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Guest Post: How to build a neighborhood with character(s)

Posted by on June 1st, 2016 at 10:51 am

Fall leaves on SE Ankeny-7

An illegal neighborhood in southeast Portland.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

This post is written by Neil Heller, a Portland-based planning consultant.

I recently visited a shop to get a new bike. I was shown two options: a gorgeous, yet expensive, custom-built single-speed cruiser and a massive cargo bike with all sorts of gleaming add-ons including an electric assist.

I like both of these bikes but they don’t quite fit my riding style — short commutes but also a bit of recreational road cycling on the weekends. I asked about a more versatile bike, one in between the two I was being shown, but was told road bikes are illegal.

Certainly I had seen some road bikes being ridden on my way over? These types are all an older style, I was informed, and can only be purchased used. No new road bikes are being built right now. Sorry.

By now it’s likely that you already see the metaphor and realize I never visited such a shop. I think this metaphor for housing choice is a good one because it highlights how laughable having such limited options can be.

Many of Portland’s most-loved neighborhoods are awash in beautiful single-family homes and wildlife-habitat-certified landscapes. Having leafy streets lined with front porches and landscaped yards so close to the Central City is a lovely pattern that defines Portland character, one not found in many other large cities on the West Coast. It is rare to find a city where one can find so many of these in such a setting a mere three miles from a downtown.

Post-recession, and in response to changing market preferences for denser urban living, another prominent type of housing being built in popular neighborhoods is the four-to-six-story mixed-use, mid-rise apartment building. Some of these have received criticisms of being “out of character,” or even worse, “soulless.” But much like the cargo bike, these types have a lot of capacity and go a long way to capture much of the population growth we are currently experiencing. For some of us, they’re the right answer.

In the current market we are mostly seeing these two products being built: single-family homes and the mid-rise apartment buildings found along our neighborhood corridors and centers. These options tend to cater to only one or two life phases. These products have their place, but what if you cannot afford the custom-built single speed and the high-capacity cargo bike doesn’t fit your lifestyle? What other options do you have?

The missing middle housing types: Already next door, but illegal to build

Sunnyside Missing Middle_v3

Examples of missing-middle housing, already found in Sunnyside.
(Photos and inventory: Neil Heller)

What if the available options covered a wide spectrum of housing choice with enough variety to meet a range of differing lifestyles and incomes? One term aptly describes these options as the ‘Missing Middle.’ The term is a straightforward description: the ‘Middle’ portion of the term represents the unit types found between single family and mid-rise apartments, where the ‘Missing’ describes the housing trends of recent history where these types of housing option have been largely ignored or prohibited by municipal regulations.

The following list describes the range of Missing Middle unit types that can be found around the city with the highest concentration of these types found in the Inner Southeast neighborhoods of Buckman and Sunnyside. The fee structure for these types can be for rent, for sale, or as collective ownership. The associated visual inventory are ones found in my neighborhood:

  • Carriage House (ADU)
  • Duplex (side-by-side/stacked)
  • Triplex
  • Fourplex
  • Mansion Apartment
  • Townhouse
  • Bungalow Court (attached)
  • Cottage Court (detached)
  • Apartment building (small/large)

Reintroducing these housing types to our city offers a response to the most salient of current housing concerns — flexibility, affordability, compatibility, and local investment. Fortunately Missing Middle allows a softer approach toward new development that some have called “invisible density.” Regardless of what clever phrase is used, the idea is to improve neighborhoods while still providing common-sense solutions that meet the needs of everyday Portlanders. In other words, providing neighborhood character for our neighborhood characters.

Portlanders’ stated priority: Housing affordability

1408 se 22nd ave 7 apartments in mansion built 1904

1408 SE 22nd Ave: one building, seven apartments. Built 1904.

Responses from the Portland’s Residential Infill Project survey indicate that affordability is the key concern among respondents. This is currently a topic of immense concern and Missing Middle contributes to the solution by increasing choice and thereby flexibility — flexibility that allows workable solutions for a variety of housing needs and situations over time and, ideally, in place.

Being modest in scale, wood frame construction methods allow Missing Middle to be built less expensively. These costs do increase slightly when buildings reach greater than four units due to safety requirements of the building code but still far less than a concrete and steel mid-rise. Additionally, costs to the end users are split across the number of households on the lot versus one family bearing the full expense.

Adding supply without sacrificing compatibility

2250 ne flanders garden condos built 1930

2250 NE Flanders: garden apartments, now condominiums. Built 1930.

Our existing Missing Middle types go a long way in defining the perception of current neighborhood character. Without these housing types, our most loved neighborhoods would appear overly homogenous — and the people who live there would be more homogenous, too.

New Missing Middle housing offers compatibility by the ability to honor our architectural legacy, which reflects our values, cultural expressions, and response to local climate. This range of options allows for new units being built to also respond to existing context through massing and architectural detailing. For example, a cute fourplex can have similar height, width, and details of a large single-family Portland Foursquare, making a welcomed neighbor.

The best developers are local small-scale developers

Missing Middle housing types are most likely to be executed by local, small scale developers. Certainly, the desire for a local developer depends on local capacity, which Portland has no shortage of. Local capacity also includes municipal policies that remove obstacles for small-scale developers.

In terms of finance, a project generally needs to be at least $25M to garner interest from large institutional equity investors. Capital investment for Missing Middle is much more modest and likely to come from local folks who take interest based on factors deemed important by the community such as the long-term health of a place or ability to address specific needs because they are also members of that community.

Along these same lines, a large out-of-town development firm probably has profit margins, operational standards, and lot size requirements that Missing Middle housing types do not meet.

Finally, smaller projects equal less risk but require more time and attention to execute these projects well. A local, small scale developer is likely to have relationships with local trades and the ability to provide the time and care necessary to, ideally, ensure a higher quality product. Having local knowledge of the area also allows them to find the lot types suitable for Missing Middle housing developments.

The way forward: A home for every household type

MMH-diagram-w-lables-for-featured-image2-1100x350

(Image: Daniel Parolek, Opticos Design)

As we update our citywide comprehensive plan and look into our crystal ball to the near and far future, Missing Middle as a strategy will become increasingly crucial to filling a variety of housing demands, particularly as our definitions of household continue to change, a huge portion of our population continues to age, and job duties become increasingly fluid. This strategy also aids in attaining a livable density that strongly supports neighborhood retail, transit ridership, and general daily activities that enliven public spaces.

Point being: the range of bicycle options are almost infinite. Our housing options are not. We should change this.

Neil Heller holds an advanced degree in urban planning and has worked for many years as a planning/urban design consultant. He’s currently looking for work in the Portland region.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

186 Comments
  • RH June 1, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    Has anyone actually crunched the numbers as to what a new construction duplex or townhome would go for in an inner Portland walkable neighborhood and does it make sense for the average Portland household income?

    I did a quick look and they start at $700K…Yes, that is a bit cheaper than a new single family home on the same lot, but it’s still a crazy amount of money. Some of the nicer new townhomes are $1 mil+

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    • soren June 1, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      many plexes are 4-8 plexes. I live in a 5 plex and there is a 7 plex next door.

      I did a quick look and they start at $700K…Yes, that is a bit cheaper than a new single family home on the same lot

      most people in central neighbors rent and many have no desire to own (e.g. rent from a bank).

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      • Mark S June 1, 2016 at 3:54 pm

        When your landlord decides to double your rent, forcing you to move because you can no longer afford to live there, you will be wishing you owned your housing unit & not dependent on someone else controlling your destiny.

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        • soren June 2, 2016 at 8:53 am

          “you will be wishing you owned your housing unit & not dependent on someone else controlling your destiny.”

          mark s, perhaps you won the housing jackpot but thousands in portland were foreclosed on or short-saled and many others are still underwater. maybe, just maybe, it’s not always a good time to loan a home. and speaking for myself, i prefer housing that does not require leveraged speculation with a bank (that often directly or indirectly benefits wall street). given that home ownership rates have been plummeting in the usa, perhaps i’m not the only person who thinks that “loanership” is not a panacea.
          https://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?g=4kjD

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          • Matt S. June 2, 2016 at 10:11 am

            I pay 1150 a month-to-month basis (includes all util and internet) 2 bd, 1 bth, pretty small, onsite parking garage. Hotel style. We’d like to purchase a house, but we feel the market is in a bubble and we’re going to try and wait it out. We’re also thinking about moving to another state for different/better opportunity. Portland will always be our home (born and raised in OR) and we’ll move back, but right now the market is in hysteria.

            We both agree and are pleased that we’re not tethered to house debt, we’re free to pursue opportunity outside of Portland or if we want to stay, we can bail on the apt anytime because of the month-to-month status.

            I feel like we’re completely in control of our destiny and we don’t have to pay for it.

            All the extra that we’re not dumping into a house is going into a Roth IRA and savings. We estimate compared to what our friends are paying on mortgages that we’re saving almost 1400 dollars a month on top of rent! We’ve lived at our apt for 2 years now at current rate…

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            • Peter June 2, 2016 at 12:32 pm

              We bought a single-family home maybe 4 years ago, with a mortgage of $1,050 and currently renting it out for $2,000 due to taking a job out of state. Thing is, if you’re able to buy then your “rent” never goes up. This is really advantageous when one gets old and you’re on a fixed income, living on Social Security, etc.

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              • Matt S. June 2, 2016 at 4:03 pm

                Right, but currently, I do not think you can obtain a mortgage payment at that price point within the inner city (unless you have sig. down payment), which is the region of the metro area that seems to dominate these conversations. Possibly, outside 82nd. And I know definitely not where I currently rent: 21st and Weilder. Friends of mine just bought over by PCC Cascade, literally just around the corner from the campus—450K for 3 bed 2 bath, it is really nice though.

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              • soren June 3, 2016 at 10:34 am

                according to the census, the average tenure of a home “owner” in my neighborhood is ~7 years (and the duration would be less for “loaners”).

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              • Matt S. June 6, 2016 at 11:45 pm

                Question: can you build a community in 7 years? Or does it take less than a year? It varies and I have no idea.

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              • 9watts June 7, 2016 at 6:42 am

                I guess it depends on your definition of community but in my opinion a community can arise if people stay put. Moving every seven years is anathema to staying put.

