid. Wish our buildings were build like those old European ones.

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      • Oregon Mamacita May 4, 2015 at 2:12 pm

        Owners of units in several big condo towers downtown have been unable to sell their units for years due to lawsuits concerning construction defects (because the bank won’t loan money to buy a condo in a building with a big lawsuit pending). See this article:

        The local condo market will prob. soften when those units can finally be sold.

        HOA and shared walls create lots and lots of legal hassles.

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  • TJ April 29, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Best cheap neighborhood for cycling enthusiast: St. Johns/UP. I’d argue commuters too if you can ride tempo down dirty 30 or enjoy life down Willamette. With the lingering hope of improved mtb access in Forest Park, along with the already great access to the hills, PIR, and Sauvie, plus decent enough to Marine drive toward the gorge, St. Johns is zoom zoom and slow cruise to a park heaven.

    When we were house shopping we determine St. Johns beat FoPo not on distance, but on speed and/or stress depending on your poison and comfort level.

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    • Joe Adamski April 29, 2015 at 9:22 pm


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      • Andyc of Linnton April 29, 2015 at 10:22 pm

        Double Shh!

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        • gabe April 30, 2015 at 8:25 am

          Yeah c’mon you’re blowing our cover here!

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    • Chris I April 30, 2015 at 7:52 am

      I don’t think that many commuters looking to ride downtown for work are going to “ride tempo down dirty 30”. St. John’s might be good for recreational cycling, but it might as well be in Washington State if you are looking at riding downtown on a daily basis.

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      • gabe April 30, 2015 at 8:28 am

        Chris is spot on, the 7 mile ride from St johns to downtown is arduous and full of peril, I know because I ride it daily. Look for a home in Southeast.

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    • Adam H. April 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      St. Johns is great if you never want to leave St. Johns. Otherwise, it’s far from the rest of the city and lacks MAX service.

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  • Tyler April 29, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    Many of the home prices listed in the WW article are erroneous. There is no real data source in the tables so it is not completely clear where they came from. Most of the SE neighborhoods mentioned are in the ballpark of what is identified but there is wide variation in North Portland and NE neighborhoods. St. Johns is off by more than $100k, Kenton is high by $50k, and Woodlawn is high by $95k. That is just by checking a few of these with recent transaction data.

    The assumptions about affordability at $50,000 are also a little optimistic to afford a $315,000 house. Sure, if you had $63,000 to put 20% down you would be making $1,200 mortgage payments which is about 30% of total household income at $50,000 per year. Once you account for insurance, utilities and mortgage insurance (if you do not have $63,000 for down payment) you are well above 30% of your income. I would hire a different financial adviser.

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    • Sigma April 29, 2015 at 5:42 pm

      WW’s Style section intern’s boyfriend just bought a house in CK. That’s how they know it’s legit.

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    • davemess April 29, 2015 at 6:43 pm

      Yeah, I think their estimates are often questionable in a lot of these types of articles. The old adage of “you can afford your salary times 4” doesn’t seem to apply to a lot of people any more?
      A $315K house on $50K/ year seems crazy to me. But I guess I’m a little more conservative with my money and want to still live life rather than just be paying for my home.

      Should also point out how fluctuating Portland property taxes have been lately. Some properties in these specific areas have seen some cray increases in just a single year.

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      • woogie April 30, 2015 at 7:27 am

        That’s what caused a lot of the problems in the last crash. Readily available funds even if you didn’t have the income to back it up.

        I got pre-approved on a mortgage and was wondering, once I took that monthly payment, and all the taxes and fees, how exactly I was supposed to do simple things like buy food and pay the utilities, and put some money away for retirement.

        Went with what I was comfortable with, which was half the amount of the approval.

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        • davemess April 30, 2015 at 12:16 pm

          I was surprised four years ago when the mortgage company agree to my loan for $116K, even though I was only making $27K/year at the time.
          (It wasn’t a big deal for us as we had a second income with my wife but were just getting the house in my name).

