New PBOT planning effort aims to address historic lack of investment in lower southeast

Posted by on August 9th, 2021 at 10:37 am

Like many area streets, SE 64th Ave in the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood of SE Portland lacks sidewalks.
(Photos by Lisa Caballero/BikePortland)

Lower Southeast Rising project map.

Last week, the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) released their Existing Conditions reports for the Lower Southeast Rising Area Plan, a new planning effort which launched at the beginning of the year and aims to increase area livability and housing stability. The core focus of the plan is the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood, but it also includes portions of the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek, Lents, Mt. Scott-Arleta, and Woodstock neighborhoods.

The reports are the first phase of what will be an 18-month process of community engagement, analysis, and strategizing about how best to maintain housing affordability and foster area businesses amid rising development pressures. The process will culminate in a City Council vote sometime in 2023.

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These in-depth comprehensive analyses that the bureaus produce provide a useful all-in-one-place bucket of information about a region, and in this case include real estate analyses, demographics, land use characteristics, displacement risk, active transportation facilities, transit and more. The history section of the Existing Conditions Atlas is particularly interesting and explains how the color-coded system of rating loan risk (green through red) set lower Southeast Portland on its path of deficient infrastructure and lack of business and retail investment:

the majority of outer Southeast Portland was “yellowlined,” which made it dfficult to receive competitive loan rates. This disproportionate access to federally backed loans resulted in general underinvestment in the lower Southeast area of Portland, especially relative to nearby Eastmoreland and Sellwood that were bluelined and greenlined respectively. Today, the median home values of formerly “yellowlined” neighborhoods have the overall lowest values in Portland. This is part of the reason why the lower Southeast area of Portland is still comparatively affordable, but also helps explain the lack of public investment and infrastructure.

Neighborhood Greenway on SE Ogden St.

Although Lower Southeast is home to some of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods, they are among the last to have become annexed to the city and did so only under pressure—the Brentwood-Darlington neighborhood was incorporated into Portland in 1986 after septic problems made it clear that a sewer system was needed. Over thirty years later, the area continues to be characterized by unpaved streets, absence of sidewalks, limited bus service and retail activity which mean that “residents must resort to driving to meet daily needs.” More recent grassroots efforts have led to a neighborhood greenway, bike lanes and some sidewalk infill.

The Atlas highlights the area’s transportation and land use conundrum. It is low-density, and lacks the neighborhood center or commercial district that anchors many other Portland neighborhoods, and which provide a natural focus for transportation investment. Without an adequate transportation network as a guide, sensitively increasing density is a challenge. The city is also mindful that the area is experiencing mid-stage gentrification and that many residents are vulnerable to displacement.

City staff will be collaborating with community organizations, neighbors, and a Project Advisory Committee to address these land use and transportation issues with an emphasis on anti-displacement and affordable housing strategies. They “seek community input to guide healthy community development.” Check minutes from the first two PAC meetings and get the details for upcoming ones on the project website.

— Lisa Caballero, lisacaballero853@gmail.com
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Go big bike guy.
Guest
Go big bike guy.

And then once the improvements are made, property values will increase and people will be complaining about the lack of affordability. It’s a win for current homeowners who get the taxpayers to increase the value of their homes. Not so good for those looking for affordable housing in Portland.

Watts
Guest
Watts

RIP went into effect last week, which will make it easier to demolish existing, less-expensive housing in this area and carve up the lots to build new houses. That too is going to impact affordability as developers start bidding on the cheapest houses.

But better for me and my urbanist brethren who get more nice new houses to choose from!

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

RIP went into effect last week, which will make it easier to demolish existing, less-expensive housing in this area and carve up the lots to build new houses. That too is going to impact affordability as developers start bidding on the cheapest houses.

As we all know, cheap low density housing stays cheap! That’s why you can nab this beautiful 3 bed 2 bath house from ’77 in San Jose for only a cool $1,000,000.
https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/5391-Garrison-Cir_San-Jose_CA_95123_M15294-89069

Everyone knows that restricting density is the only path to affordability!

Watts
Guest
Watts

You also don’t get affordability by giving developers an incentive to demolish cheap houses and replace them high-end housing.

I do not favor restricting density; I do favor restricting demolition.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

You also don’t get affordability by giving developers an incentive to demolish cheap houses and replace them high-end housing.

What do you mean by affordability? Portland is never again going to be a place you can get by working 20 hours a week at the coffee shop, but that has everything to do with it being one of the most desirable places to live in the entire country, not development.

We don’t have the choice to make Portland a cheap place to live. The only choice we have is are going to make it possible for working class people to live here or are we going to turn into ‘San Jose on the Columbia’.

I do not favor restricting density; I do favor restricting demolition.

The mold thanks you haha. Being opposed to demolition is the same thing as being opposed to density.

Watts
Guest
Watts

“Being opposed to demolition is the same thing as being opposed to density.” This is only true if you have a limited view of what forms housing can take. Or you’re a developer with a profit motive.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

“Being opposed to demolition is the same thing as being opposed to density.” This is only true if you have a limited view of what forms housing can take. Or you’re a developer with a profit motive

Pretty much every single lot in Portland has or had something on it at this point. If we prohibited demolition of currently standing buildings, pretty much none of the high density buildings on the east side would exist.

It really is the same thing. I’m pretty sure my view of what forms housing can take is significantly more expansive than yours.

And spoiler: The people who built your house had a profit motive. In fact, the developers(gasp!) who developed 95% of the housing in Portland did it to make a profit. Crazy right?