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              • El Biciclero June 7, 2016 at 9:18 am

                “…if you’re able to buy then your “rent” never goes up.”

                Well, your “rent” to the government (property taxes) will certainly go up. You can own a home completely paid off mortgage-wise for 20 years, and lose it to a tax lien if you don’t pay the $300/mo. in property taxes.

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              • El Biciclero June 7, 2016 at 9:19 am

                –Or if you fall for one of those ARM mortgages…

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      • jeff June 2, 2016 at 1:34 pm

        rent from a bank who will never change your “rent” amount for the 20-30 years you are in it. good luck finding that deal elsewhere.

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        • Mark S June 3, 2016 at 9:04 am

          Bingo! Plus you will own the property. What a deal.

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          • Matt S. June 3, 2016 at 10:58 am

            If you carry a mortgage for 30 years at 250K with a fixed 3.92%, 0 down, you’ll pay 250K in interest. That’s crazy!!! The idea is you pay that mortgage off in 10, but that’s the problem. You have to be able to make triple the payments which necessitates a good paying job for both partners. My generation is having a difficult time acquiring such positions. It’s not like it used to be, gramp…

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            • Matt S. June 3, 2016 at 11:00 am

              Excuse me, 175K in interest…

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. June 3, 2016 at 9:07 am

          Especially since anti-tax Oregonians voted back in the 90’s to restrict property tax increases; cutting off funding for education and infrastructure.

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          • q June 3, 2016 at 10:18 am

            That’s something to remember for people who bought their homes pre-property tax cap. Then, everyone paid taxes based on their assessed value. Now, new buyers do, but others pay just a percentage of that. So new buyers subsidize current homeowners. That alone makes it harder for new buyers.

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            • lop June 3, 2016 at 7:08 pm

              If a property increased in value fast since the 90s, then the effective property tax rate is low. If it increased in value more slowly, or a reset on the assessed value was triggered, then the effective tax rate is higher. Significant enough construction/rehab of existing structures or demoing a house and building three smaller ones will reset the assessment, sale of a property does not. A long time homeowner in an old house in east portland can pay a higher tax rate than a transplant who bought an old house in inner portland a month ago.

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              • q June 6, 2016 at 4:39 pm

                lop–it looks like you’re right–the sales themselves won’t create an increased tax bill. I do know of several where the tax bill did go up a lot for the new buyers, but it must have been due to the assessor seeing the property and finding improvements they hadn’t been aware had been done, or at least something other than just the sale itself. Thank you for helping me learn something.

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          • jeff June 3, 2016 at 11:44 am

            yeah, that whole darn majority and stuff. stupid democracy.
            what do you know about it, kiddo? you moved here 2 years ago.

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      • chris June 3, 2016 at 6:30 pm

        You know, when you “rent from the bank”, you are going to get a whole lot more than a security deposit back when you decide to move on. And I sure don’t miss living below the bartender who got home at 3am stomping around in her heels on the hardwood floors. I’m glad my wife convinced me to buy a house 11 years ago, it’s nice to know i can do whatever i want to without fear of eviction because someone on the other side of a 4 inch thick wall complains about me. Play my drumset whenever the mood hits me? sure. Tear out the lawn and start a garden? sure. ect. ect. ect…
        I guess it all depends on how smart you are with your money. I’ve been working since I was 15 and saving whatever I can, wear my clothes until they fall apart, ride a $100 1988 Rockhopper, not a $4000 Vanilla bike.

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        • eddie June 3, 2016 at 9:31 pm

          thumbs up on the rock hopper. It’s a good metaphor for simple but adequate and smart living. Inexpensive but practical and durable. I like that.

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        • soren June 3, 2016 at 11:25 pm

          your assumption that people who rent are financially deficient and incapable of saving comes across as insecurity and/or buyers remorse.

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          • chris June 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm

            insecurity and buyers remorse? you have quite an imagination. how many more examples of how HAPPY i am about owning a house do i need to list? what smart person who has no plans on moving any time soon wouldn’t like to own a house? what part of the fact that you will get back at least some of the money you have paid into the house, if not more, does not make sense to you? your assumption that i am insecure(?) and remorseful comes across as jealousy and spitefulness. i think you might be the insecure one.

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          • q June 5, 2016 at 1:17 pm

            It may come across that way to you, but not to me, and I doubt to many people. Your interpretation –especially the “buyers remorse” idea–comes across to me as bizarre.

            In fact, I don’t even see in anything he wrote that he assumes either of those things anyway.

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            • soren June 6, 2016 at 12:48 pm

              people who purchase a loan often work very hard to convince themselves that doing so is the fiscally prudent thing to do. when someone challenges this mythology, all sense of humor vanishes.

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              • chris June 6, 2016 at 6:43 pm

                if you don’t want to own a home, fine, don’t buy one. no need to insult people who have. i’m not telling you how to live your life, what gives you the right to tell me how to live mine? maybe you’re single and don’t need that much space? is that why you’re so bitter? you need a hug? or decades worth of hugs?

                what’s not fiscally prudent about moving from a $500 a month mildew/moldy basement studio (that could go up at any time) to a (locked in) $700 a month 3 bedroom house plus 2 car garage/workshop/potential ADU? i know it’s popular in portland to extend adolescence to age 50 but i can’t live like a college student forever. and one more time in simple words since it’s not sinking in with you, me make money back when i sell, you no get money back when you move. i really don’t see our area going to crap any time soon, detroit style (sans Big Earthquake).

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              • maccoinnich June 6, 2016 at 7:09 pm

                Where are these “$700 a month 3 bedroom house plus 2 car garage/workshop/potential ADU” houses available?

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. June 6, 2016 at 7:24 pm

                What fantasy version of Portland are you living in with a $700 mortgage?

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              • lop June 6, 2016 at 7:51 pm

                http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/16735-SE-Main-St-Portland-OR-97233/53898280_zpid/

                This one only has a one car garage and would need $25k down.

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              • maccoinnich June 6, 2016 at 9:10 pm

                So… not $700 a month, not a two car garage, and barely inside the city limits.

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              • Matt S. June 6, 2016 at 11:40 pm

                This is interesting. My grandmother purchased a home in Albany, OR in 1971. With cash, 0.18 acre. cul-de-sac. For 32,000$. Back then, the purchasing power of this price would be equivalent to 187,000$ in today’s dollars (https://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/relativevalue.php).

                The house on Zillow is estimated at 157,000$. The difference of 187K – 157K = 30K. The house is actually worth less than what my grandmother paid for it when you adjust for inflation. Granted, zero dollars have been invested in remodels.

                Location, location, location.

                This house, if in Portland— NE, around Williams and Fremont—Would go for half a million!

                I’m trying to provide an example of how home ownership isn’t always a net investment game.

                BTW, I’m watching John Oliver. The household citizens of the United States collectively carry over 400 billion dollars in debt. We’re back in a bubble. It will collapse.

                People that purchased a home a long time ago, will probably be okay.
                People that have stayed out of debt and don’t own a home, will probably be okay.
                People that recently purchased a home at historically high prices, while struggling with their high consumer debt to income ratios and college loans <—-and I speculate this to be millions of americans—WILL struggle.

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              • chris June 7, 2016 at 8:24 pm

                hmm, there is no reply button on anything posted below that post from yesterday? sorry if i wasn’t clear, i went from living alone in a $500 studio to splitting a $1400 mortgage with my wife.

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              • q June 6, 2016 at 8:59 pm

                soren–someone expresses satisfaction with his decision to buy a house. You interpret his comments as disdain for people who rent, and then conclude the reason he feels the way you’ve interpreted he feels is due to his insecurity and buyers’ remorse.

                Then, when he objects to being criticized for thinking things he doesn’t think, you respond by recasting his decision to buy the house into “a decision to purchase a loan” and tell him that his belief that it was fiscally prudent is a myth.

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              • soren June 8, 2016 at 7:27 am

                chris: I guess it all depends on how smart you are with your money. I’ve been working since I was 15 and saving whatever I can, wear my clothes until they fall apart, ride a $100 1988 Rockhopper, not a $4000 Vanilla bike.

                i guess since i rent i must not be very smart (with my money). i guess as a renter i am also not hard working. i guess as a renter i am incapable of saving. i guess as a renter i am incapable of spending money frivolously.

                q: you respond by recasting his decision to buy the house into “a decision to purchase a loan”

                i’m struggling to understand how you believe someone can obtain a mortgage without a loan. (a highly leveraged loan that is typically a significant percentage of an individual’s assets.)

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              • soren June 8, 2016 at 12:01 pm

                the statement that i found offensive had nothing to do with purchasing a home.:

                I guess it all depends on how smart you are with your money. I’ve been working since I was 15 and saving whatever I can, wear my clothes until they fall apart, ride a $100 1988 Rockhopper, not a $4000 Vanilla bike.

                it is interesting that you feel the need to follow me around this blog and repeatedly comment about my interpretation and/or motivation. you appear to know me better than i know myself.

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        • Matt S. June 5, 2016 at 5:52 am

          Chris, I’m happy that you were able to buy a house 11 years ago, but that is the point of this entire discussion, the entire discourse on affordable housing in generaly—you lived in a very different market back then. I would love to own a house, set roots down, invest in the place I was born and raised, but I feel like I can’t. My partner and I make over 100K a year, but we still think it’s irresponsible in today’s market, especially when we’re both thinking about switching careers, which will probably pay less than what we’re making now. We don’t want to get in over our heads. If we could get into a fix’er upper for an affordable price and have a low fixed mortgage, it may be advantageous, but homes like that are being purchased and torn down…

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          • chris June 5, 2016 at 12:50 pm

            i was just replying to soren’s personal attack on me and him putting words in my mouth that i never said, he sure is a bitter one.

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            • soren June 8, 2016 at 12:14 pm

              chris, the idea that people who rent cannot save money and/or are financially irresponsible is a common stereotype.

              in the context of a discussion of renting versus owning you wrote: “I guess it all depends on how smart you are with your money.” i find this statement to be offensive.

              another common stereotype about people who rent (and millenials) is that they have poor impulse control and blow their money on frivolous luxury purchases. the snarky comparison between someone who buys a rockhopper versus someone who buys a vanilla fit this stereotype perfectly.

