Portland officials are quick to blame population growth for the rapid decline in housing affordability. But Portland is hardly the fastest-growing urban area in America, and many that are growing faster remain much more affordable.
Census estimates show that, between 2010 and 2014, the Portland urbanized area gained 103,000 new residents. That’s a lot, but the Houston and Dallas-Ft. Worth urban areas both grew by more than four times that number, and Atlanta grew by three times that number, and all three remain very affordable. Portland’s median home value (American Community Survey table B25007) was 3.8 times median family income (American Community Survey table B19113) in 2014, while Houston’s was 2.2; Dallas-Fort Worth’s was 2.3; and Atlanta’s was 2.6 times incomes.
Those urban areas are all larger than Portland’s, but the Raleigh urban area is only half the size of Portland’s, and it also gained about 100,000 people between 2010 and 2014. Yet its median home value was just 2.8 times median family incomes. There’s no getting around it: Portland housing would be quite affordable if the city didn’t have an urban-growth boundary artificially limiting the amount of land available for development.