          Just seems like they’re making a lot of the same mistakes as last decade (even though the loan/mortgage market has tightened up quite a bit).

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    • Spiffy April 30, 2015 at 11:47 am

      my gf just bought a house near me in FoPo and the price in the article is spot on for what houses in the area are selling for…

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    • Paul Swanson April 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      We wanted to move closer in from East Portland, but did not find the housing costs fit out budget. I earn +75K but $300K would still be stretching things. We found a new townhouse in Oregon City for $210K (1770 sq.ft.) with HOA fees on $25/mo. I don’t bike commute every day now (18.5 mi. one way), but love the neighborhood. We’ve been there a year now, and in that time there were 2 murders within two blocks of my old home in East Portland.

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  • ethan April 29, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    I like my neighborhood (Woodlawn), but I wish there were better bike connections to the Lloyd district and points south. And I wish my bike wasn’t stolen 🙁

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  • Buzz April 29, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Michael –

    (1) Based on the crappily designed and constructed apartments developers are throwing up like crazy on inner southeast arterials, I hope the city never removes the ban on multifamily housing in the neighborhoods themselves. That will just result in further demolitions of structurally sound vintage one family homes.

    (2) The housing bubble is baaaack! (IMO, it never really went away…)

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    • Doug Klotz April 30, 2015 at 1:28 am

      Are you saying these buildings are constructed worse than new single-family homes? Or that anything new is badly constructed? My experience is that houses built before building codes are often constructed worse than today’s buildings, SF or Multifamily. At least in modern building all the studs are there and connected correctly to plates and joists. Plus, they have headers over the window openings!

      Perhaps you missed the point about the multi-family ban in most of Portland. It’s driving up the price of housing. Okay if you already own, but sucks for anyone trying to rent.

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      • gutterbunnybikes April 30, 2015 at 8:59 am

        Like most institutionalized processes the building codes are doing as much harm as good anymore. There have been significant “improvements” in the building of single family homes which are stronger, more efficient, and in some cases literally cheap as dirt, that put balloon framed buildings to shame.

        As an example, take the Earthship concept, extremely cheap to build rammed earth nearly 100% recycled materials, partially bermed buildings (earthquake proof and extremely well insulated) that collect and treat their own rain water (in the SW deserts no less) are not to code. They are often coupled with a solar panel system and indoor year round veggie garden, these structures make a house that is nearly 100% self sufficient.

        So yes there does need to be some set of standards and best practices when constructing buildings for the safety of the public and it occupants but the system is now so rigid that there is little room for any real chance. In my above example, it is against code to live off the grid – even though today, the technology and techniques are simple and proven.

        BTW- working in commercial construction – you’d be amazed of things I’ve seen in commercial buildings after code that weren’t there – but someone bought off. Perhaps the worse I’ve seen was on a remodel where upon checking existing connections, we found multiple girders not bolted or welded to the columns they sat upon. (for those that don’t know, the girts are the beams which the entire roof structure rests upon.)

        In fact I hate remodels (and most commercial in PDX is post codes), because plans and fabricated parts are based, ordered and built on the original blueprints, which seldom reflect what is actually there which results in a slow process where you must consult the engineers constantly.

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        • Black Butte Porter May 1, 2015 at 11:14 am

          Agree 100% with your assessment. I suspect that a big part of the problem is that the builders and developers are pushing to get what they want in the codes that will make their businesses more profitable. An even larger reason for many of the code provisions is so the county permitting office can bilk the builder out of more money – in this area I think building permits are running around $30,000 which is insane. BUT gotta pay for those big, fat, full-salary goobermint pensions after a person slaves away twiddling their thumbs for 20 years surfing the web, molesting their interns, killing citizens for no good reason, etc, etc, etc. Keep voting for ’em folks and then wonder why nothing ever changes. Just keep whining about lack of cheap housing, but vote for the same tax and spend idiots decade after decade.

          Oregonians had an opportunity in the 2008 election, via ballot measure 63, to allow people to build things like a barn with no permit. And dumbass Oregonians voted against it. Millions of barns have been built in this country with no permits and which never had any problems.