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        • pengo June 8, 2016 at 6:50 pm

          Woah…how did you get them to accept a $3900 down payment on your house?!

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    • Tyler June 1, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      Recently completed 1,300 sf 3 bed/3 bath new construction attached single family (townhomes) over on N. Wygant between Vancouver and Williams sold for $389k. New construction townhomes in St. Johns are are selling for around $250k compared to an average $300k for all housing in St. Johns right now.

      Average sales price of recently completed attached single family for sale units (townhomes and plexes) is about $386,000 compared to an average sale price for new construction large lot single family detached homes citywide of $503k.

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      • RH June 2, 2016 at 7:59 am

        Portland avg household income is $60k, and that qualifies for about a $250k loan. So unless all these new properties are $250k or less then it doesn’t help many homebuyers. It will help people moving here with cash though from selling their equity rich property.

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        • Tyler June 2, 2016 at 11:21 am

          New construction does indeed help all Portlanders, even more expensive larger single family development, because it maintains legacy housing stock that otherwise would have been bid up by demand by higher income households. While the majority of new construction is at the higher end of the spectrum, there has been new construction of large single family and skinny houses built at affordability levels of the average household income in this recent development cycle in places like St. Johns, Portsmouth, Lents, Montavilla, Brentwood-Darlington, and Powellurst-Gilbert.

          What the middle housing types will achieve is more housing options within the spectrum of our housing market that over that last 15 years has only really been producing large single family homes, medium scale Central City buildings, and four story corridor multifamily buildings.

          From a price perspective, middle housing allows more smaller units, which on a per unit basis are more affordable because they are smaller. The ability to build the middle housing types might have the most impact in the residential areas of inner neighborhoods where the market can only deliver market feasible development of large 3,000 square foot houses that max out the building envelope because that is highest and best use under current regulations. Once you are able to build housing more efficiently to meet demand (e.g. more units on a lot per Doug’s comment below) highest and best use will dictate more units that will be less expensive, though probably not affordable in very high demand locations.

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          • 9watts June 2, 2016 at 3:35 pm

            “New construction does indeed help all Portlanders…”

            Only if you think growth is good or inevitable.

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            • q June 2, 2016 at 3:54 pm

              Even if only enough people move in to replace those leaving or dying, new construction is needed to house children who want to stay here. Providing for them helps at least many Portlanders.

              I doubt a Portland without new construction would be very good for anyone, even those not favoring growth.

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              • 9watts June 2, 2016 at 9:41 pm

                I’ve learned here that folks have great difficulty accepting that no growth is possible, much less salutary. The corollary seems to be that even imagining no growth is asking too much.
                Your example is (one flavor of) growth.

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              • q June 2, 2016 at 10:14 pm

                “Folks have great difficulty accepting that no growth is possible, much less salutary”? Could you possibly put that more arrogantly? Why not just say directly that everyone who isn’t anti-growth is wrong?

                And “even imagining no growth is asking too much”? Arrogant again. The fact that I can see problems with no growth doesn’t mean I have any difficulty imagining it. I just don’t like what I see.

                And thanks for telling me that building new housing to accommodate people who grew up here is a form of growth.

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              • 9watts June 3, 2016 at 6:04 am

                The fact that you perceive my impression that it is hard to get out of the growth trap to be arrogant doesn’t by itself shrink the probability that it may be true.

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              • Matt S. June 3, 2016 at 6:35 am

                @ q. However, when we espouse “no growth” policies from a weak, scared tone, it makes us sound like a xenophobic group with a “I was here first attitude.” Growth is going to happen in the city. People are going to immigrate and emigrate here. People will arrive with lots of money, little money, but to be an open progressive society, we have to be open to all moving in and out of Portland. Now, growth should occur up and not out to protect our farmland and policies should be enacted at the city and state level to provide a percentage of new construction aimed at affordability.

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              • q June 3, 2016 at 10:52 am

                9watts–once again, you’re responding to your own unique interpretation of what I said. I never found your “impression that it is hard to get out of the growth trap to be arrogant”. I said it was arrogant for you to say, “Folks have great difficulty accepting that no growth is possible, much less salutary” because that assumes you’re right, and everyone who disagrees just can’t accept that fact.

                Plenty of people think no-growth is good policy, including people commenting here, but they don’t cast others who disagree as having “difficulty accepting” the other side’s position. They simply state their case. Nor do they dismiss opponents by saying it’s “asking too much” for them to imagine non-growth.

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              • jeff June 3, 2016 at 11:45 am

                unless you stop families from having children in this country…no growth is very much impossible.

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          • q June 2, 2016 at 3:49 pm

            Nice reminder that the goal isn’t just building new units, it’s building a variety of types, so people have options that fit their own needs.

            One fear I have is policies developing that split housing into two categories–expensive, and subsidized. Or even more specifically, expensive owner-occupied, and subsidized rental apartments. That’s certainly a likely outcome of taxing housing to fund affordable housing. The missing middle helps fill in between those two extremes.

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        • soren June 2, 2016 at 12:51 pm

          only a fraction of people at a particular income level qualify for loans and those that do have to compete with cash speculative buyers.

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        • Matt S. June 2, 2016 at 1:23 pm

          Oh yes, the classic new construction with the BMW from California sitting in the driveway… “I can’t believe how affordable the city of Portland is!”

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        • jeff June 2, 2016 at 1:36 pm

          equaity is a process acquired with age. start small, build up. equating the financial situation of younger people to older folks who have built wealth over time is ridiculous.

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          • Matt S. June 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm

            Then that’s the trick, only older people with accumulated wealth should be buying newly available housing inventory. Then they can rent it out to us younger folk at an increased rate (have to pay for that boat some how).

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          • Alex Reedin June 2, 2016 at 2:18 pm

            Implying that current young people have a similar opportunity to accumulate wealth to older generations is ridiculous. The housing costs that current young people face is significantly higher than the costs that older generations paid, and incomes are not much higher.

            We’re talking about 5-15% more of income going towards housing (not even mentioning education here). This severely limits current young people’s opportunities to accumulate wealth over time. Here’s a good post.

            https://oregoneconomicanalysis.com/2016/05/31/life-cycle-housing-costs-in-oregon/

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            • Jeff June 3, 2016 at 7:45 am

              maybe younger people need to make different decisions if they desire to accumulate wealth. Its not as though everything was just handed over with a silver spoon 30 years ago.

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              • Matt S. June 3, 2016 at 8:31 am

                I’ve heard that the PPS district has begun incorporating financial planning at the 5th grade level to ensure students know how to save for exuberant home prices in the Portland metro region. “Look kid, if you don’t start saving now, you’ll never be able to compete with the out of state investment gobbling up the housing inventory with their cash offers.”

                “oh yeah, make sure to save for college as well…”

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              • jeff June 3, 2016 at 11:02 am

                not a bad idea, actually. Americans hardly save enough money in their ever increasing need to keep up with the Jones’.

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              • Alex Reedin June 3, 2016 at 5:34 pm

                Certainly, almost everyone in the U.S. could stand to consume less and save more. I am an acolyte of Mr Money Mustache after all! http://www.mrmoneymustache.com

                But – if we’re talking about what average people actually do, saving 10% of income is pretty virtuous by spendthrift American standards. If one generation has to spend 10% more of its income on housing than previous ones did, that kills savings right there if we don’t assume additional thriftiness. If education costs college-goers from one generation 2-4x what it did for previous generations, but the economy penalizes non-college-goers to a much greater extent than it did for previous generations, that adds to the difficulties. Especially for people without much privilege.

                I am personally saving plenty, I am lucky and privileged. But most of my generation simply will not save money at even the anemic levels of Gen X’ers and our parents – and that’s not because they are more spendthrift than past generations, it’s because increased costs for necessities and increased inequality have made the economy much more difficult for average-Joe wealth accumulation than it used to be.

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    • daisy June 1, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      I live in inner NE, in the Eliot neighborhood, near the New Seasons on Williams. A new set of several townhouses were just built on a 1/4 acre lot nearby. Most are 3 beds, 3 baths, and a garage, and two are listed in Zillow, one that sold for $403,000, and the other for $410,000.

      The lot had been empty and was larger than the average lot (about 1/10th of an acre or so). A nearby single family home without a garage sold for $440,000 a few years ago and would go for much more now.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    Great article. In my experience, many neighbors in the area I live in agree we need missing-middle housing, but disagree where to put it. Missing-middle needs to be integrated into the existing residential neighborhoods, but projects like the Division Design Initiative propose missing-middle on arterials like Division instead, and propose the medium-density only at major intersections (e.g. Chavez and Division). I have also heard outcry over lot-splitting (R5 to R2.5) in the residential areas. How do we get neighbors on board to the point where they are okay living next to a duplex or small-scale apartment building?

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    • m June 1, 2016 at 2:16 pm

      A lot of it is about parking but design/appearance is also a big factor. Most of the stuff going up today is particle-board crap built at lightning speed that looks absolutely terrible IMO from day one and will only get worse over time. The quaint/charming stuff like in parts of Irvington was built to last and still looks nice even to this day.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 3:02 pm

        In my opinion, people opposing needed housing based solely on appearance are doing so from a highly privileged position. Not everyone has the luxury to be able to live in a quaint old bungalow, and we should not be imposing that ideal on those people by blocking development that the masses determine to be “ugly”.

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        • Bradwagon June 1, 2016 at 4:08 pm

          I would rather have well built homes that will last many generations than seeing developers profit so much by simply doing the bare minimum because they know there will be no shortage of people that have no choice but to live in poor construction. While it may be coming from a point of privilege it at least acknowledges that those who are less fortunate should be given the dignity of reliable housing options.

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          • Alex Reedin June 1, 2016 at 6:32 pm

            Wait, you really think that the apartment buildings being built now are so bad that it’s going to do the tenants damage? I can see thinking that they’re mostly overpriced, cramped, and ugly – but what evidence do you have that they are so badly built? And if they are so bad, doesn’t that mostly hit the landlord in increased maintenance costs? These are all apartments, not condos.