Watts
Guest
Watts

You could easily double the number of structures in my inner SE neighborhood without demolishing anything. Larger houses can be divided. Rooms can be let. Additions built. And so on.

I’m not at all anti-profit, but there’s definitely money behind the idea that the only way to house more people is to scrape away existing housing and replace it with something costing $900K.

Psmith
Guest
Psmith

What you’re missing here is most of the value of a house is the value of the land underneath it. Limiting demolitions that add density just makes it more likely the house will become more expensive as the land underneath it appreciates. That fact will overwhelm any “natural affordability” that comes from the depreciation of the house. There are plenty of small houses that cost $1M around town because of the high demand and limited housing supply in a given neighborhood.

Long story short, if demand grows in a neighborhood and the supply doesn’t grow with it, the price of the land will get bid up to the point that even a small, modest, older home will be unaffordable. The solution in that situation is to tear down that house and replace with multiple units, each of which sits on a more affordable piece of land. In the near-term, yes, the new houses will be extra-expensive because all new construction is expensive. But it will reduce demand pressure on all the surrounding lots.

Watts
Guest
Watts

“But it will reduce demand pressure on all the surrounding lots.”

That’s one of the ways in which real estate does not follow the simple rules of supply and demand. If my neighbor sells their house for a high price, it will make it easier for me to sell mine at a high price as well (because “comparables”). So when the developer demolishes, divides, and rebuilds down the street, the price of my house doesn’t decrease due to reduced demand; it inflates, pushing up the cost of housing in the surrounding area.

Rental housing has a similar dynamic, and is one of the contributors to gentrification.

Real estate is not a market for widgets.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

When the developer demolishes, divides, and rebuilds down the street, the price of my house doesn’t decrease due to reduced demand; it inflates.

Half right. Denser development increases the value of land by increasing its utility, but decreases the per-unit cost of housing by making it more plentiful. If unimpeded, this has a flywheel effect, with the increasing value of land causing the replacement of more SFRs with multi-unit residences that serve many families per lot, not just one.

Real estate is not a market for widgets.

Like every other market on earth, real estate pricing is a function of supply and demand.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Larger houses can be divided.

Larger, high quality housing is not being torn down in the first place. Lots of big houses in the central eastside that are rented out as apartments for just that reason.

Rooms can be let.

Yes, we have that. It doesn’t matter how many rooms are let, a 2000 sqft house can hold far less people than 14 apartment three story building.

And so on.

You kind of yadda-yadda’d the end the year. The reality is that no one is turning 1960’s and 1970’s ranch housing into four apartments. No one is buying high quality 5 bedroom houses and tearing them down. Retro-fitting low-quality construction to turn it into irregular apartments is not something most developers want to take on and not something local landlords are generally going to take-on.

We need to live in the real world on this. It’s great you can dream up things but what you are saying doesn’t actually meet our needs in practice.

I’m not at all anti-profit, but there’s definitely money behind the idea that the only way to house more people is to scrape away existing housing and replace it with something costing $900K.

The only way to house more people is to build more space to house those people. Sub-dividing structures isn’t going to meet our needs. I promise you, your house cost a lot when it was built. Do you expect brand new cars to be cheaper than used cars? Should we ban new cars? What do you think would happen to the price of used cars if we banned new ones because not everyone could afford them?

The anti-housing folks are living in a fairy tale. We have a housing crisis and need to live in the real world.

soren
Guest
soren

“Being opposed to demolition is the same thing as being opposed to density.”

I’m thoroughly opposed to demolition of naturally-affordable plex housing and it’s replacement with micro/mini-McMansions (this is happening in my neighborhood). Unfortunately policies like RIP made this more likely by allowing developers to subdivide substandard lots (many of which happen to be either low-end multifamily or shared housing).

(I definitely approve of the demolition of all SFHs — esp bungalows — and their replacement with very tall, sun-blocking, characterless apartment buildings.)

Jim Labbe
Subscriber
Jim Labbe

Substandard lots are a small percentage of the city. I think you are overstating and assuming the worse of this provision of RIP.

soren
Guest
soren

“Substandard lots are a small percentage of the city.”

Jim, You know very well that I’ve been deeply involved in tenant rights and housing policy for many years in Portland so this is an intentional strawman.

As my public comments throughout the RIP process (at “stakeholder” meetings, commission meetings, and city council) indicate, I agree with city-funded studies that suggest that RIP will produce only a small amount of new housing. However, these very same studies indicate that most of the lots that will be targeted for redevelopment are primarily substandard lots, many of which are decrepit, out of basic habitability code rental/shared housing. The technical term used by slumlords for this kind of rental housing is chronic “deferred maintenance”.

PS: The RIP Displacement report and its appendices suggests that 1) areas with the most new housing are also areas at highest risk of displacement-gentrification and 2) that buildable lots are overrepresented in areas that are risk of diplacement.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

There is no such thing as naturally-affordable housing of any kind. There is only the price of housing now and the price of housing in the future.

Preferring low density housing to high density housing for any reason is the same as preferring more expensive housing. Those ‘naturally-affordable’ housing units will be even more run-down in 15 years, but their rent will probably double. You can’t keep prices affordable by preserving run down housing.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I prefer my naturally-affordable housing to also be free-range and organic. So hard to find these days!

JS
Guest
JS

Not on the Springwater.

