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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.

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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 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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Kristin
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Kristin

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.

Charley Gee
Guest

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).

Adam H.
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Adam H.

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

Champs
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Champs

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.

maccoinnich
Guest

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

TJ
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TJ

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.

Tyler
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Tyler

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.

ethan
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ethan

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 🙁

Buzz
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Buzz

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…)

rick
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rick

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.

davemess
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davemess

“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. http://www.zillow.com/homes/for_sale/Portland-OR/fsba,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/

resopmok
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resopmok

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.

Black Butte Porter
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Black Butte Porter

$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:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj8rMwdQf6k

Black Butte Porter
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Black Butte Porter

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

Spliff
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Spliff

Holy overpriced housing
Rather take my quarter mill to Eugene

GlowBoy
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GlowBoy

“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.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

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.

Eric
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Eric

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.

JMak00
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JMak00

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.

John Liu
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John Liu

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.

davemess
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davemess

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.

Doug Rosser
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Doug Rosser

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!

paul g.
Guest
paul g.

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%).

AH
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AH

I saw some folks commenting under the WW piece that the mileage data is way off. (http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-24625-portlands_last_affordable_bike_neighborhoods.html#comment-1994585243 ) 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…)

CT
Guest
CT

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 (http://www.portlandmonthlymag.com/real-estate-2015) puts their median prices at Overlook: $355k, Kenton: $270k.

Justin Gast
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Justin Gast

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.
Recommended 0

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.

Justin Gast
Guest
Justin Gast

davemess
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.
Recommended 1

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).

oregon111
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oregon111

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

Linda
Guest
Linda

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