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          • BJCefola June 1, 2016 at 8:52 pm

            If I were subject to an unaffordable rent increase or an eviction, I would not perceive it as “dignity.”

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            • 9watts June 1, 2016 at 9:07 pm

              There is a pernicious and I think unfortunate subtext here that all landlords are sharks and will, if given a chance, raise your rent and/or evict you – tomorrow! Renting here, now, is cast as a dreadful penury, something to be avoided if at all possible, when there are all kinds of landlords, some of whom do not behave in this fashion at all, not to mention all kinds of renters, some of whom* stay put.

              *apparently longer on average than homeowners in our inner SE zipcode.

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              • BJCefola June 1, 2016 at 10:01 pm

                Sure, but what’s your point? Are the concerns of people hurt by the housing shortage irrelevant?

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              • 9watts June 2, 2016 at 6:51 am

                Of course the people hurt by the housing shortage are not irrelevant but very important. I’ve made this point here myself many times. My point upthread is that here it is very common to slam the entire rental sector as untenable when this is both untrue and unhelpful. This bias toward homeownership-as-the-only-natural-course-of-things (in my view) does a disservice to those renters whose situations are quite unlike what is described here, and needlessly indicts all those who do not own; who may have lots of reasons not to own besides the here oft hypothesized can-t-afford-to-own canard.

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          • q June 1, 2016 at 9:06 pm

            Developers can’t win. Quality is expensive. If they build higher quality projects, then they get slammed for building unaffordable stuff so they can make obscene profits. If they build less expensive stuff that more people can afford, they get slammed for building cheaply so they can make obscene profits.

            And some of the cheapest construction is done by non-profits. It’s obviously not so they can make huge profits.

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            • 9watts June 1, 2016 at 9:34 pm

              Now that seems like kind of an unwarranted simplification. Eli Spevak’s a great example of someone who advocates and builds things that I don’t think fit either of your caricatures.

              High priced/oversized/cheaply built is a package I see everywhere. (And it is about as anathema to the statement of yours below as can be.)
              -> Not a fan.

              ADU/infill/micro-scale dwellings, not to mention all the ideas enumerated above, which, of course, we’re not seeing but might (would) like to.
              ->definitely a fan

              “Quality is expensive.”

              My vote for red herring of the week.

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              • q June 1, 2016 at 10:24 pm

                You’re criticizing me for things I never meant, and never even said.

                You said, “High priced/oversized/cheaply built is a package I see everywhere. (And it is about as anathema to the statement of yours below as can be.)”

                Why is it “anathema”? Saying “Quality is expensive” doesn’t mean “expensive” means “high quality”. Of course it doesn’t. There is high-priced crap everywhere. I think most expensive housing is crap, in regard to design as well as construction quality.

                Similarly, “less expensive” doesn’t mean “low quality”. There are all kinds of examples of well-designed, good quality projects that cost much less than projects of no merit.

                None of that means that quality is not expensive. As it is, even crap is expensive. How many people making a median wage in Portland would say their housing is “high quality”? Some, but not many. And they’d be right. Generally, people who’d disagree that quality (and I was mentioning both design and construction quality) is expensive have a high threshold for defining “expensive”.

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              • 9watts June 2, 2016 at 7:14 am

                q wrote: “There are all kinds of examples of well-designed, good quality projects that cost much less than projects of no merit.”

                You’re all over the map here. My point was exactly what you said above: quality and sale price are not tightly coupled; so focusing on how expensive quality is is in this context strikes me as a red herring, a distraction, irrelevant. The problem isn’t in my view that quality is expensive but that the housing market is such that, as you say below:

                “…even crap is expensive.”

                “How many people making a median wage in Portland would say their housing is ‘high quality’? Some, but not many. And they’d be right.”

                How do we know this? I think you may only be thinking here of new construction, and we’d probably agree if we limit the discussion to that slice, but why would we since most of the housing, and certainly most of the housing that changes hands, in this town is not new construction but much older than that. I don’t like cliches much, so when I come across what looks like one I disagree. If I misunderstood you I apologize.

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      • q June 1, 2016 at 9:21 pm

        I love the quaint old buildings, and well-designed new ones also. But many people will not pay enough for better aesthetics or higher quality to cover the cost of providing it. If more people valued those more than say, square footage, developers would build more better looking, higher quality structures.

        It’s true when the tradeoff is between aesthetics and quality vs. having another bedroom, and especially true when choosing between aesthetics and quality vs. being able to afford any place, period.

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        • 9watts June 1, 2016 at 9:39 pm

          “But many people will not pay enough for better aesthetics or higher quality to cover the cost of providing it. If more people valued those more than say, square footage, developers would build more better looking, higher quality structures. ”

          Except that I see no evidence for the buyer having any way to register this preference. Buyers must choose from the available bundles, and for the most part quality isn’t even offered, and when/where it is my guess would be that it is bundled with something very exclusive/large/stratospherically priced, making it un-preferable for all but the 1%.

          If on the other hand people could choose small + quality (can you show me examples?) I bet this would be a hit (assuming the buyers are able to recognize quality in the first place).

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          • q June 1, 2016 at 10:48 pm

            You say if “people could choose ‘small + quality’ ” it would be a hit, and you say almost the only time quality is available is when it is bundled with “something very exclusive/large/stratospherically priced”.

            The fact is people who want “small + quality” have LOTS of options. Look at Pearl District or South Waterfront condos. Many are high quality, and plenty of units are small. So quality is often NOT bundled with “large”.

            But yes, those “small + quality” units are often bundled with “exclusive” and “stratospherically priced” because the cost of providing the quality makes them that way.

            Or, are those too “exclusive and stratospherically priced” because they come with swanky lobbies, prime locations, etc.? Then look at new condos in other parts of the city. Whether they’re high quality or not is a matter of opinion. I’d say many are pretty good, others are not. Many are small. But they’re already quite expensive, and making them better quality would make them cost even more.

            And of course every time someone buys a unit, they are registering their preference, which creates data developers use when deciding what to build next.

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    • jeff June 2, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      home owners have little interest in living next to multi-plexes. the noise, the traffic, the often rude and sometimes illegal behavior that comes from many apartment buildings is of no interest to any home buyer I’ve known.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 2, 2016 at 2:38 pm

        Not only is that comment incredibly offensive by assuming that renters exhibit “rude and illegal” behavior, it’s not even true. I live across the street from a four-plex and it has literally never been a problem. The excess motor traffic on my street sure as hell isn’t there for the four-plex.

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        • Jeff June 3, 2016 at 7:47 am

          a 4-plex is not what I’m referring to…there”s a duplex apartment 2 blocks down the road from me. I just notfied the police there are 2 guys in there openly selling drugs.

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        • Jeff June 3, 2016 at 7:50 am

          some of them do. not all. I never said that. as a home owner you’re pretty much locked in place for awhile. the potential for the behavior, and it does exist on a regular occurrence, is enough to give home purchasers pause. speak to a realtor some time – its a typical decision in home buying and often one of their screening questions…

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        • lop June 4, 2016 at 12:11 am

          Plexes and other missing middle housing can be owner occupied, they don’t have to be rented out.

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      • Matt S. June 2, 2016 at 3:07 pm

        Some of that behavior is now legal as of July 1st, 2015.

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        • Jeff June 3, 2016 at 7:51 am

          loud music and drug dealing after 10pm is now legal?

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  • m June 1, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    “It is rare to find a city where one can find so many of these in such a setting a mere three miles from a downtown.”

    This is, of course, the irony of what attracts so many people here. The best of urban and suburbia. It is going away for better or worse and we are headed toward the Queens, NY model. Pros and Cons….

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  • Chris June 1, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Great article Neil. Thanks for putting this out there.

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  • Cory P June 1, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Great article! I couldn’t agree more but you didn’t mention one of the key obstacles in bringing back all of these great housing options.

    PARKING

    How are we going to convince a public to allow new construction in neighborhood settings without off street parking? We have seen bikeways canceled over a few parking spaces. What are the odds that the city will adopt this bold approach towards density when it is sure to result in many more cars parked on streets?

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    • ethan June 1, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Step 1: don’t give a **** about parking
      Step 2: ?
      Step 3: Livability

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    • soren June 1, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      “this bold approach towards density when it is sure to result in many more cars parked on streets?”

      parking in many central areas is approaching capacity in the evening. once this happens increases in density do not necessarily add more cars to the streets. and at some point the parking hysteria will fade into learned helplessness.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      Removing all parking minimums city-wide should do the trick. Most developers do not want to build parking as it adds to the building cost without adding rentable/sellable space. If we really want to be ambitious, we could impose parking maximums as is done in the center city.

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    • Cory P June 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      I also could care less about parking myself. I’d like to see all parking requirements removed and a fee imposed on street parking city wide.

      The reason I asked the question is that many others do not feel as I do. I wonder if an inner city lifting of minimums would be a good stepping stone to show the public that less parking won’t cause the sky to fall. Perhaps everything out to Chavez? Or 60th? 82?

      Soren, Can you point to a neighborhood or city where saturated parking reduced residents concern for parking availability? By my observations of currently saturated neighborhoods it seems to amplify people’s obsession on the matter.

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      • soren June 1, 2016 at 2:58 pm

        i hear far more whining about parking from people who live in the inner SE than i do in inner NW PDX. i also lived on capitol hill in seattle and that area had less parking conflict than more residential areas.

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        • Matt S. June 1, 2016 at 3:29 pm

          It just shows you how important cars are to the general public of a “platinum bike city”.

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        • Adam H.
          Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 3:32 pm

          NW also has more multifamily construction and higher density. Wonder if there’s a correlation there.

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        • JeffS June 1, 2016 at 4:31 pm

          Living in the SE likely exposes you to more of those complaints. If you were on the NW nextdoor, I suspect you’d hear a fair amount there as well. Something is definitely prompting those people to institute parking permits.

          But yes, the sense of entitlement to the public space in front of one’s house is baffling.