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

Good point. And housing costs are only one aspect of affordability. Living in a old home with legacy pollution that is costly to heat is not “affordable” just because the monthly rent or mortgage payments are lower. The obsession with “old affordable homes” is a half-truth infused with Portland nostalgia run amok.

soren
Guest
soren

What I would very much like to see happen:

“I definitely approve of the demolition of all SFHs — esp bungalows — and their replacement with very tall, sun-blocking, characterless apartment buildings.”

What Jim says I care about:

“The obsession with “old affordable homes” is a half-truth infused with Portland nostalgia run amok.”

I will also note that YIMBYs almost always shift the dialog away from rental housing (the entire substance of my comments) to “homes” (what they really care about).

soren
Guest
soren

What I actually wrote:

I definitely approve of the demolition of all SFHs — esp bungalows — and their replacement with very tall, sun-blocking, characterless apartment buildings.

What cmh89 claims I wrote:

“Preferring low density housing to high density housing for any reason is the same as preferring more expensive housing”

In my experience, this kind of “bad faith” behavior is the rule just about every time I challenge the “trickle down” market fundamentalism of YIMBYs.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

What cmh89 claims I wrote:

What you actually wrote

I’m thoroughly opposed to demolition of naturally-affordable plex housing and it’s replacement with micro/mini-McMansions

So yes, you prefer low-density housing to high-density housing regardless of your misuse of the term ‘mini-McMansions’

If you are opposed to tearing down low-density housing and replacing it with higher density housing, you in fact, prefer the low-density housing.

In my experience, this kind of “bad faith” behavior is the rule just about every time I challenge the “trickle down” market fundamentalism of YIMBYs.

It’s not bad faith behavior. In my experience your arguments tend to be based not so much in facts but in emotion. When you have an emotion based ideology you tend to perceive every one else who works in the realm of reality and facts as problematic because they don’t have the solution that your emotion-based ideology calls for.

I think mostly ‘YIMBY’s as you call them are annoyed with “progressive” anti-housing arguments that aren’t supported by any evidence. I don’t want to see this city become San Francisco or San Jose and I’m done with folks who want to emulate their failed, anti-housing policies.

soren
Guest
soren

mini-McMansions are high-density housing?

OK…….then.

(“plex” refers to a multiplex apartment building.)

“progressive” anti-housing arguments”

First of all, I’m no progressive.

Secondly, I’ve consistently argued for the re-legalization of apartment buildings and other multifamily housing types everywhere (for decades). In the case of RIP, I repeatedly gave testimony (for myself and a tenant rights org) arguing that RIP be opened up to FAR-based zoning that would allow for bonafide multifamily housing (not just low-density duplexes) and that FAR bonuses be markedly increased for non-profit multifamily housing. This is all pubic record. (I also strongly argued for additional incentives for non-profit housing.)

To be perfectly blunt: if it were up to me it would be illegal to build the mini-McMansions (single family homes) and luxury duplexes that YIMBYs are so enamored with. After generations of racist/classist apartment building bans, this kind of affirmative action is only fair!

“In my experience your arguments tend to be based not so much in facts but in emotion.”

Yet another YIMBY ad hominem…

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

mini-McMansions are high-density housing?

OK…….then.

You’re free to give examples of these ‘mini-McMansions’ I’m assuming by ‘mini-McMansion’ you actually mean moderately nice apartment but it’s hard to tell. Perhaps you just aren’t being articulate enough and could use real words.

To be perfectly blunt: if it were up to me it would be illegal to build the mini-McMansions (single family homes) and luxury duplexes that YIMBYs are so enamored with. After generations of racist/classist apartment building bans, this kind of affirmative action is only fair!

Ah, you do mean a free-standing SFH. Can you point to examples of this, I’m actually curious. I’m racking my brain for an example of a plex of any kind being torn down for a single family home. You apparently hate duplexes so I guess you’re okay with those being torn down?

Yet another YIMBY ad hominem…

Yeah, that’s how most folks who operate with emotion based ideology react to criticism.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Confusing a McMansion with an apartment is really amusing.

Not really. I’m well aware of what a McMansion is. The term ‘mini-McMansion’ is only used by you, hence no one knowing what the hell you are talking about. If you use real words to describe things, it makes it easier for others to understand you. For example, if you use the term ‘large single family home’ instead of ‘mini-McMansion’, there would have been no confusion. I’m not a mind reader.

A “naturally affordable” 8-plex replaced with a few Rennaissance mini-mcmansions:

Yes, it looks like they greatly increased the density of the lot. What’s the issue here exactly? They tore down a structure that was in terrible condition and made two new bigger structure that house more people.

A “naturally affordable” 3 entrance triplex replaced with a rehabbed SFH and a new mini-McMansion (lot subdivision)

LMAO this is a perfect example of why your entire argument is total nonsense. This ‘naturally-affordable’ building magically became not ‘naturally-affordable’.

This lot is now more dense. You seem to be just giving examples of lots becoming more dense, which I understand you are opposed to but you claim to not be. Outside of that, this one lot is a great example of how ‘naturally-affordable housing’ is a complete myth. I’ll take your word that there were 3 units in this buildings. As the neighborhood gentrified what happened to the ‘naturally-affordable housing’? It disappeared didn’t it. Preserving this structure didn’t preserve the low-rent did it? ‘Naturally-affordable housing’ doesn’t exist.

All of these ‘cheap’ units can either be torn down and have higher-density housing built or they can turn into expensive housing by being rehabbed. There is no future where they stay affordable though.

These are all examples close to my substandard 5-plex apartment but there are many more in neighborhood

I can’t see what’s going on in your last example but your first two are great examples of improving density by tearing down and replacing low-quality buildings. We just disagree I guess. You’d rather keep the low-density buildings and have some wealthy person come along and turn them into a single-family dwelling. I personally see the benefit of the added density.