          It failed 54 to 46:


          I guess we get what we deserve.

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          • gutterbunnybikes May 2, 2015 at 8:50 am

            I’m not so quick to blame the government on this issue. LIke most everything it comes down to the banks.

            The banks won’t go for it, because of the ramifications to other industries they need to protect to secure their own interests. Building and material industries would suffer, as would many agricultural industries, which would also affect heavy transport, chemical and oil companies.

            The implications of a cheap extremely durable building a house on 1/10 of an acre that basically supplies nearly all your families needs would be a huge blow our consumerist based monetary system that is based entirely on debt.

            The GNP isn’t a measurement about how much is actually produced, it based on how much debt is incurred by a population. Sure the government is part of the protection of the system, as are insurance companies, but really the idea that pension funds (pretty small potatoes when compared to the rest of the money at stake) I feel is a little short sighted.

            The government is part of the equation, as are insurance companies and the utility companies. It doesn’t really take much of an imagination to see how truly sustainable buildings would create a Tsunami across the entire spectrum of our current way of life.

            I could go on forever, but I’ll refrain.

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      • Buzz April 30, 2015 at 10:05 am

        The part that irritates me the most about the new apartments is their architectural ugliness and their lack of proportion to the rest of the older buildings that surround them. I have no doubt that they are probably seismically safer than older structures, but on the other hand have been constructed to some greater or lesser degree of inexpensive materials that won’t hold up over time.

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        • Chris
          Chris April 30, 2015 at 11:13 am

          I think people would be more welcoming to multi-family housing if it were designed better and fit in with what’s around it. Who wants to look out at one of those ugly buildings that went up on Division? They look like they were designed by first-year architects.

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          • Chris I April 30, 2015 at 12:41 pm

            That’s funny. I feel the same way about ranch-style houses. At least the apartments on Division are helping to depress housing prices, though.

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            • Chris
              Chris April 30, 2015 at 4:06 pm

              It is actually possible to build high-density apartment buildings that are not ugly. There are plenty of examples all over Portland.

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    • Chris I April 30, 2015 at 7:53 am

      You realize that items 1 and 2 are related, right?

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    • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 12:48 pm

      In the western Portland suburbs, thousands of new apartments, townhouses, and condos, are being added – many not far from MAX. BUT the big westside semiconductor construction project is winding down – I’m wondering who is going to fill these new places?

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  • rick April 29, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Why should apartments be allowed to be built near the numerous creeks in SW? That would make for a reduced tree canopy. On the other hand, tiny homes are the way to go.

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  • davemess April 29, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    “Your best bet for a true bargain? Brentwood-Darlington is an outside contender, with home prices sitting at around $213,000. Right now, it’s 81 minutes to downtown along the Springwater Corridor, but the new Orange MAX Line could be a game-changer if you don’t feel like making a long ride.”

    I don’t know a lot of people that will take the Springwater from B-D. 50s bikeway had been a huge advantage for BD (as will the Foster bike lanes).

    FWIW, I live pretty far in the northeast corner of B-D and I can still get downtown in 20-25 mins. I know I probably ride faster than the average commuter though.

    Scary thing is that just 1.5 years ago I remember seeing a map that B-D was the last neighborhood with average prices below $200k west of 82nd. Not true anymore.

    The price averages probably aren’t as far off as some might guess. (although I still think Woodstock is off. Very hard to find much under $300K there). But there are pretty slim pickings out there right now.,fsbo,fore_lt/mmm_pt/house_type/13373_rid/1-_baths/0-300000_price/0-1103_mp/90_days/days_sort/45.504693,-122.553306,45.467986,-122.643428_rect/13_zm/

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  • resopmok April 29, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    No mention of Mt Scott/Arleta, or do we get lumped in with Foster/Powell? We don’t have official greenways, but we get to link up with bike lanes on Flavel, Duke and Woodstock to the newish 52nd Ave bikeway.. Also, Fred Meyer at Foster 82nd, Grocery Outlet at Flavel and 72nd, the community center on 72nd, and the new Portland Mercado at 72nd/Foster make it quite a liveable neighborhood. Houses are still priced relatively low, to boot!