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          • prss June 2, 2016 at 4:10 pm

            baffling to me is that pdx seems to be on a kick of multi-family housing that doesn’t plan for car spaces….I don’t see how this is a policy that benefits anyone but the builders. if i build a 20 unit space on division, and call it “green” b/c it doesnt plan for car spaces, then where are the 15 or so cars i’m introducing to the neighborhood going? u may not “give a sh*t about parking” but it seems like alot of added congestion to neighborhoods. i don’t get it.

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      • Brendan Treacy June 2, 2016 at 11:29 am

        For what it’s worth the parking in Kenton is so ample I’ve never once had less than three available spots within a 100 feet of my house. I guess that means we’re a good location for some of this missing middle housing without hitting capacity? I’d welcome the added population because they’d hopefully spur on better businesses and community nearby.

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  • rachel b June 1, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    I love those old cottage/courtyard-style apartments. I don’t think you’d find many homeowners objecting to living near those (except re: parking issues). So much new construction utterly lacks charm.

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    • m June 1, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      This.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      There are lots of old houses that lack “charm” as well, including my own. This house was built in 1913, and is basically just a box with a pitched roof.

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      • Mark S June 1, 2016 at 4:02 pm

        The charm of this house is the double car garage & large driveway, allowing the resident{s} a place to park their vehicles off of the street.

        My house has similar “street appeal” but I have an oversize double car garage with a loft. I can park both of my vehicles, plus 4 bikes & a bunch of other stuff off of the street & away from the car prowlers who are cruising my neighborhood looking for things to steal.

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      • rachel b June 1, 2016 at 5:59 pm

        I don’t see anything that lacks charm, there. But I was saying I LIKE those old courtyard apartments, and that’s what we’re hoping to make more of–right? We should be holding hands and skipping, Adam! 🙂

        For what it’s worth, I’m no more for old ugly shoddy construction than I am for new ugly shoddy construction. Taste is subjective, yes, but I’d argue that there are generally accepted standards of beauty. I love modern design and construction when done well, just as I love beautiful old houses and well-designed midcentury homes. I just plain like good design.

        Proportion and good design shows, in any age. The biggest problem I find with a lot of new construction in Portland (i.e. those houses up on Woodward where the Waverly Children’s Home used to be) is the lack of proportion. This coupled with the equivalent of designing with a tin ear–they don’t harmonize with neighboring houses at all. They could be very very different–way mod, in fact (instead of sort of quasi bloated bungalowishes) and still harmonize better with the homes around them, if designed with beauty and proportion in mind. It’s always enjoyable to see good modern design/construction done by a canny architect/builder that accomplishes that trick.

        Why do all these new houses have to tower over the neighboring houses, anyway? It’s very off-putting and visually awkward. Is this something buyers are asking for? “I would like to hover above the homes of my neighbors.” ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!!!….” 🙂

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJ1jtwEi0fU

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        • 9watts June 1, 2016 at 7:15 pm

          “The biggest problem I find with a lot of new construction in Portland (i.e. those houses up on Woodward where the Waverly Children’s Home used to be) is the lack of proportion. ”

          Yeah, that assembly is dreadful, even creepy.

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          • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 3:40 pm

            I walk & ride that route frequently. That section (which used to be one of my favorites) always bums me out.

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          • lop June 4, 2016 at 12:24 am

            You don’t think the old very large property was imposing and out of character for the area? Compared to that, are all the new houses there so terrible? If (in terms of building footprint) the reverse was happening, and a handful of houses a few blocks down were torn down for an apartment the size of the Waverly Children’s home, what complaints do you think we would hear about it?

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        • 9watts June 1, 2016 at 7:33 pm

          “I would like to hover above the homes of my neighbors.”

          kind of like the view from an SUV…. We have developed in this country a special penchant for bloat, bulking up, gigantism. I’ve pondered this, and the best I can come up with is cribbed from Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors We Live By.

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        • Oliver June 2, 2016 at 9:05 am

          I think that’s for a couple reasons. The houses look out of proportion because of the large interior room dimensions and high ceilings, and that they’ve pushed the footprint right out to the property lines.

          Also, no one builds basements anymore. To get the same square footage you need 3 stories now where you used to need only two + a basement.

          They tore down a house across the street from me and replaced it with two $650k mccraftsman high-cubes. I would have loved seeing a 4 or 6 plex in that spot.

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          • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 3:56 pm

            You’re right, Oliver. It also has something to do with the placement and size of windows, many times, and the depth of the windows and existence (or lack) of outer sills & trim. The worst new faux bungalows have that really flat 2D look + too-narrow trim that no self-respecting bungalow would ever sport! 🙂 Fake French or English cottage windows also make for weird proportions–the panes, etc. And huge double garages.

            Those houses on Woodward & Brooklyn were designed to all face a common green space, I understand, which is nice for residents probably, but this leaves them (the houses) looking like their backs are all turned to the street, arms crossed, “hmmmph!” The older houses around there present such friendly faces to the street. It’s a jarring contrast.

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            • Adam H.
              Adam H. June 2, 2016 at 4:02 pm

              Are we really at the point where we are complaining about houses lack of window sills? I think it might be time to take a step back and gain some broader perspective…

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              • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 7:45 pm

                Agh, Adam! Championing good design is not frivolous! It’s those thousands of little decisions that add up and make a city either inviting or completely off-putting, in the long run. People want to move to Portland and other places where people have been very picky indeed about aesthetic issues. These places tend to be highly desirable. And nobody was legislating window sill standards, here–merely pointing out one of the things that make a lot of new construction ugly (in my opinion).

                It is not OK, simply because we’re a “hot” city where everybody and their brother wants to live, to devalue, dismiss and mow down what’s here and expect residents to bend over backward to accommodate future maybe-citizens who don’t have ANY investment here yet! Especially BECAUSE we’re a “hot” city and flavor of the (very very long) month. I expect–in the current hysteria–there will be a lot of turnover. Should I be championing tearing down bungalows to accommodate someone’s media-spawned itch (for example) and an ever-turning, uninvested transient population? A lot of people are moving to Portland right now for spurious reasons, and they will eventually move out, to the next It Girl city.

                I feel insane even having to point this out. People who have lived here a long time DO have more of a say–of course they do!!–than people entertaining the idea of moving here. Or who’ve just moved here. It is not an equal playing field, and that is not unjust. Anyone can do it, but you have to put in the time.

                You needn’t worry, though. I personally have felt completely impotent to stop the juggernaut that is New Portland, the hijacking and terraforming of my life-long city. And I’ve been through a lot of change in Portland over the years. This past several years has been different. And it’s been a seriously distressing, debilitating string of anxious years, feeling like such a pawn in my once-loved hometown. I’ve literally tried to run from it, several times. And failed, at great cost. I’ve been like a panicked animal–a delight to all around me (hah).

                It may mean nothing to you to raze our stupid houses, but it means a lot to me and to many others. We keep trying to tell you it means something, and something bigger than just our petty preferences. These neighborhoods ARE Portland. We exist and have for a long time. Portland is not just an Etch-a-Sketch where you can wipe out what’s here and make a new one with no one hollering “OW!” or pointing out the downsides of that particular devastating plan.

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              • dan June 2, 2016 at 8:47 pm

                Rachel,
                Perhaps you should run for office? You’ve got my vote…

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. June 2, 2016 at 10:42 pm

                People who have lived here a long time DO have more of a say–of course they do!!–than people entertaining the idea of moving here. Or who’ve just moved here.

                I find this idea incredibly offensive. This is not how democracy works. You don’t get one vote per year you’ve lived in Portland.

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              • Random June 2, 2016 at 10:59 pm

                “I find this idea incredibly offensive. This is not how democracy works. You don’t get one vote per year you’ve lived in Portland.”

                Because, after all, under that system, Adam wouldn’t get many votes.

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              • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 11:54 pm

                What on earth is offensive about according the people who have invested (many of them) their LIVES, money, sweat, and industry in a place some respect? People with roots there! Why on earth would you move someplace and instantly consider your voice equal to longtime residents’ as far as land use (and we’re talking about razing their neighborhoods!) are concerned? What hubris! This isn’t to say newcomers have NO voice, or that their voices should be stifled! Not at all! But–have a little grace! A little perspective! Give respect where it’s due! Honor what you came to but didn’t build. Don’t hector and harass and lecture–don’t shame and bully! Ease your way in, earn it. It’s very Manifest Destiny, the attitude that you can just descend upon any already-inhabited place and consider your rights to it equal to (or surpassing) the current residents. I don’t think any of us would say we’re proud of our history of ‘westward expansion’–right? We handled that poorly–right? The lesson was: do not barge in and boss people around. Respect. Honor. And ease in, naturally. Speak up, but have perspective on your position and theirs. Isn’t that common sense by now? I still can’t believe I’m having this conversation.

                It would never ever have occurred to me, living on the east coast for the few years I did, to feel that kind of instant ownership of the place I considered myself a GUEST. If we had decided to stay there, I would have been happy to earn my way to full community citizenship the way that kind of thing has always happened; organically. I’m completely taken aback that anyone could take offense to something that’s just been the common sense way of joining communities forever. I honestly never even thought about it when I lived elsewhere–I definitely never felt insulted, offended, disenfranchised. I felt like an Oregonian living in Connecticut and that was fine with me.

                I notice that many people moving here now start calling themselves “Portlanders” or “Oregonians” the first day (and telling everyone authoritatively about everything Portland and Oregon). 😉 It’s not that I’m offended by that–I just don’t get it! It seems pushy and desperate at the same time. It’s not accurate, for one, and…well, hell–I don’t know how else to say it: it’s just weird. I don’t understand the impulse, the need, the umbrage when you say ‘…uh…but aren’t you from Peoria?’ I don’t understand the desire to identify instantly and so strongly with something you have no relationship with yet. Live here awhile and then you’re a Portlander and an Oregonian, yup. But it doesn’t happen overnight. And no one’s denying anyone anything! It’s just how it is. Things like becoming part of community do not happen overnight and without some effort and investment.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. June 3, 2016 at 7:56 am

                Yeah my mistake for thinking Portland was progressive before I moved here. Having lived here for two years, I now realize that Portland is just as anti-change as the rest of the country — perhaps even more so.