Even if I thought this was a problem, I’m confused on what you think the remedy is. If you prevent developers from tearing down the structures, you’re just going to get wealthy out of state buyers turning them back into single-family homes like in your second example.

Regardless, these are the exception rather than the rule. The majority of buildings that are torn down in Portland are not plexes of any kind.

soren
Guest
soren

“All of these ‘cheap’ units can either be torn down and have higher-density housing built…”

Single family homes are not dense housing. Previously it was difficult to subdivide a lot which made it economically advantageous to build MULTIFAMILY housing as opposed to single family homes. This is no longer the case, thanks to YIMBYs.

I’m also not at all surprised that you believe replacing 8 very affordable rental units with a few million dollar single family homes is an “increase” in density. Based on years of interactions with YIMBYs, I’ve come to believe that most are anti-poor and anti-renter when push comes to shove.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Single family homes are not dense housing

Putting three single-family homes where one single-family home was is, in fact, making that space denser. Doesn’t seem like a particularly hard concept.

Obviously a 50 story apartment building is going to be denser than three SFHs home, but I think we need to be realistic about what’s going to actually get built in east Portland.

Previously it was difficult to subdivide a lot which made it economically advantageous to build MULTIFAMILY housing as opposed to single family homes. This is no longer the case, thanks to YIMBYs.

LOL developers having more options to increase density is somehow a bad thing? You really think that developers who would be building 8 unit buildings are going to switch to two SFHs? Let’s do some basic math. A 8 unit building where the average rent is $1700 a month would bring in $163k per year when full. They could turn them into condos and sell them for a minimum of $300k each for a total of at least $2,400,000, and that’s being generously low on the price for a new condo in Portland.

You aren’t going to sell two SFHs on a subdivided lot for even $2 million.

I’m also not at all surprised that you believe replacing 8 very affordable rental units with a few million dollar single family homes is an “increase” in density.

I mean, they wouldn’t be ‘affordable’ today. They’d just be low-quality mold infested units where the rent is $2000 a month as we see in the bay area.

Regardless, those are objectively more dense than what was there before. Words have meanings friend.

Based on years of interactions with YIMBYs, I’ve come to believe that most are anti-poor and anti-renter when push comes to shove.

I mean if folks like you got your way, construction of new units would come to a halt, we’d install a whole bunch of anti-housing and anti-renter regulations, and we’d have folks paying $1.5 million for a 3 bed 2 bath from 1977.

You’re regressive housing beliefs aren’t helping poor people. It’s not that YIMBYs are ‘anti-poor’, it’s that they are advocating for evidence-based policy that doesn’t jive with your emotion-based ideology.

soren
Guest
soren

“Putting three single-family homes where one single-family home was is, in fact, making that space denser.”

Cmh89 math/evidence: 3 units > 8 units.

“You aren’t going to sell two SFHs on a subdivided lot for even $2 million.”

Close to half of the SFHs for sale in this part of Portland list for ~1 million or more.

comment image

And ironically, a very short walk away from the demolished 8-plex, two new attached duplex condos sold for ~$1.9 million a few years ago.

I would respectfully submit that Portland is far more like San Francisco than the “working class friendly city” you claimed it to be (upthread).

They’d just be low-quality mold infested units where the rent is $2000 a month…

Average asking rent for a one bedroom is ~$1400 in Portland and these efficiencies would have rented for a lot less if they had not been torn down and replaced with the ~0.8 million dollar luxury housing you, apparently, prefer.

“It’s not that YIMBYs are ‘anti-poor’, it’s that they are advocating for evidence-based policy that doesn’t jive with your emotion-based ideology.”

For someone who has repeatedly claimed that my comments are “emotional” and devoid of evidence, your commentary here seems to be very light on the evidence (no links, no numbers, nothing) and heavy on appeal to emotion (ad hominem)

“if folks like you got your way, construction of new units would come to a halt”

Personalizing the argument, creating a strawman, and ignoring my long and very public history of advocacy for re-legalizing apartment buildings on residential and all RM zones in Portland.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Cmh89 math/evidence: 3 units > 8 units.

Yep, when you increase the amount of people who live in a space, that space is more dense than it was! Crazy.

Close to half of the SFHs for sale in this part of Portland list for ~1 million or more.

You should take a look at some of those listings so you can see what actually sells for $1 million and what doesn’t!

And ironically, a very short walk away from the demolished 8-plex, two new attached duplex condos sold for ~$1.9 million a few years ago.

Feel free to link it if you want me to take a look.

I would respectfully submit that Portland is far more like San Francisco than the “working class friendly city” you claimed it to be (upthread).

I never claimed Portland was a working class friendly city. Usually you only put things in quotation marks when they are a quotation. This looks like ‘bad faith behavior’ to me. Portland is significantly more worker friendly than San Francisco however because SF has adopted many of your anti-working class arguments making development there hell on earth.

Average asking rent for a one bedroom is ~$1400 in Portland

One of the trendiest neighbrhoods in the city isn’t going to have average rent is it?

https://www.realtor.com/apartments/Buckman_Portland_OR?view=map&pos=45.521238,-122.654183,45.512346,-122.638073,16

I was just saying $1,700 to be generous. We are talking about new apartments in a really nice part of town. New apartments near me in St. Johns start at $1,500. There is zero chance new or newer apartments in Buckman are going to rent at or below city-wide average.

nd these efficiencies would have rented for a lot less if they had not been torn down and replaced with the ~0.8 million dollar luxury housing you, apparently, prefer.