    Granted, it does take me a whopping 35 minutes to get into downtown.. I suppose ya’ll should just stay away.

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  • Black Butte Porter April 29, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    $315,000 in debt on a $50,000 income is laughable. Reminds me of what happened to produce the housing bubble and resulting collapse in 2008. This video will remind you of what caused that collapse. This dude is an effin’ genius – I think you’ll agree after a few minutes of watching:

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    • Chris I April 30, 2015 at 7:55 am

      If you have no vehicle costs (car-free family) I would say that is attainable. I would never consider anything over $300k on a $50k income otherwise, though. A few thousand a year in commuting costs would put you over the edge.

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  • Black Butte Porter April 29, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Note that the above video is of a speech given Nov 13, 2006 – before the crash of 2008.

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  • Spliff April 29, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Holy overpriced housing
    Rather take my quarter mill to Eugene

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  • GlowBoy April 29, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    “The other thing worth adding here is that the article doesn’t mention the existence of 42 percent of Portland’s households: people who live in attached housing units. It considers only single-family homes”

    I doubt that. In most cases, statements of median selling prices are of all homes that are sold as opposed to rented. Including townhouses, condos, etc. and not just single-family homes. It would be unusual if this realtor-supplied dataset included only single-family homes.

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  • Todd Boulanger April 29, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    And then there is (was) City Center Vancouver…when I used to survey bike commuters crossing the Interstate Bridge it was 50 / 50 Portlanders riding north for work and Vancouverites going south. We are seeing a lot more Portlanders looking up here after being priced out of the Kenton/ Woodlawn/ NoPo areas.

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    • davemess April 30, 2015 at 6:48 am

      The OR tax situation would be a no go for a lot of people thinking of moving to Vancouver.

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  • Eric April 29, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    I’ve been seeing quite a few electric bikes on Barbur. Going uphill at 12-16mph can take 15 minutes off of a 1hr round trip. How many $600 e-bike kits can you get vs adding $50k to a mortgage? (Answer: 4 per year.) Yes, you can charge it with solar power.

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  • JMak00 April 30, 2015 at 12:28 am

    Love this nonsense of a $300k home on a $50k salary. What fools to be encouraging folks to put themselves in hock like that. This is precisely why housing prices are going up and up and up here in PDX. The federal government, banks, writers all encouraging people to purchase homes.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu April 30, 2015 at 7:42 am

      $300K at 4% is $1,000/month, so call it $1,300/month including principal, insurance, and property tax. Preferable to renting, if you can qualify for the mortgage, which is not easy (just went through this for a refinance).

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      • soren April 30, 2015 at 12:47 pm

        $800 a month with a 20% down payment.

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      • Black Butte Porter April 30, 2015 at 11:21 pm

        Doubt it. How did you arrive at $1,000 per month for 300K at 4%?

        What would the property tax be in Portland on a 300K home?

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        • davemess May 1, 2015 at 7:22 am

          It depends where you live.

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        • John Liu
          John Liu May 1, 2015 at 11:23 am

          I did the numbers more carefully. $300,000 house. $60,000 or 20% down. Mortgage for $240,000 at 4% (it is lower than that at this moment). Monthly payment $1,160. Property tax varies, might be $300/mo.

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          • rain waters May 1, 2015 at 8:31 pm

            Over 250k debt service on 50k/yr means that house owns you lock stock and barrel. How soon we forget.

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            • soren May 2, 2015 at 5:18 pm

              strategic default on a home loan is a simple and relatively painless process. i personally know half a dozen of people who’ve done this and repaired their credit in ~3-6 years.

              and before we judge our flesh and blood “citizens” let’s remember how facile and risk free default by our corporates “citizens” is.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu April 30, 2015 at 6:47 am

    I think most Portland neighborhoods are “reasonably” bikeable to downtown, by which I mean a reasonably fit rider can get to downtown in 30 minutes via streets that have bike lanes or that don’t really need them.