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              • Random June 3, 2016 at 8:04 am

                “Yeah my mistake for thinking Portland was progressive before I moved here. Having lived here for two years, I now realize that Portland is just as anti-change as the rest of the country — perhaps even more so.”

                Perhaps you’d like to try a different city?

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              • soren June 3, 2016 at 2:18 pm

                I personally have felt completely impotent to stop the juggernaut that is New Portland, the hijacking and terraforming of my life-long city.

                The agony of crowded pubs and people parking in your spot is truly a terrible thing.

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              • q June 3, 2016 at 2:36 pm

                soren–responding to concerns about growth with dismissive responses like your, “The agony of crowded pubs and people parking in your spot is truly a terrible thing” is a great way to generate opposition to growth.

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              • rachel b June 3, 2016 at 2:56 pm

                Soren–for someone who adjures compassion here with some regularity, I’ll assume that last jab at me was a lapse. p.s…I don’t go to pubs and I don’t own a car.

                And Adam–if all you got out my last post was that I—despite being carless, childless, eschewing air travel and having converted my own home to a duplex, voluntarily, AND having lived in this progressive city all my life and put my money where my mouth is for things like the Springwater Corridor, parks, paths, green green green—am not progressive and am against change, I’d ask you to read again.

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              • soren June 3, 2016 at 3:20 pm

                i’m not particularly interested in capitalist “growth”. i also do not care much about window sills, gables, dormers, certified sustainable gardens, or the property values of homes with “character”. i care about housing equity. specifically, i support “character”-destroying affordable housing in neighborhoods like mine.

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              • q June 3, 2016 at 3:29 pm

                soren–I guess the question is, is making dismissive comments and ridiculing concerns others have about growth going to help achieve the growth you want, or is it just going to create opposition to it?

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              • soren June 3, 2016 at 5:01 pm

                i find the idea that someone who has lived in a neighborhood X years deserves more respect than a newcomer to be truly awful. imo, this kind of xenophobia merits all the sarcasm i can muster.

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              • q June 3, 2016 at 5:25 pm

                soren–I read rachel’s post and she never said existing residents deserve more respect than newcomers. She did ask for some respect, which is different. And again, mean, sarcastic responses don’t help growth, and don’t further the discussion–besides being mean and sarcastic.

                And when you advocate massive changes to people’s neighborhoods, saying you don’t really care about the impacts to existing residents, you should expect some strong objections.

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              • soren June 3, 2016 at 5:32 pm

                People who have lived here a long time DO have more of a say–of course they do!!

                i am not a “guest”, q. i have just as much of a right to be vocal as people who were born here, have “roots in the neighborhood”, and have “skin in the game”.

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              • Adam H.
                Adam H. June 3, 2016 at 6:16 pm

                I plan on staying in my neighborhood long term and deserve just as much voice as people who have lived her longer than I.

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              • rachel b June 3, 2016 at 7:00 pm

                It’s amusing (in an irritating way) to witness yourself reduced to Gables! Gables! Gables! when you balk at drinking every little ounce of the New Urbanist kool aid. 😉

                A & S: Nobody’s shutting you up. Nobody’s saying you don’t get to talk. Nobody’s shutting down your opinion. In fact, you and yours have a firm hand on the megaphone of the City, as things stand. If you want to object that you’re being persecuted and fightin’ the NIMBY power (of the powerless longtime residents of Portland), that’s something that’s actually worth answering with some sarcasm (soren). But I’ll forgo it.

                What I’ve been talking about comes down to this, and it is simply basic manners and common courtesy: you do NOT show up at someone else’s house–someone you don’t even know and who didn’t invite you–and immediately commence to rearranging the furniture and sneering at and insulting people who object to your great idea to tear the house down! So that a few thousand strangers can live there instead. Q was actually trying to be helpful: you do yourself no favors in taking this approach.

                I could actually understand your urgency and umbrage better and could see having this discussion if we were in a situation where refugees were needing places to live–your sense of urgency would then be appropriate, and laudable. But we’re not talking about doing drastic things (i.e., tearing down the city) to accommodate the poor Syrians: we’re talking about tearing down the city to accommodate more lifestyle nomads, overwhelmingly. And no–I am not willing to have my city torn down for more lifestyle nomads. We’ve got plenty.

                This kind of annoying writer (and former frantic lifestyle junkie (says it well:

                “I know now that this was (Richard) Florida’s true genius: He took our anxiety about place and turned it into a product. He found a way to capitalize on our nagging sense that there is always somewhere out there more creative, more fun, more diverse, more gay, and just plain better than the one where we happen to be.

                But I’ve been down that road, and I know where it goes. I know that it leads both everywhere and nowhere. I know you could go down it forever and never quite arrive. And I know now that it may be wiser to try to create the place you want to live, rather than to keep trying to find it.”

                http://thirtytwomag.com/2012/06/the-fall-of-thecreative-class/

                p.s…a little reminder: My initial post, if you recall, actually expressed a positive response to the idea of making it easier for developers to make more courtyard-style housing. To accommodate people. The prospective people coming here, who are not yet here, but who you care so very much about.

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              • q June 3, 2016 at 7:44 pm

                soren–I never said you were a “guest” or didn’t have as much right to be vocal as anyone else. You’re quoting somebody else and then responding to me, as if the quote was mine. It’s not.

                What I said was that 1) nobody said you deserved less respect than longer-established residents, 2) your responding with sarcasm wasn’t productive to more growth happening, and 3) when you advocate massive changes to people’s neighborhoods, saying you don’t really care about the impacts to existing residents, you should expect some strong objections.

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              • lop June 4, 2016 at 12:41 am

                “What I’ve been talking about comes down to this, and it is simply basic manners and common courtesy: you do NOT show up at someone else’s house–someone you don’t even know and who didn’t invite you–and immediately commence to rearranging the furniture and sneering at and insulting people who object to your great idea to tear the house down! ”

                If someone stays a long time, then do they get to say that you are not allowed to rearrange your furniture, and you are not allowed to tear your house down? You seem to be doing that to your neighbors. Nobody is touching your house. Let people do what they want with their own.

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              • 9watts June 2, 2016 at 8:58 pm

                “Are we really at the point where we are complaining about houses lack of window sills?”

                I thought Rachel’s point was stupefyingly perceptive. It just so happens that over the next few days I’ll be putting (back) some window sills on my friend’s 1894 house that, regrettably, got a suite of vinyl windows slapped onto it some while back, including mismatched trim and no sills. Windows and their frames present a tremendously important set of visual cues and we ignore them at our peril.

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              • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 11:56 pm

                Thanks, 9watts! 🙂 Your friend’s lucky!

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              • q June 2, 2016 at 9:48 pm

                Actually we hit the point of regulating window trim, siding board width, window proportions, etc. decades ago, at least in some situations, with the zoning code’s Community Design Standards.

                Outside of those regulations, I was involved in a new house project whose building permit could not be issued due to Planning staff’s insistence on getting a full scale drawing of one piece of window frame on one window. The size and shape weren’t an issue, it was the lack of a full-scale drawing. Another project I know was held up because Planning wanted window glass set back 1/16″ greater from the frames. Neither one involved anything perceptible from the sidewalk or street.

                Details like window trim can make a huge difference visually, and design and compatibility are important, but the City’s whole approach to regulating design needs rethinking.

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              • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 11:57 pm

                Interesting, q! When we did our remodel I remember window issues coming into play w/ the City, too.

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    • zholz June 1, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      One era’s “charm” is another era’s “soulless.”

      I find many of the craftsmans in town repetitive. Some of them are actually identical, like these three along the northside of Clinton and 28th, which goes to show that developers have been building “cookie cutter” houses for a long time. Personally, I find new architectural idioms more exciting and appealing to live in.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 4:34 pm

        Great link! I found this paragraph to be especially relevant here:

        One is that everything old was once new, and new things often provoke a backlash. We ought to be humble in believing that our opinions represent some timeless, objective truth, looking backwards or forwards. The same bungalows that seem to us quaint and charming were tacky and soulless to many of the people watching them be built; it seems more than possible that the new apartment buildings we vilify today will be thought of sentimentally by future generations who know them only as an important part of their city since they were born.

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      • Matt S. June 1, 2016 at 4:49 pm

        The craftsman style home I lived in, in NE, was a Sears and Roebok home. My roommate, a history masters from PSU had the actual catalogue of where you can purchase built ins, counter-tops, staircases, etc.. Pretty much all the permanent fixtures of the house had been ordered from a catalogue. The house was by no means unique to the neighborhood…

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      • rachel b June 1, 2016 at 5:40 pm

        Charming! 🙂

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        • rachel b June 1, 2016 at 6:05 pm

          And really, zholz–you don’t find those houses charming?

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          • Adam H.
            Adam H. June 1, 2016 at 10:13 pm

            Sure, they look like nice houses, but what benefits do they give to the street below other than looking nice? I’d much rather spend time on Division Street hanging out at an outdoor cafe watching people go by. I find that much more charming, as it’s something to do rather something to simply look at. My point is that everyone likes different things and “neighborhood charm” is not something universally defined. In my opinion, a building should integrate within the street below instead of standing alone.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty June 2, 2016 at 11:54 am

              Garden space, street presence, a sense of proportion and continuity. They offer a lot to the streetscape that new houses do not, sadly.

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              • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 4:04 pm

                Yes–what HK said. There is so much value in beautiful surroundings. And Portland’s neighborhoods, the way they look, have been huge attractors to prospective and existing residents. I’m very sorry they’ve become so ridiculously out of reach for most, now, when not so long ago many were lower to middle class. But tearing them down would be a huge mistake.

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          • zholz June 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm

            You got me! I do actually find many of them charming. 🙂 I complain about them, but that’s only because there are so many of them. And it’s true, there are some really lovely ones out there.

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            • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 4:06 pm

              AHA! 🙂 I knew it! Those little stretches of kit houses (designed well) always charm me–they’re always done up so differently from each other.

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      • Zoe June 1, 2016 at 11:19 pm

        Cognitive science would say that people have a penchant symmetry and repetition: http://www.citylab.com/design/2015/10/making-the-case-for-symmetrical-cities/409690/?utm_source=SFFB

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    • Peter June 2, 2016 at 12:45 pm

      I like those too. It would be tough to build those now, not because of zoning, but because the land value is high compared to the developer’s ROI for building a few cottages, versus building far more units in the same space.

