Portland Falls to Number 2

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.

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7 thoughts on “Portland Falls to Number 2

  1. Frank

    Ugh. Shotgun argumentation. So many different claims to respond to.

    King County might be 75% rural, but if your job is in the central Seattle area, do you really want to commute 90 minutes from Enumclaw? I wouldn’t have wanted to. NO way.

    This statistic—75% rural—is misleading without context. How about providing a map of King County so those unfamiliar with its geography can see why most of it isn’t buildable or desirable for development or within reasonable commuting distance to Seattle?

    A large portion—maybe a third—of King County encompass the Cascade Mountains and national forest lands.

    Throwing out this stat without analysis/explanation shows either weak critical thinking skills or an intent to deceive to prove a point.

    Either way, the Antiplanner should be better than this.

  2. Frank

    “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.”

    Vancouver also implemented a foreign buyer tax as Chinese and others were buying properties as a way to park their newly created Federal Reserve Notes. Foreign buyers were 17% of the market before the tax; afterwards, they represented 1%. Housing sales there have fallen drastically. Hmm. And they didn’t even expand their UGB.

    One of the unintended consequences is that foreign buyers are now looking south to park their newly printed FRNs. Seattle and Portland are ripe targets for foreign investors, and that, coupled with demand, shows that the Antiplanner’s UGB theory is full of hot air, just like the housing bubble, which is about to burst.

  3. markusmedusa

    There is plenty of land in the Carnation area all the way to Monroe that could be developed.
    There is no reason to “preserve” farmland in this area. That is a waste of the land.
    It would be better to have housing there. And NO it is not too far from Seattle for a decent commute.

  4. Frank

    “There is no reason to ‘preserve’ farmland in this area. That is a waste of the land.”

    Not sure why the use of scarequotes around preserve, and the use of the term waste is a bit silly; the more effective argument would be that in a society that values private property, people should be to use their private property as they see fit, whether that means farming or building a subdivision.

    “There is plenty of land in the Carnation area all the way to Monroe that could be developed. . . .. And NO it is not too far from Seattle for a decent commute.”

    If you consider that it is at this very minute 80 minutes via a toll bridge from Monroe to my old workplace in Seattle (85 minutes on a non-toll route), and 70 minutes from Carnation via toll (75 minutes without), for me YES, that is too far for a decent commute. I’d wager the people willing to do such a commute (2 hours and 40 minutes round trip) are a very small minority.

  5. Frank

    Seattle prices are rising so fast that the city [of Seattle?] 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.”

    The Antiplanner: “Not everyone in King County works in downtown Seattle. . . .Quit pretending there are no jobs on the east side.”

    I’m not pretending. Why are you bringing up the East Side? I thought you were talking about Seattle (as evidenced by your use of the word Seattle above), not Kirkland, Bellevue, or the rest of King County. Seattle prices. Seattle developers.

    Did you mean to say King County prices and King County developers?

    Because I haven’t heard of too many 130-square-foot apartments on the East Side.

    All of this is really a distraction from the deceptive statistic that 75% of King County (which is twice as large as Rhode Island) is rural—as if the entirety of rural King County could be developed.

  6. Sandy Teal

    Antiplanner — does Portland fairly raise and appraise property taxes on older neighborhoods that increase in value even though the houses are old and crappy? So many of the inner core houses in Portland are not only small by today’s standards, but also are not well built.

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