    Proximity to downtown and bike-friendliness are big factors in the desirability of Portland neighborhoods. More desirable = higher price. So it is hardly surprising that the shorter the bike commute to downtown, the higher the price of a house (or condo, or apartment).

    The lament “why isn’t there plentiful inexpensive housing in desirable neighborhoods?” is unrealistic. If housing is in a desirable neighborhood, it isn’t inexpensive. That will not change unless developers/banks lose their heads and grossly grossly oversupply the market, or until the next deep long recession destroys demand.

    If you’re patient, those “opportunities” will come. In 2008-2010, buyers got great deals on houses/condos.

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    • bjcefola April 30, 2015 at 8:26 am

      I think blame for not building more housing in close-in neighborhoods belongs squarely on activists opposed to building more housing in close-in neighborhoods. That isn’t developers.

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      • John Liu
        John Liu April 30, 2015 at 9:14 am

        I don’t see a shortage of property available for apartment development. For example, I ride down Sandy most days, by miles of under-used old commercial property ready for replacement. Plenty of suitable parcels in Hollywood too. The housing development in the Lloyd District we know about. East Burnside Bridgehead has big developments starting, ride east from there and there are many developable parcels on Burnside. That is just a handful of near NE neighborhoods. Multiply across the city.

        The issue isn’t a shortage of zoned land. The issue is that it takes years for new housing to be financed, permitted, built, and be ready for move-in.

        Housing permits (indicator of new housing construction) have recovered from a very deep, long trough in 2009-2012, and have zoomed up to a pace equal to the 2007 peak. Currently, mid-2015, running about 15,000/year. Figure it take 2 years from permit to move-in, so right now the new housing coming to market reflects the much lower permit pace of 2013. But supply will improve.

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        • soren April 30, 2015 at 1:15 pm

          so the landed gentry can continue to enjoy quiet residential oases while the renters can live on grimy, noisy, congested arterials. thanks, but not thanks.

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          • John Liu
            John Liu April 30, 2015 at 4:34 pm

            I think streets like the redeveloped Division, lined with multifamily buildings mixed with retail/dining, are very attractive. Hardly “grimy”. “Congested”, or “dense”? “Noisy”, or “lively”?

            Depends on how the development is done, and how the street is changed. Today’s NE Sandy isn’t so great, but a Sandy with bike lanes, good ped crossings, street trees, maybe even streetcar, would be nice.

            I also think the Pearl is very pleasant, and Lloyd District has the potential to be something like that.

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            • soren April 30, 2015 at 6:06 pm

              One of the reasons development of lower division was controversial is because it was not a grimy arterial flanked by commercial/industrial zones. There is a deficit of buildable space in the kinds of residential neighborhoods that people like me want to live in. This is why the 97214 etc has had a chronic shortage of apartments. And its also why those puke olive, dung brown, and/or beige apartment buildings can charge $900-1000/month for a one bedroom. If we don’t do something about our draconian zoning law those rents will be $2000/month sooner than you believe.

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        • bjcefola April 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm

          John, I agree there are many lots suitable for redevelopment both on Sandy and elsewhere. But the supply of buildable land is only one parameter in housing construction, transaction costs are another. Anti-housing activists have increased those costs in a variety of ways, among them formal code changes like parking minimums, enactment of historic districts such as Irvington, and informal policy changes such as Amanda Fritz’s unilateral decision to “raise the bar” for land use review.

          By making new housing more expensive we get less of it, as fewer projects pencil out. The loss of close-in affordable housing is a direct and predictable consequence.

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          • Chris
            Chris April 30, 2015 at 6:48 pm

            Do the recently built buildings on Division and elsewhere that have no parking have lower rents than those buildings that do?