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    • jeff June 3, 2016 at 11:51 am

      does charm include lead pipes, radon, and asbestos siding? how about sloped subflooring and windows that don’t open? deferred maintenance? mold? knob and tube wiring? many of the old homes in PDX need to be demolished or renovated for these (health/safety) reasons alone.

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      • Matt S. June 3, 2016 at 11:59 am

        Don’t forget the 350 dollar gas bill to heat in the winter because of single pane windows and lack of insulation. It’s interesting, you spend 350K on a house in Portland and you immediately have to do those updates.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 3, 2016 at 12:36 pm

        Yep, sounds exactly like my house. It’s hard enough being able to afford a mortgage, let alone having to pay to upgrade all the inferior plumbing and electrical.

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  • Granpa June 1, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    I am lucky enough to have a house that has charm, a certified wildlife garden and lots of carbon sequestering trees. The 80 year old brick house is well kept with routine maintenance taking this owner’s time away from bike riding on most weekends. I want this house to last for another 80 years, but the market is so hot that it is now worth 4 or 5 times what we paid for it. It is financially stupid for me not to sell to a developer who would tear it down, raze the property and build two $800,000 houses on the lot. That won’t do squat for the affordable housing I so often hear bemoaned over in this blog. The neighborhood has lots of properties and a sense of community that are not broken and do not need “fixing”. The current development model will fix them anyway and posters on this blog will delight to see the history, character, foliage and wildlife (and me) be gone from the area.

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    • rachel b June 1, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Succinct, prescient and sad, Granpa. I vote yours Comment of the Week.

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  • ac June 1, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    “zoning” is the word missing from this article
    read up on zoning
    areas already exist, but my guess is that no developer will build to a middle size unless forced to. they will maximize the zoning envelope, such as it is for any given location.

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    • GlowBoy June 2, 2016 at 10:19 am

      “no developer will build to a middle size unless forced to”

      I think what you mean is “no developer will build to a middle size unless allowed to.” Where zoning enters into the discussion is that it actually prohibits most of the missing-middle housing we’re talking about.

      FWIW, more or less the same parallel discussion has long been ongoing on streets.mn. Minneapolis has the same problem, that a few decades ago way too much of the city was downzoned, and most of the rental housing that exists (there are tons of duplexes, quad-plexes and small apartment buildings) would be illegal to build here today.

      As in Portland, a lot of this (as is today’s resistance to change) was driven by wealthier homeowners who didn’t want their neighborhood’s “character” besmirched by too many unslightly apartment buildings, or the renters of those buildings filling up the streets with their cars.

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  • q June 1, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Great article. I wish the City would do MUCH more to eliminate zoning barriers so more of the types of housing that have proven themselves over time–duplexes, courtyard apartments, etc.–could be built, instead of spending so much effort trying to restrict what can be built, and what it looks like.

    Unfortunately, I can just as easily see the City spending energy to restrict modern design as I can seeing it making it easier to build duplexes. Or it’ll do both–you can build a duplex where you couldn’t before IF it has a gable roof and double-hung windows.

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  • Daniel Costantino June 1, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    Something I’d like to see addressed at some point: how much cheaper could residential units be built if there were only 1 bathroom per unit, as things were actually built in the 1920s/1930s era that produced all the lovely cottages/duplexes/triplexes/courtyard apartments that we all love? Modern development seems to assume you need at least as many full baths as bedrooms, usually an extra half-bath on top. I don’t dispute the convenience (though I do dispute the extra effort of cleaning multiple bathrooms), but how is this truly necessary and is it just not unnecessarily adding to construction cost with extra square footage, electrical and plumbing?

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    • q June 1, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      I agree in part–many units seemed designed with an obsession for bathrooms. But I’ve also worked with a developer who did true, affordable apartments, and intentionally had one full bathroom per bedroom. Reasoning? Roommates. The lovely apartments you mention don’t work well for roommates who don’t want to share bathrooms. (Not saying other roommates are fine with that.) So, ironically, what looked like a luxury (extra bathrooms) was an affordability feature for his market (people who want to decrease housing costs by sharing with roommates).

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      • Daniel Costantino June 2, 2016 at 9:05 am

        I mean, sure, but, I’ve lived in a number of roommate situations in my life and always shared a bathroom. So I don’t see why this is such a big deal. And yes, I get that not everyone is or needs to be comfortable with the same things that I am OK with, but I still don’t buy it as a necessity.

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        • q June 2, 2016 at 12:12 pm

          It was an interesting perspective for me to see. It also wasn’t entirely so roommates could avoid sharing a bathroom–it also allowed people wanting to share a unit the ability to both have equally nice bedroom suites. Even if there’s only one bathroom in a dwelling, one bedroom is almost always designed as the “master” one, with a bigger closet, better location, larger, etc. He’d do two equal ones, and there was demand for those, possibly because so few dwellings are built that way. Plus, especially when planned right, two bathrooms aren’t twice as expensive as one.

          Again not for everyone, but it was appreciated by part of the rental market.

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          • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 4:17 pm

            Wow. This is illuminating! I grew up sharing a bathroom with six siblings and my parents. !!!

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    • Matt S. June 2, 2016 at 7:32 am

      It’s because they’re all going to be AirBNB’s…

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  • q June 1, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    9watts
    Now that seems like kind of an unwarranted simplification. Eli Spevak’s a great example of someone who advocates and builds things that I don’t think fit either of your caricatures.

    I have no idea what you mean by this.

    I said developers who build higher quality projects get slammed for building unaffordable stuff to make obscene profits, and ones who build less expensive stuff get slammed for building cheaply in order to make obscene profits. It was a general statement, and it’s true. In fact, developers get criticized simply for being developers, regardless of what they build or how much it costs.

    It doesn’t mean all developers fit into exact categories, or it isn’t possible to have good design without extreme expense, or that all expensive projects are high quality, or anything else like that. And you gave an example of a developer who builds some nice projects that I admire that are not extremely inexpensive or extremely costly. So what?

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  • Doug Klotz June 2, 2016 at 8:33 am

    I think one of the points of allowing Missing Middle Housing, is that it is another way to increase our housing supply, and to do so in close-in areas where residents are less likely to drive.

    Take Inner Southeast, for instance. The only place you can build apartment buildings with small units economically, is in the Commercial zoning (CS, soon to be CM-2) along transit streets. Even the so-called “apartment” zoning (R-1) along these same corridors only allows 1 unit per 1000 s.f. of site, about a fourth of what you could build in CS/ CM-2.

    There is a one-block swath of R-2.5 (rowhouse) “Comp Plan designation” on either side of most of those corridors. Much of this will soon be actual R-2.5 Zoning. But even where the R-2.5 zoning exists now, such as between Division and Clinton, only a few rowhouse developments have been built, such as the one at 2553-2555 SE 31st. And, yes, they’re expensive, but given all other factors being the same, they should be less expensive than a single house on that same lot.

    But if fourplexes were allow in R-2.5, for instance, a similar math should apply, and they would be less per unit than the two rowhouses. Given this is a really hot area, everything will always be more expensive than at, say, 80th and Division. But the code changes would (or could) apply to all areas.

    And, all of these approaches could add to the amount of housing built closer in, which will help, in the long run, keep housing prices from rising so high. It will also let more people live where they can bike, walk or take transit for many of their daily trips, as well as bring more residents who can support neighborhood businesses, instead of destination retail drawing from all over the city.

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  • David Hampsten June 2, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    “I think one of the points of allowing Missing Middle Housing, is that it is another way to increase our housing supply, and to do so in close-in areas where residents are less likely to drive.”

    Doug, I couldn’t agree with you more. I find this discussion of basically building low-density housing in inner Portland very amusing and not at all unexpected, given that Council is about to approve the first comprehensive land use plan since 1980, when the city was less than half the size it is now.

    Where were all these folks during the past 9 years of the Portland Plan, Comp Plan, and the TSP update? I know you were there, as I was, up to the hilt in the details, but I wonder about some of the other bloggers.

    The city is faced with an expectation that another 300,000 folks are going to be moving to Portland within the next 20 years. Normally, most of those folks would go to where land is cheapest – East Portland, Cully, North Central, and Southwest Portland, the areas with the worst infrastructure and transit service. Much as I might criticize planners in Portland, I give them credit for attempting to curtail much of this future growth in the areas that can least accommodate it, by “down-zoning” large swaths of multi-family and medium-density single-family zoning in those areas, especially along outer Powell Blvd, Sandy, & Foster. Such down-zoning forces a higher density in inner parts of Portland, obviously more than existing residents want (at least those who have responded to this blog.)

    To carry the original analogy further: “Road bikes aren’t illegal in all of Portland, just in the inner trendier areas of “Portlandia”. You can buy and use such bikes in the outer areas, but good luck in finding a shop that will sell you one, and even better luck finding a safe place to ride one. You will need to dodge hostile homeless campers, busy car traffic, and SUVs with gun racks driven by Trump voters. Be warned, police will pull you over and arrest you if you try to ride west anywhere of 80th.”

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  • John Liu
    John Liu June 2, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    When you include land, design, development, construction costs, the “per-unit” cost to build a three-or-four story apartment building, that places 20 to 30 units on a given parcel, is lower than the cost to build a “missing middle” duplex, triplex, or garden apartment that places 2 to 6 units on the same parcel. And newly constructed duplexes and garden apartments can only add units to the city at a slow trickle, because each such development ultimately produces only a handful of units.

    Thus, if you are trying to encourage affordable housing, you’d want to construct apartment buildings rather than missing middle buildings. Note, however, that newly constructed units are never going to be super affordable, that’s inherent in the economics of developing new structures. Existing older structures are the most affordable type of housing,

    Apartment buildings can be placed on commercial corridors, replacing parking lots, underused old commercial buildings, and derelict structures, without negatively disrupting the character of the neighborhood, indeed the result is usually an improvement in the neighborhood and an increase in property values (e.g. see the increase in values around SE Division). This is a win-win.