Maybe in your dreams. Your second link shows the future of your first link if it hadn’t been torn down. If it hadn’t been torn down, some wealthy out-of-stater would have bought it and turned it back into a SFH OR it would have been rehabbed and turned into luxury apartments.

For someone who has repeatedly claimed that my comments are “emotional” and devoid of evidence, your commentary here seems to be very light on the evidence (no links, no numbers, nothing) and heavy on appeal to emotion (ad hominem)

I mean, quoting numbers at each other isn’t really going to do much and I’m not writing a novel on bikeportland. When I say your argument is based on emotion, I mean that it isn’t supported by the literature or academic study of affordable housing.

The idea of ‘naturally-occurring affordable housing’ doesn’t even make sense.

https://cityobservatory.org/the-myth-of-naturally-occurring-affordable-housing/

You might have housing that is in low demand and therefore cheap, but in a city where demand is very high like Portland, Seattle, or San Francisco, every building is going to become unaffordable no matter its state of disrepair.

Personalizing the argument, creating a strawman, and ignoring my long and very public history of advocacy for re-legalizing apartment buildings on residential and all RM zones in Portland.

Cool, I don’t know you or your very public history of whatever. I’m just saying from your comments here, you tend to make emotional arguments about what actions policy makers should take rather than arguments based in the reality of the place and time we live in.

Tony Jordan (Contributor)
Subscriber

Calling 2808 SE Belmont an 8plex is a real stretch, This was a BIG single family home with 7 bedrooms (according to Redfin) and 2.5 baths. No one would call that an 8plex. It’s a home that could have theoretically had a bunch of unrelated tenants in it.
So could a “mini-McMansion” By your definition, Soren, we should call any home with 2 bedrooms a duplex and a home with four bedrooms is a four-plex.

soren
Guest
soren

“…when you increase the amount of people who live in a space, that space is more dense than it was”

Continuing to have an exchange with someone who believes a family of 5 living in a 4500 square foot home is a higher density form of housing than 4 people living in a 2400 square foot 4-plex apartment building is completely pointless.

Maddy
Subscriber
Maddy

Run down housing may be in the eye of the beholder, and it is absolutely possible to maintain a property without needing to raze it.

I sure dig ADUs, though.

soren
Guest
soren

“me and my urbanist brethren”

One of the big lies in Portland politics is that RIP was about expanding affordable housing when what it actually did was enable developers to build more luxury homes via lot subdivision.

Jim Labbe
Subscriber
Jim Labbe

I don’t think the overstatements about RIP’s positive impacts on “expanding” affordable housing were anywhere near as common or as extreme as the many fabrications of its purported negative impacts, including the scare tactics about hurting affordability that you seem to be perpetuating here. That was in fact the biggest lie: that RIP would somehow hurt affordability relative to status quo single family zoning. RIP is not a panacea; it is one tool in the tool box. We need a whole range of tools at the local, state and federal level, especially right now to address catastrophe for renters (Another big fib is that the housing crisis is only a local problem that only local governments can deal with.) But RIP is undoubtedly an improvement on a status quo single family zoning that was already producing giant luxury homes and fast winnowing out Portland’s historically mixed income neighborhoods.

soren
Guest
soren

“That was in fact the biggest lie: that RIP would somehow hurt affordability relative to status quo single family zoning.”

This is a strawman. As I pointed out above, I don’t think RIP will have much of an impact on housing overall but that the few neighborhoods where it will have a larger impact are those most at risk of displacement (this is really, really awful). Therefore, I still vigorously maintain that the idea that RIP will change much of anything when it comes to housing affordability is a “big lie”.

(My comment about demolition specifically referred to existing multifamily housing that I think we should preserve from demolition — and especially so if the replacement housing is lower density.)

“Another big fib is that the housing crisis is only a local problem that only local governments can deal with.”

Your fib is a strawman – I never claimed this.

“But RIP is undoubtedly an improvement on a status quo single family zoning”

I think RIP zones will still produce luxury homes and that this entire process was a tragic missed opportunity to open up much of Portland to more apartment units. Moreover, RIP specifically loosened lot subdivision restrictions which made no sense given that it was supposed to encourage low-density multifamily housing, not SFHs. The fact that P:NW/YIMBY leaders doubled down on this by championing a new law that completely deregulated lot subdivision at the state level has only strengthened the likelihood that RIP lots will be used predominantly for a few more luxurious SFHs.

Restrictions on lot subdivision that blocked SFH development were a major part of what made multifamily housing pencil in on larger lots. That incentive is now gone — not only for residential but also for RM zones.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

And better for families of all income levels looking to buy their first home.

soren
Guest
soren

“all income levels”

According to Redfin tracking of final sale data, the median price of an accepted offer in Portland was around $570,000 (as of June). The average black family in Portland makes around $30K/year.

VS
Guest
VS

We have a limited supply and huge demand. That drives up prices. Why do you think basic economics don’t apply to housing?

soren
Guest
soren

I don’t think brutal Randian markets should determine who has access to medical care, nutrition, education, or housing. Why do you think so many people in the richest nation in the world should not have access to decent and secure housing?

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

The single biggest obstacles to abundant housing are the local governments blocking it from being built. In recent years, Portland has preserved most obstacles (like permit applications gathering dust), removed others (increased allowable density), and added others (like making 20-30-unit buildings uneconomical).

