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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 1, 2008 8:58 AM. The previous post in this blog was The other Portland bridge mystery. The next post in this blog is Burnout in the 'burbs. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, May 1, 2008

It does not compute

If there are so many people supposedly flocking to Portland for the good life here -- so much so that we need Soviet-style apartment towers throughout the city -- how come developers are going bankrupt because our suburbs are overbuilt?

Comments (20)

This economist was off base and pandering to the smart growth crowd. Gas prices have been rising for over 5 years, and yet population growth rates in the suburbs around the city of Portland have been growing faster than in the city. Most families do not prefer to live like those in downtown Portland, packed on top of each other. When the price of gasoline cycles back down again you won't hear a peep out of the smart growth crowd. The city of Portland may be a false economy built on ballooning government debt.

I think that the bright lights at Metro and Portland State have lost sight of the fact that homes in California and other higher priced markets have tanked in the last year. I seriously doubt people are moving here in anything like the numbers they have predicted. And rarely with huge windfalls from the sale of higher priced homes.
As for the Joe Cortright "study" that D.J. listed above, I seriously doubt that anyone looking for a new 300-350K home in Happy Valley will be looking at a 300K fixers in inner S.E. Portland.

Great article in Oregon Business magazine about the forthcoming housing BUST and why it's just now starting to come home to roost.

All the rhetoric about how "Portland is different" and "we've avoided the national housing bubble" is quickly becoming not just unconvincing, but downright ridiculous. Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining.

Reggie Theus

Because he builds too far out?

I would hardy consider Mt Scott "too far out".

I think we will see similar BK's in SoWhat and the Pearl when the condos/apartments/see throughs are completed. You might even recognize some of the players!


1. If you have ever seen Soviet style apartment buildings, and I have, you would know that what is being built in the City is nothing like them.

2. Even granting that "most" people want to live on their own little patch of green doens't mean that "ALL" people want to live in suburbia. Which is why we have a mixed modal transportation system with cars and bikes and rail and street cars and buses.

3. Lastly stop and think about it. There are people whose choice in life is either a $250.000 home in the burbs and a 2 hour commute. Or a $300,000 condo in the city and a 10 minute commute. Not everyone can afford a $500,000 home in inner SE Portland.

Greg C

"Or a $300,000 condo in the city and a 10 minute commute."

It's tough to raise a family in a $300k condo, which would be a modest one bedroom these days. Therefore, it's not much of a choice at all.

The commute times are interesting. I live in Beaverton, and work downtown Portland. I have a 15 minute commute by car, or a 45 minute commute by transit. I know people who live in Hillsboro that dont have a 2 hour commute....
Hell, when I worked in Salem, I didnt have a 2 hour commute.

I would hardy consider Mt Scott "too far out".

I think the folks running Portland seem to believe anything east of the Willamette and west of Sylvan is "too far out".

I live in Beaverton, and work downtown Portland. I have a 15 minute commute by car, or a 45 minute commute by transit.

Between 7:30 - 9:00 a.m.? Hard to believe. But if true, then I guess I don't see much need for new highway infrastructure.

It's tough to raise a family in a $300k condo, which would be a modest one bedroom these days. Therefore, it's not much of a choice at all.

Not everyone has, or wants, a family. I don't see why we would want families with kids to move into the Pearl to begin with. Having an oversupply of $300-$400k condos downtown keeps the single people and DINKs from buying the $300-$400k houses throughout the rest of Portland.

When the price of gasoline cycles back down again you won't hear a peep out of the smart growth crowd.

Yes, and when Scarlett Johansson gets around to returning my calls, I'll invite you to the wedding!

About the same odds, I think.

"Not everyone can afford a $500,000 home in inner SE Portland."

$500K buys you a 2 bed condo plus about $350/month in HOA fees.

I guess my issue is the city has bent over backwards (a la subisides for SoWa instead of fixing dangerous intersections at 82nd & Powell or paving streets in Cully) to accomodate these condo builders to the detriment of anyone who doesn't live downtown.

However, this has created a glut of units which (in SoWa at least) are selling at about 4/month. YOu can do the math on how long it will take to turn these with abotu 300 units unsold.

Greg C,

"Lastly stop and think about it. There are people whose choice in life is either a $250.000 home in the burbs and a 2 hour commute. Or a $300,000 condo in the city and a 10 minute commute. Not everyone can afford a $500,000 home in inner SE Portland."

This guy went broke because he was building $350,000 condos in Happy Valley.

Ok actually the two hour commute was for both ways. Communting from Vancouver used to take me about 45 min - 1 hr in the morning and 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon. The point being that some people have to commute if they are going to afford a home and some don't have to. So you make room for both kinds of units and both kinds of transportation systems. Miller Lite can both taste great AND be less filling. It's not a black and white world.

By the way having both made and lost money investing in real estate I can tell you that you go backrupt when you build more units (SFR or Condo's) on spec than the market can bear when you are ready to sell. You can guess wrong even in good times (and I did once) and have to basically give the product away. In my case the COP design review comittee didn't like the design that both I and the neighborhood wanted. It cost me an extra six months in design and review ending up with a project that I lost money on. Oh well c'est la vie. If it was easy everyone would be making money at it.

Greg C

I like my commute (none) and my wife wouldn't dare give up her 10 minute commute to live in Portland. Quite a few people here live and work in the suburbs ya know.

While we love some of the close in Portland neighborhoods, we find it much easier to make 1 or 2 discretionary trips into Portland each week rather than 5 mandatory rush hour roundtrips each week.

Chad, and as more and more businesses flee Portland, suburb to suburb commuting is exponentially growing.

Too bad the greenies s**t-canned the Westside bypass. Oh well, we have that multi-million dollar WES train to solve all our problems.

Sure hope it runs on solar power though.

I think the answer to your question is really rather simple, and it's right in the article: "Marnella unveiled his Volare at Eagles Crest, a 115-lot development, last July, just as the mortgage crisis worsened the already slowing real estate market."

Repeat ad infinitum for the other developers, who were all caught with large subdivisions and speculation homes when nobody wanted to buy them. I drive by two of those every day on my way home to the 'burbs. They were all building for projected demand, and the demand fizzled. Nothing complex about it.

we have that multi-million dollar WES train to solve all our problems. Sure hope it runs on solar power though.

Nope, ironically, its diesel.

Between 7:30 - 9:00 a.m.? Hard to believe. But if true, then I guess I don't see much need for new highway infrastructure.

Its because I live in the Cedar Mill area. Just a couple minutes from the 217 or 26 freeways.


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