    Placing missing-middle buildings in a single-family home neighborhood usually requires demolishing one or more existing houses, changes the character of the neighborhood, and can negatively impact property values which hurts the people ashtray living in the neighborhood. This is a win-lose.

    Thus, adding housing through apartment buildings on commercial corridors will be faster and less contentious than adding housing through missing-middle buildings in single-family house neighborhoods.

    Missing-middle construction has a role to play, but I think it is a much smaller role than some think. The apartment buildings now being constructed at a furious pace, all over the city, are the main solution to our housing shortage.

    The other solution is to encourage other neighborhoods, farther from the city center, to develop and become as vibrant, livable, and desirable as the closest-in neighborhoods are today. That means improving transit and bike access in those areas. As an example, ten years ago Woodstock was a boring place, today it has nice shops and eateries, an interesting main street, and is an attractive neighborhood to live in.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 2, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      Missing-middle construction has a role to play, but I think it is a much smaller role than some think. The apartment buildings now being constructed at a furious pace, all over the city, are the main solution to our housing shortage.

      Couldn’t agree more. Could the push by the DDI for missing-middle just be a clever way to deflect attention away from the real solution of more apartment buildings while simultaneously not seeming anti-housing?

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    • soren June 2, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      only in detached-home-obsessed pdx are low-rise apartment buildings excluded from the missing middle.

      seattle’s zoning code illustrates this:
      http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cs/groups/pan/@pan/documents/web_informational/dpds021571.pdf

      Placing missing-middle buildings in a single-family home neighborhood usually requires demolishing one or more existing houses, changes the character of the neighborhood, and can negatively impact property values which hurts the people ashtray living in the neighborhood. This is a win-lose.

      ~80% of the people living in my neighborhood are renters and most of them live in multiunit buildings. moreover, in my neighborhood existing multifamily buildings are being demolished to build single family homes. it is exclusionary zoning that is changing the “character” of my neighborhood. this is lose-lose.

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    • Alex Reedin June 2, 2016 at 1:53 pm

      The issue is that what you see as apartments built at a “furious pace” is actually only adding 1.7% more housing units per year (~4,400 new in 2015 /280,000 total in 2014), and that’s in the midst of a boom – not the average over the business cycle. In a city whose population would easily grow faster than it is if more housing growth were allowed, and where price increases are therefore extremely rapid due to demand outstripping supply, 1.7% annual growth in housing units is not enough.

      So, we need to change something in the market-rate supply side (let’s leave adding tenants’ rights protections and tons of affordable housing aside for now, though those are incredibly important.)

      Given that we’re already getting significant densification on inner corridors, we’re probably not going to increase that rate a ton. On mid and outer corridors, we’re running out of “Woodstock”-like areas that have buildings fronting the commercial corridor to act as a starting point, without too much traffic on it, and good transit. The Foster/Holgate/64th area (which has too much traffic on it to be super-attractive IMO but the wide sidewalks and forever-delayed streetscape plan mitigate that somewhat) and Lents Town Center on 92nd are two of the last ones that aren’t very built out. Once you go further east, sidewalks, transit, and street-fronting buildings fade. Turning 122nd/Powell into somewhere market-rate developers are going to want to build dense apartments seems like a huge endeavor to me right now.

      What’s left if we’re already doing about as much as we can off of centers and corridors? Well, a strong majority of the buildable land area in the inner areas of Portland that are most appropriate for growth is non-corridor land zoned R5 or R2.5, so “missing middle” housing in those areas seems like one of the only options left to feasibly increase the rate of housing production in the city. Yes, it could have some negative impacts for existing residents. But on the current trajectory, our city is rapidly becoming a place for the rich only. Are negative impacts on existing inner-eastside single-family home residents unacceptable in service of keeping our city somewhere that the non-wealthy can live? I say no. Do you say yes?

      Citations
      Total housing units in City of Portland 2010:
      http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/4159000
      New 2010-2014:
      https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/532452
      New in 2015:
      http://censtats.census.gov/bldg/bldgprmt.shtml

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    • lop June 4, 2016 at 1:39 am

      “Missing-middle construction has a role to play, but I think it is a much smaller role than some think. The apartment buildings now being constructed at a furious pace, all over the city, are the main solution to our housing shortage. ”

      To add some numbers to that comment,

      Taking data from here:

      http://socds.huduser.gov/permits/

      1980-2015 the three years with the highest number of permits issued by number of units in buildings with 5+ or more residential units are 2014 with 4120 units, 2015 with 3377 units, and 2013 with 2891 units. In 2-4 unit structures, 1997 with 439 units, 1999 with 412 units, 2003 with 393 units.

      2013-2015 average for 2-4 unit structures: ~121 units/year. Loosen zoning just enough to max the previous peaks when demand for housing was lower than it has been the last few years, account for knocking down existing housing to make room, and it would be like adding another hassalo on eighth to the city. It won’t be the main source of growth. But knocking the rate of development down by 8-10% when people are being priced out of their neighborhoods doesn’t seem like a great idea.

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      • lop June 4, 2016 at 1:39 am

        *match not max

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  • John Liu
    John Liu June 2, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    “Already”, not “ashtray”. Damn autocorrect, and damn the lack of any edit feature here.

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    • rachel b June 2, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      “Ashtray” is the new “already.” 🙂 I ashtray knew that.

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  • q June 2, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    9watts
    “…even crap is expensive.”
    “How many people making a median wage in Portland would say their housing is ‘high quality’? Some, but not many. And they’d be right.”
    How do we know this? I think you may only be thinking here of new construction, and we’d probably agree if we limit the discussion to that slice, but why would we since most of the housing, and certainly most of the housing that changes hands, in this town is not new construction but much older than that. I don’t like cliches much, so when I come across what looks like one I disagree. If I misunderstood you I apologize.
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    How do we know “crap” is expensive? Look around the city, and listen to what people here and elsewhere are saying. Housing here is very expensive, no matter what the quality.

    I’m glad you agree with me that most people making a median wage would not think their housing is “high quality” if it’s new. And I WAS talking mainly of new housing, because my comments were in response to someone’s comment about NEW housing, in an article about NEW housing.

    But given how expensive housing is, and the fact that rents are based on what people will pay, not what it cost to build or buy a building decades ago, I’d bet most people making a median wage living in non-new housing would think it was high quality, either. No, I don’t have a scientific study to prove that. But again, look around at rents and affordability, and what people are saying in these comments, and elsewhere. It’s really not a controversial idea at all to believe that the average person doesn’t think they live in high quality housing, whether it’s new or old.

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    • Granpa June 2, 2016 at 1:46 pm

      High quality has no value in the current development model. If you recall
      “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”: “Quality is the Tao”. Alas that north star has dimmed.

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      • q June 2, 2016 at 1:58 pm

        Granpa–I don’t know about “no value” but at least “limited”. Many (not all) people will choose things like square footage or location over construction quality or aesthetics, assuming some minimal level of construction and aesthetic level exists. “Would I rather have a second bedroom, or higher-quality windows and quainter detailing around them?” is a real question for most people, since they can’t afford both. If more people chose quality over everything else, developers would increase quality.

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  • Brian June 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Our neighbors across the street just had all the horrible vinyl removed so that they could have the original wood siding repainted. You are absolutely correct. These things do matter.
    Also, I felt the same way you did in Connecticut when I moved here 18 years ago. I felt that I had to put some time in to get to know the place, get involved, volunteer and help build our community.

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    • rachel b June 3, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Great neighbors! 🙂 And you sound very much like my friends who moved here around the time you did, who introduced themselves and their ideas so respectfully and gracefully to help make changes, it was nearly seamless . It was a different time, a different people and a very different mentality–one I miss greatly.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 3, 2016 at 3:42 pm

        So what you’re saying is, you’d prefer that your neighbors share the same ideals as you, and if not, that they should properly integrate?

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        • Brian June 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm

          I read that much differently. She wrote “who introduced themselves and their ideas.” THEIR ideas. It’s a matter of how one works themselves into a new community. It took a while, but now all my neighbors eat Johnsonville bratwurst and drink PBR on their front porches.

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          • rachel b June 6, 2016 at 5:42 pm

            HAH! 🙂

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  • Matt S. June 3, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    This is an interesting article about affordable housing:

    http://www.theskanner.com/news/newsbriefs/23879-portland-habilitation-center-northwest-celebrates-grand-opening-of-affordable-housing

    Missing Middle?

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  • Jeff June 3, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    soren
    i find the idea that someone who has lived in a neighborhood X years deserves more respect than a newcomer to be truly awful. imo, this kind of xenophobia merits all the sarcasm i can muster.
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    spoken like someone who recently moved to PDX.

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    • soren June 4, 2016 at 5:54 pm

      Yeah…I recently moved to PDX 17 years ago.

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  • Darvel Lloyd June 27, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    Excellent article by Jeff Gudman–a man who really knows what he’s talking about! Looking forward to seeing a big crowd at the “Infill” hearing in the Mt. Tabor Neighborhood tomorrow evening.

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  • q June 28, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Anyone planning to attend the open houses might want to look carefully at the less obvious impacts of the regulations being proposed. For instance, in the “compatibility” regulations, the floor area limits will apply to existing houses as well as new. So if you want to add onto your house in the future, and it’s currently over a size that’s only about a third of what’s currently legal, or if it’s smaller but adding on would put it over that size, you won’t be able to add on without a land use review, with no particular likelihood of getting approval. In fact, that would even apply to converting an attic to livable space–you’d need a land use review for compatibility, even though you’re not touching the exterior. This would apply to thousands of existing houses in Portland.

    Also, the regulations are viewing “density” as number of units on a site, not number of people. So, for instance, someone who wants to build a structure with two one-bedroom units, that might have one occupant in each, for a total of two occupants, may get some incentives because they are adding “density”. The person who wants to build a house conducive to having roommates or an extended family, say 6 or 8 occupants total, may be treated less favorably, because their 6 or 8 people are on one unit, so are viewed as being half as dense as the 2 units with 2 people total.

    There’s lots to like about the proposals, but also lots that sounds good at first glance, but isn’t.

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  • rubenfleur July 10, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    SIMPLY THE BEST.
    BETTER THAN ALL THE REST.

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