The city has also started pushing existing rentals (especially those on the affordable side) into the hands of would-be owner-occupants by making it illegal for landlords to screen applicants and instituting a deliberately punitive charge on landlords who don’t wish to renew someone’s lease.

VS
Guest
VS

Way to throw jargon and sidestep the question. And why do you insult so much?

How about this: do you think we have an adequate amount of housing in Portland today for the current demand?

Do you think higher supply would yield higher or lower prices?

And to answer you, I think in many places in the us supply is greater and prices are lower. Two ‘blue cities’ as examples are Minneapolis and Houston. I think there is a reason that the vast majority of homelessness in the US is on the West Coast is that we are hostile to building, and we require gold plating for what is built.

Watts
Guest
Watts

Higher supply might, or might not, lower prices. If the new supply is all high end, not only will it be more expensive than what it replaced, but it can inflate the prices of existing housing in the area.

There are many ways in which real estate does not follow basic market rules taught in Econ 101.

By the way, while I don’t think Houston and Minneapolis are comparable cities, it is worth noting that Houston’s housing market is currently going bonkers — one source reports that single family house prices are up almost 24% over last year, a year that also saw large price increases.

soren
Guest
soren

It’s almost as if market segmentation or “filtering up” is impossible in the narrow epistemology of YIMBYism

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

It’s almost as if market segmentation or “filtering up” is impossible in the narrow epistemology of YIMBYism

I moved to Portland to be near immediate family, Soren. I chose a SFR that’s 30% smaller than the city average, built new on an 1800-foot lot semi-recently divided from my neighbor’s lot.

If the city had blocked its construction, that wouldn’t have kept me out of Portland — I would’ve just outbid someone for something slightly older. The city would have one fewer home, $7K less of annual tax revenue, and a cascade of families paying slightly more for slightly less. And if my home hadn’t been built, one fewer Portland family would have a home — and it wouldn’t be me.

The anti-density restrictions you support don’t primarily hurt people with money — they hurt the folks unnecessarily pushed to the city’s edge by the exclusionary policies of repugnant classists and their accidental comrades.

Want cheaper housing? Safer streets? Cleaner air? Support every effort to densify, even those that don’t strike a blow against the bourgeoisie (beyond reducing the profits of incumbent landlords, of course).

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

When the government artificially restricts the construction of new housing, who do you think can afford the limited housing that gets built?

Building more housing means more people can buy housing, which helps people who don’t already own housing.

soren
Guest
soren

“Building more housing means more people can buy housing, which helps people who don’t already own housing.”

The rigged and failing housing market in the USA in no way resembles your cartoonish Econ101 statement

When Portland allows 20 story apartment buildings (including shelters and subsidized housing) on every low-density residential lot and when homeowners refuse the hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies they receive from the state/federal government, I will stop pointing out how utterly rigged your “free” market is.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

We agree that the government is preventing housing from being built.

You call this capitalism, but it is nothing of the sort.

Jim Labbe
Guest
Jim Labbe

How does RIP make it easier to demolish existing housing? Maybe you mean to say it will make it more likely? I don’t think this in anyway obvious. Demolitions were common before RIP. But RIP actually creates incentives to re-use existing structures by allowing them to be converted to duplexes or triplexes. So, if anything, RIP is as likely to reduce demolitions.

Watts
Guest
Watts

You’re right — I wrote easier when I should have written incentivize. It’s already pretty easy to demolish reusable structures, but now it will be more profitable to do so.

If you’re also right that we get duplex conversions rather than demolitions, I’ll reconsider my opinion of RIP (as I do whenever new facts emerge). I think there’s essentially no chance of that happening, but time will tell.

Maria
Guest
Maria

Very exciting!!! I agree that my ‘hood will benefit from some infrastructure improvements. Many of the unimproved roadways make for fun gravel riding and many of the residential side streets without sidewalks become places where folks walk and bike in the middle of the street and that really has kind of a special “streets are for people” feeling to it. I hope if/when sidewalks are mandated that individual residents don’t have to fund them…!

Go big bike guy.
Guest
Go big bike guy.

Maria, So everyone else should fund your sidewalks? I paid more for my house to buy in a neighborhood with sidewalks. Nope property owners need to pay. They can be funded with a city created “special improvement project” so property owners who benefit can pay it off over time.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I paid more for my house to buy in a neighborhood with sidewalks

You had the opportunityto make that choice. There are a lot of people who have to stretch to buy into Portlands cheapest neighborhoods. They don’t have the luxury of choosing to pay more for a house in a neighborhood with sidewalks.

Sidewalks are basic safety infrastructure and should be provided by the city like all other basic safety infrastructure is. We don’t make neighborhoods pay for stop signs or stop lights do we?

Go big bike guy.
Guest
Go big bike guy.

I disagree that sidewalks are an essential safety feature like stop signs or traffic lights. A nice amenity yes, not a right. Property owners who want sidewalks need to pay for them like the rest of us have.

Maddy
Subscriber
Maddy

Stop signs and traffic lights are essential safety features to protect cars from each other. Sidewalks protect pedestrians. I’m happy if the city spends my tax money on sidewalks in any neighborhood in Portland.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I disagree that sidewalks are an essential safety feature like stop signs or traffic lights

Cool! Me, urban planners, and safety statistics all disagree with you. Some people think seat belts aren’t essential safety features, that doesn’t change the reality that they are

“n addition to reducing walking along roadway crashes, sidewalks reduce other pedestrian crashes. Roadways without sidewalks are more than twice as likely to have pedestrian crashes as sites with sidewalks on both sides of the street.4”

https://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/tools_solve/walkways_trifold/

Go big bike guy.
Guest
Go big bike guy.