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            • bjcefola May 1, 2015 at 8:19 am

              Here’s a quick perusal of rental housing available on inner Division:

              I don’t see a whole lot of difference with respect to age. Even more so, very little available!

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              • Chris
                Chris May 1, 2015 at 10:43 am

                My last word on this topic here, I’ll just say that the what you term “housing activists increasing costs” have not been terribly effective, at least in respect to minimum parking standards. It might even be that the reasons people in Richmond want parking with new developments are exactly as stated: people living in “car free” apartments aren’t, in fact, car free. Developers always claim they will have to raise rents if they can’t do everything they want. In fact, as we’ve seen here, they will raise rents in any case. It’s all about the $$.

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              • soren May 2, 2015 at 5:21 pm

                ” It might even be that the reasons people in Richmond want parking with new developments are exactly as stated: people living in “car free” apartments aren’t,”

                This is a city. No one is guaranteed free on-street parking.

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      • Chris
        Chris April 30, 2015 at 11:17 am

        I think the blame lies squarely on those that have chosen to build large buildings that have no contextual relationship to what’s around them. They’ve poisoned the well.

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        • soren April 30, 2015 at 12:56 pm

          do the the hundreds of puke olive, dung brown, and beige apartment buildings that dot the central SE have “contextual relationships” with painted ladies and twee bungalows?

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          • Chris
            Chris April 30, 2015 at 4:11 pm

            They are affordable, unlike the new buildings.

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          • Chris
            Chris April 30, 2015 at 4:13 pm

            At least they’re affordable.

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            • bjcefola April 30, 2015 at 5:05 pm

              Nothing is affordable if people are willing to pay more for it than you. People want to live in inner east Portland. They’re willing to pay for that privilege. If they’re not paying more for new construction they’ll just be paying more for old construction.

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  • davemess April 30, 2015 at 6:52 am

    Michael, the dig at Foster seemed petty and unnecessary. To say that the Foster project will do anything less than completely transform that road for cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and everyone is a bit disingenuous.

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    • hat April 30, 2015 at 8:52 am

      My recent and unwilling (injury) induction into a car has put me on Foster occasionally. To safely stop for pedestrians, 35mph was a stretch. I regularly saw people passing me at 40-45mph. Indeed, the plans for this street will lead to an unrecognizable place from its current state. While it has had some ridiculous concessions (e.g. at 52nd), Foster will be a fantastic place after 2016.

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    • Alex Reed April 30, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      I didn’t read it as a dig at the project as a whole. I thought it was just an attempt to counter the “we’re spending so much on bikes!” narrative with a little reality – the “bike” part of the Foster streetscape plan is really cheap, it’s the pedestrian improvements that are expensive.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) April 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      No question, Foster’s gonna be a way better street (and I suspect the rents/values along it will rise to match). But bikes definitely weren’t the top priority (not that they necessarily should have been), and “building” bike lanes for $5.5 million just isn’t an accurate description of the project.

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      • davemess May 1, 2015 at 7:24 am

        Seeing as it was an article about biking (and knowing about the project), I guess I didn’t read it the same way you did.

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  • Doug Rosser April 30, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I live and must give my vote to St Johns! Yes, it’s a long way to downtown and no, don’t ever take the dirty 30 into the city. Take N Willamette and enjoy one of the best views in the city. TWICE A DAY!

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  • paul g. April 30, 2015 at 8:54 am

    I don’t know where people are making their mortgage calculations, but a $240,000 loan (20% down) at 4% = $1500-$1600 in monthly payments including property tax.

    If your income qualifies you for an FHA loan you can get away with a lower downpayment ($60,000 is a pretty intimidating downpayment for someone with a $50,000 income), but then the monthly payment will be higher and you’ll be paying mortgage insurance. You currently get a lower rate (3.5%).

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    • jeff April 30, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      yep all of the above calculations a bit low.

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    • Mindful Cyclist May 1, 2015 at 10:43 am

      I saw that and was puzzled as well. I do not know how someone making 50,000 is not going to get a loan these days unless for $315,000 unless there is a considerable down payment. Maybe someone could get an ARM in 2006 for that, but not sure about now.

