PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Housing affordability in Portland is becoming an issue as the update of the comprehensive land-use plan moves forward.
The update will govern how the city grows during the next 20 years. The current version, which is being considered by the Planning and Sustainability Commission, anticipates that about 123,000 new housing units will be built in the city between now and 2035.Read this and other stories in The Portland Tribune, media partners with KOIN 6 News.
Susan Anderson, director of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), told the Metro Council on March 31 that she is confident the city can meet that goal. But, during a presentation to the elected regional government, Anderson said she is worried about the cost of housing in the future.
So many people are expected to move to Portland that demand might not keep up with supply — especially the supply of single-family homes.
“People with money are going to keep moving to Portland, and I’m worried sick that a lot of families are not going to be able to continue living here,” Anderson said.
Future housing estimates developed by Metro and the governments within its jurisdiction support that concern. Only around 10,000 new single-family homes are projected to be built in Portland by 2035. The other 113,000 or so housing units are apartments, condominiums, duplexes, row houses and townhouses.
Concerns about high home prices in Portland are also reflected in an April 6 BPS memo about residential housing densities. It predicted that single-family homes will be at a premium in close-in neighborhoods, forcing some households to make tough decisions about where to live.
“Some households seeking affordable home ownership opportunities will have to consider multifamily housing types (condos) or look to suburban locations because Portland’s single-family supply is limited and skewed toward larger, more expensive lots,” reads the memo written by Principal Planner Deborah Stein and Southeast District Liaison Marty Stockton.
In fact, the Metro-prepared housing figures predict that far more single-family homes will be built outside of Portland during the next 20 years. It estimates that 33,293 single-family homes will be built in Washington County, including the cities of Beaverton, Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Tigard. The figures also predict that 24,634 single-family homes will be in Clackamas County, including the cities of Damascus, Happy Valley, Oregon City and Wilsonville.
The issue also surfaced during the 10th annual Real Estate Conference sponsored by the Portland State University Center for Real Estate on April 15. One of the speakers said single-family homes are already out of reach for most families in Portland.
Alex Joyce, a senior project manager at the Fregonese Associates consulting firm, said he bought a single-family house during the Great Recession in the Mississippi area of Northeast Portland. Joyce said he was lucky to get it for a good price then because costs are increasing so fast now. This is a problem for those looking to buy a house as an investment in their future, he said.
“There is no product on the shelf in the city core of Portland you can buy and build wealth. It’s a big challenge how you put such a product on the shelf that will let landlords build equity,” Joyce said.
Instead, many young families might find more housing choices outside of Portland, Joyce said. He gave Milwaukie as an example, saying it could be a viable alternative for millennials — those between 18 and 34 — with the right kind of planning.
Portland’s response so far has largely been to help fund multifamily housing buildings with units that those on limited incomes can afford to rent. In recent weeks, the City Council has approved funds to help build at least 200 affordable units on a block in South Waterfront. It is also going to consider buying a quarter-block site in the Pearl District at the below-market price of $1.3 million for an affordable housing project.
The city is also supporting a bill at the 2015 Oregon Legislature to allow cities to encourage developers to include affordable housing units in their developments.
Metro is expected to revisit its population projections later this year because of problems with Damascus, the region’s newest city in Clackamas County. Metro and Damascus leaders had agreed that 9,457 housing units could be built there by 2035, with the vast majority being single-family homes. But Damascus voters have repeatedly rejected the comprehensive plans required for development to begin. City leaders and Oregon legislators are now talking about disincorporating Damascus, and some property owners are already annexing into adjacent Happy Valley.