Cmh89,
If sidewalks add as much safety as you say then the property owners should be more than happy to pay for it themselves.Why does everyone always want someone else to pay their bill for them?

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

If sidewalks add as much safety as you say then the property owners should be more than happy to pay for it themselves.

If cancer treatment works as well as you say, then cancer patients should be more than happy to pay for it out of pocket!

Oh wait, it’s almost like the people who are most likely to be missing sidewalks are the least able to afford to build them because they are extremely expensive!

Why does everyone always want someone else to pay their bill for them?

I’m more than happy to chip in through taxes for sidewalks for folks who don’t have them. It’s called living in a society. We all chip in to make sure everyone has a basic standard of living which includes safe ways to get around the city.

I don’t know what to tell you. If you really can’t wrap your head around the idea that some people simply can’t afford to build sidewalks or afford to buy or rent a residence in a neighborhood that has them, there really isn’t anywhere this conversation can go. We aren’t talking about folks who could forgo avocado toast for a month and buy sidewalks. A lot of the folks we are talking about are fending off homelessness in an expensive city.

And as an FYI, sidewalks provide safety. It’s not a “as you say” situation. It’s just a fact. You can read all about if if you want to use information to inform your opinion.

Austin
Guest
Austin

I know everyone is different, but I cannot understand the mindset of not wanting to help others have what you have.

qqq
Guest
qqq

What about parks, schools, libraries, post offices, etc.? Shouldn’t new ones be paid for by neighbors? None of those are essential safety features. Shouldn’t neighbors closer to a new fire station pay more than those further away, since the response time will be faster for them? What about improvements to an existing park? Shouldn’t neighbors pay for those, with closer neighbors paying more?

What about the other direction–if a park or school or library closes, shouldn’t the neighbors who’d paid more for their houses due to proximity to those be compensated?

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

This is essentially my argument for making bicycle manufacturers provide at least basic, functional lights on bikes (which are required by law for riding at night); you wouldn’t buy a new car if it didn’t come with lights and you had to buy a set of aftermarket lights to enable you to drive at night.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

When the sidewalk in front of an existing home deteriorates, the homeowner is required to pay for its repair.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Over the last 20 years, I have spent more than $4000 (city mandated) on repairing the sidewalks on my corner lot due to damage from tree roots that break the sidewalk.

And those street trees. I probably spend $600 to $1000 every three or four years.

tee
Guest
tee

There’s nothing magical about the lack of sidewalks here. It’s downright dangerous, and it has been for years.

Watts
Guest
Watts

Ladd’s Addition is a “formerly yellow-lined neighborhood” (much of Richmond was red-lined, and very little of the city was green-lined).

There must be something else going on other than a designation that reflected conditions over 7 decades ago, and has lost all meaning since. Red-lining explains little about the city today, and pretending it does feeds a misleading narrative. How many Portlanders still live where they did in the ’50s and ’60s?

Bill Stites
Guest
Bill Stites

There’s so much wrong about this comment that it’s difficult to unpack.
Suffice to say that wealth [land] acquisition or denial of prior generations absolutely paints the complexion of today’s homeowners. Even – especially – waaaaaaaay back.

Watts
Guest
Watts

I agree that my parents’ ability to acquire wealth likely impacts me. I am more skeptical of the claim that the red-lining status from of the neighborhood in which I currently live in has any significant causal impact on my financial situation.

If you want to tie the red-lining status of the neighborhood in which my grandparents lived with my current financial situation, you might find a causal effect (though given the vagaries of life, I suspect it would be weak), but not many Portlanders live in the neighborhood where our grandparents did.

Given the highly disparate trajectories of formerly red- and yellow-lined neighborhoods in Portland, you’ll need to do more work to show why that designation has importance explaining the city today.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

These policies still have ramifications today, but the scars run deeper than race, because all residents of these neighborhoods were hurt by these designations — not just people of one specific race.

Watts
Guest
Watts

Yes, but the people who were hurt by these policies decades and decades ago are mostly dead, and their descendents have mostly moved elsewhere. To whatever extent the impact can be felt today, it has diffused and is no longer a geographic phenomenon.

But clearly you are right that most of the occupants of Portland’s red and yellow zones when they were so designated were white (and that’s probably still true today).

Matt
Guest
Matt

I would encourage you to watch the episode of “Last Week Tonight” from two weeks ago, titled “Housing Discrimination”, and see if it changes your thoughts on the matter at all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-0J49_9lwc

Watts
Guest
Watts

I saw that one, and while I agree with most of what Oliver is saying, it doesn’t have much bearing on my opinion that the red-line maps from more than a half-century ago tell us much about neighborhoods today, nor, given how much people move around, does it suggest much causation to residents in those parts today.

Look at one of the maps — most of the city was red or yellow. Some of the hottest neighborhoods today were red on the map then. Some of the red and yellow areas are still challenged, but I would suggest the single most important factor in determining what is hot today is distance from downtown. Status in 1950 just isn’t predictive (except that green areas haven’t decayed much over time).

Proximity to the urban core has far greater predictive power than anything else I can see. But with work from home such a big deal, that may change (as everything always does), and maybe with larger lots and greater redevelopment potential, we’ll see the outer areas start to become (more) expensive too, raising rents and displacing folks there to yet less attractive areas.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Red lining is still alive and well in most of the East Coast and Deep South cities, even though it is officially illegal. On the other hand, one of its more positive aspects is that involuntary economic displacement (gentrification) is far less in red-lined low-status neighborhoods, and when it does occur, it tends to be richer younger blacks displacing older poorer blacks, rather than young white ‘urban homesteaders’. There’s also a lot of ‘self-gentrification’ where relatively rich young home-grown black entrepreneurs buy up lots of property for very cheap and either become slum lords and/or developers themselves.

