Portland housing prices have been rising faster than in any other major city in the nation, but the latest data show that the city has fallen to number 2 in that measure. Seattle housing prices rose by an annualized 11.0 percent in September, while Portland prices rose by “just” 10.9 percent. No other major city saw prices rise as fast as 10 percent.
Seattle prices are rising so fast that the city is selling every available vacant lot that it has, even though some would rather those lots be turned to parks. Seattle developers are renting studio apartments for $750 a month that are so small–just 130 square feet–that there is no room for a bathroom door.
Portland’s housing market is so tight that 17 acres is considered a large parcel. Naturally, the owners are planning to put multi-family housing on it at 70 units per acre. The largest available parcel in Portland suburb Lake Oswego is a mere 4.5 acres that will be developed at 48 units per acre.
Census data from 2010 reveal that 93 percent of Clackamas County, where Lake Oswego is located, is rural open space. Washington County, home of Beaverton and Hillsboro, is 82 percent rural. Multnomah County, which contains most of Portland, is “only” 62 percent rural. King County, Washington, home of Seattle, is 75 percent rural.
Oregon and Washington planning laws won’t allow developments on those rural lands no matter how unaffordable housing becomes, so everyone just pretends that land doesn’t exist. Even when the regions make token additions to urban-growth boundaries, it takes 15 years or more before developers are allowed to build on the land.
Rather than make the region affordable by allowing development in rural areas, Portland planners are blaming Airbnb for the housing crisis. It’s great to have a scapegoat when you need one.
Vancouver, BC, thinks it has the solution. It is going to charge a $10,000 a year tax on any unoccupied home, including homes rented to Airbnb customers. No doubt that sort of insanity will soon make its way south of the border.
Until it does, Portland is passing a new zoning code that encourages more duplexes and triplexes while it forbids people from building large, single-family homes on the strange theory that large homes are more expensive and forbidding them will make housing more affordable.
Last month Portland voters approved a $258.4 million bond measure that will build 900 new “affordable” apartments, meaning a cost of $287,000 per unit. We also learned last month what the city considers to be an “affordable” housing unit: a 387-square foot condo available for sale to people for four times their annual incomes.
Next February 1, the city’s inclusionary zoning ordnance will go into effect. That will result in a few hundred more “affordable” apartments at the expense of making all other housing in the city more expensive. What a brilliant concept.
From a distance, it is amusing to see the Bozos on the Portland city commission pretend to understand economics, but for Portland-area renters and future homebuyers, the effects of such dumb policies are devastating.
Portland housing is so expensive that a 2,150-square-foot house is on the market for $850,000 (and currently most homes sell for well above the asking price). Admittedly, the house is cute, but a similar house in Dallas or Houston would cost under $275,000.
Portlanders are so upset with the housing market that the share of residents who consider the city to be “livable” has fallen from 81 percent three years ago to just 63 percent today. So much for the idea that growth boundaries make cities more livable; they’re only livable for the wealthy. And maybe that’s the point. Once the riff-raff are forced out, those who are left can enjoy their craft beers, matcha teas, and artisanal marijuana chocolates in peace.