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      • AC May 1, 2015 at 3:08 pm

        Wasn’t a problem in 2006. Look how that worked out.

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  • AH April 30, 2015 at 9:21 am

    I saw some folks commenting under the WW piece that the mileage data is way off. ( ) I’d echo their comments as a bike commuter from Cully. I tried plotting some of the most NE-parts of my neighborhood, mapped to Big Pink, and still couldn’t come up with their 15.5 mile round trip figure.

    Michael, you said this story was in your “wish we had done this” category? I wish you still would! Would be great to have someone vet the data. (Doesn’t seem impossible that WW would use data that would support a more dramatic angle/frame for their story…)

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    • davemess April 30, 2015 at 12:21 pm

      No joke. There has to be someone on this site that lives in almost every neighborhood. They could crowd source the bike info pretty easily.

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  • CT April 30, 2015 at 9:57 am

    Some odd groupings skew WW’s data. Overlook and Humboldt are, in fact, great places to live if you want to bike downtown. Combined, median price might be $321k as WW reports, but one (Overlook) is much more expensive than the other. Portland Monthly’s annual neighborhood roundup ( puts their median prices at Overlook: $355k, Kenton: $270k.

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  • Justin Gast May 1, 2015 at 12:04 pm

    Adam H.
    St. Johns is great if you never want to leave St. Johns. Otherwise, it’s far from the rest of the city and lacks MAX service.
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    Adam, I don;t imagine you visit North Portland much do you? Far from the rest of the city, huh?

    I live about The Cut of St. John’s/Portsmouth and I can get to downtown in 30 minutes. So, Foster-Powell, which appears to be 33 minutes one way, is soooooo much better than my neck of the woods, which is “so far out there”?

    I’ve stated it before here and I’ll state it again, the best quadrant in this city for bikers is North Portland. Bike lanes on Interstate, Williams, Vancouver, Willamette/Rosa Parks, eventually Willis, etc. Sharrows for days. Plus, no one else gets the view of the city like those of us biking west to east on Willamette.

    Oh, the 75, 4 or 44 can have you to the MAX in about 10 minutes.

    So, for an area that is “so far out there” it sure seems to be conveniently located to many things, including getting to downtown easily.

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    • davemess May 1, 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Problem is you’re comparing apples (your actual commute time) to oranges (the times listed in the article). The listed times for your two North neighborhoods are 49 and 51 minutes each way. This is definitely more (by a good bit than 33 minutes).
      So like you there are certainly people who live in almost all of these neighborhoods who have much faster commute times (as I mentioned about I can get into downtown in less than 25 minutes (living on the far side of the neighborhood), but the article has my neighborhood listed at over 40 minutes).

      But i do agree, I don’t think there are many neighborhoods in Portland that are really THAT far from downtown.

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  • Justin Gast May 1, 2015 at 1:30 pm

    Problem is you’re comparing apples (your actual commute time) to oranges (the times listed in the article). The listed times for your two North neighborhoods are 49 and 51 minutes each way. This is definitely more (by a good bit than 33 minutes).
    So like you there are certainly people who live in almost all of these neighborhoods who have much faster commute times (as I mentioned about I can get into downtown in less than 25 minutes (living on the far side of the neighborhood), but the article has my neighborhood listed at over 40 minutes).
    But i do agree, I don’t think there are many neighborhoods in Portland that are really THAT far from downtown.
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    I totally agree. Anyone within the city center area can bike almost anywhere in a decent amount of time (maybe outside of NE east of 33rd or 42nd).

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  • oregon111 July 3, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    if you build more apartments, the rent will just go up…

    kind of like saying – if you build more freeway lanes, congestion will get worse

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    • Pete July 4, 2015 at 8:29 am

      Go tell the people of Boston that the Big Dig made their traffic problems disappear and see if they believe you.

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  • Linda May 4, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Winco will be opening in the next couple of months at se 82nd & Powell!

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