You’ll find the greatest levels of gentrification in any city in the ‘yellow’ zones of those same maps.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

I have a hunch that redefining a well-established term like “red lining” to mean something entirely new works well in grad school but nowhere else.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

The term ‘red-lining’ also works well at city council meetings where everyone is a candidate, particularly for those running in black wards (obviously not in Portland.) But I wasn’t referring to the term, but rather the process of realtors steering buyers away from particular districts and in favor of others, by the race of the buyer; as well as rapacious developers targeting particular districts and/or groups of buyers. Portland isn’t the only city seeing rapid growth and mass homelessness by a long shot.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

So a realtor who steers clients of all races to a formerly red-lined neighborhood is guilty of causing gentrification, while a realtor who does the opposite is guilty of causing red-lining?

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

The realtor, the buyer, the bank, and everyone involved, but yes, that’s the effect – everyone is guilty, including the municipality and its past residents (for allowing for such policies) and current residents (for not offering reparations to past property owners or their heirs for losses.)

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

So unless and until the government institutes reparations to atone for the sins of past generations, realtors, buyers, and banks are guilty of gentrification and/or redlining with each choice they make?

Either you’re right, or most of us are in a moral no-win.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

We keep stealing land and eroding the commons for our own profit and that of our heirs. The first European settlers took it from the natives, who held land in common in a way similar to our current notions of public right-of-way. The patriots stole huge chunks of land from loyalists, most of whom on both sides were born in the new world and were “Americans”, without any compensation. Surviving soldiers from both the revolution and the civil war took more land from Indians. Immigrants came, took more land. Even freed black slaves took some land. Then we steal more to build highways, red lining, etc – we either take land or we take development rights. So yeah, I’d say we are all pretty guilty – I know my ancestors took land and I’m still benefiting from the wealth accumulation and I bet you are too.

So whether I’m right or wrong, it’s still a moral no-win.

But of course it doesn’t matter, we’re all going to die anyway – climate change, nuclear war, disease. I have a terminal disease – it’s called life.

oliver
Guest
oliver

Well. If I owned a rental, and the main thing preventing me from getting affluent young families in my unit were a lack of sidewalks and safe crossings; I would definitely be interested in anything I could do to get those things; but if I could do it by getting the city to spend tax dollars instead of forcing me to enter into a LID where I had to pay for it myself it would be a no brainer.

Then I could raise the rent to a level commensurate with people who drive new Volvos instead of 15 year old Yukons.

Maddy
Subscriber
Maddy

Hmm…I really don’t mind my tax dollars going to help someone else’s kids walk more safely to school. Or an elderly resident walk to a bus stop.

Go big bike guy.
Guest
Go big bike guy.

I’d rather have my tax dollars go to bringing back a functioning police traffic division. I think that would be a much more efficient way to improve pedestrian safety than a billion dollar gift of sidewalks to property owners.

qqq
Guest
qqq

But by your own argument about sidewalks, what about people who paid to live in areas where their safety isn’t as dependent on having strong traffic enforcement as it is in other areas? Shouldn’t they pay less for traffic enforcement? Shouldn’t people who didn’t do that pay more?

As an example, children living in Portland Heights can walk quite safety to Ainsworth School without traffic enforcement. Children in Lents cannot. If traffic enforcement gets more funding, shouldn’t people in areas like Lents pay more than people in Portland Heights or Dunthorpe?

SERider
Guest
SERider

The idea that sidewalks are this major driving factor in home values is pretty comical. They’re so low on the list compared to location to amenities. Look at properties on each side of SE Duke St (which was the dividing line between Portland and unincorporated Multnomah Cty). One side (the Mt. Scott/Arleta side) has complete sidewalks and one side (the Brentwood-Darlington side) does not. Do you see much of any difference in pricing?

In this scenario you’re basically saying, who cares if those renters don’t have a safe place to walk.

The fact this conversation/issue has to come up in a major US city (and one that thinks of its self as uber-liberal) in 2021 is frankly just crazy. Arguing about who should and shouldn’t have sidewalks. Either Portland cares about equity or it doesn’t (and reminder that Brentwood-Darlington has more lower income residents and a more diverse population than most of the rest of SE PDX).

tee
Guest
tee

Mt. Scott-Arleta has many sections that are much more walkable to commercial development and better served by transit.

Maddy
Subscriber
Maddy

Lisa, your articles are awesome! Thank you!!!

PS
Guest
PS

So, the reason Sellwood has sidewalks that were installed in the 1910’s is because of it’s residential real estate financing designation in the 1950’s? Got it. Further, the reason real estate has appreciated in Sellwood or Eastmoreland faster than other areas in the last 15 years is not due to the general proximity to downtown, but because someone could get a loan slightly easier on the homes 70 years ago? Got it.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

The sidewalks in Sellwood and Eastmoreland were mostly built by developers and paid for by home buyers. And over the intervening 70 years, individual homeowners have paid to replace each one 2–3 times.

PS
Guest
PS

Come walk around sellwood, there are miles of sidewalk date stamped in the early 1900s. Some have been replaced so are double date stamped, but there are tons of stretches of original concrete. Oh, and our weather is not nearly harsh enough for sidewalks to be replaced every 25 years.