Portland Extends ADU Incentive to increase density

blu-homes-e1357308775982Portland’s City Council has voted unanimously to extend a popular fee waiver for accessory dwelling units, according to local blog Accessory Dwellings.

The waiver of System Development Charges, or SDCs, was set to expire in July, leading advocates for ADUs to lobby for an extension.

Accessory dwelling units, which include basement apartments and backyard tiny houses, have emerged in Portland as a popular way to increase residential housing density without sacrificing the single-family character of a neighborhood.

System Development Charges, which pay for parks and other shared city infrastructure, were first waived for ADU development by city council in 2009. The waiver saves builders of ADUs between $12,000 and $20,000, a meaningful incentive to build new infill housing.

The new waiver will extend through July 2018, but another major hurdle for aspiring ADU developers lingers: tax uncertainty.12328073_653378024801402_1239109545_n

A decision last year by Multnomah County tax assessors triggered an uproar among ADU enthusiasts when the county began reassessing entire properties where ADUs were being developed. The move increased annual tax bills by as much as $6,000 for some unsuspecting homeowners.

Though the tax implications of building an ADU remain a bit unclear, Oregon’s Department of Revenue is expected to release rule clarifications sometime this year for counties to follow that should make the process more certain.

In the meantime, the city’s ADU fee waiver extension is a tangible move to incentivize much-needed infill development. Despite a recent flurry of apartment development, Portland counts a 4,000-unit shortfall in housing inventory, one factor contributing to record-low vacancy and a sharp rise in rental rates.

The Portland City Council will review potential amendments to the fee waiver extension at its May 18 meeting.

The whole story can be found here on the Portland Business Journal website.

Millennials are headed to the ‘burbs!

Texas neighborhood aerial

It was only a matter of time. Literally. As millennials grow older, get married, have children, they are seeking out bigger houses and better schools. That means the suburbs. They are also getting tired of paying higher urban rents and watching those rents rise.

Just 17 percent of millennials bought homes in urban or central city areas, according to an annual survey by the National Association of Realtors, which sent out a questionnaire last July to roughly 95,000 homebuyers. That urban share came down from 21 percent in the previous survey.

“The median age of a millennial homebuyer is 30 years old, which typically is the time in life where one settles down to marry and raise a family,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors. “Even if an urban setting is where they’d like to buy their first home, the need for more space at an affordable price is for the most part pushing their search further out.”

Home prices have been rising more aggressively in the last six months. Bank of America just upped its forecast for prices this year, citing, “recent momentum, low interest rates and lean housing supply.” Rents have also been rising, but they have steadied of late at near record highs.

The supply of homes for sale, especially in urban areas, is also a problem, and it is particularly critical at the low end, where millennials are likely to be buying. Homebuilders are not focused on first-time buyers and smaller homes because it is harder to make a profit in that segment.

In addition to high home prices, debt continues to plague buyers across the spectrum and is, in fact, delaying home buying more acutely. “While debt delayed saving for a down payment for a median of four years for all buyers, the number of years postponed increased from three years for Millennials to six years for older Boomers,” the NAR survey said.

The majority of millennials cited student loan debt as a barrier to saving for a down payment, while credit card debt was more of a problem for Gen Xers and younger baby boomers. Without stronger wage growth, debt will continue to be a burden for all buyers.133aaa92f6d038d3ff600ae5ad6d3109

“While the country continued to create more jobs, wage growth was limited. Until we see a real boost in income, rising home prices will continued to deter aspiring home buyers,” JPMorgan analysts said following the February employment report.

The desire to own is growing among the millennial generation; 48 percent of those surveyed said it was their primary reason for buying, up from 39 percent a year ago. The desire for a larger home was the highest among Gen X buyers (16 percent), and older boomers (at 20 percent) were the most likely to buy because of retirement, according to the NAR survey.

The whole story and a short video can be found here on the CNBC website.

Read more

Portland to start foreclosing on “zombie houses”

 

1459892715-75th_place

No one can say exactly how many properties in Portland have sunk to the status of the now-boarded-up home at 7926 SE 75th: vacant, abandoned by owners, unclaimed by banks, and attracting problems.

They’re called “zombie houses,” or “vacant and distressed properties” in the parlance of city staff. Either way, they’re not available for legal habitation in a white-hot housing market that’s trying to add thousands of new homes as soon as possible. Now the City of Portland says it’s time to reanimate the dead.

Mayor Charlie Hales’ office is proposing the city dust off a foreclosure process that hasn’t been used in more than four decades, snatching homes away from owners who’ve abandoned them. Another proposal would place zombie homes in the hands of local housing nonprofits, to be fixed up and put back into use.

“We’re in a housing crisis in which we have unhoused people and people desperate to stay in the housing market,” Hales said at a work session on the proposals Tuesday. “So, what a disconnect: We have houses that are zombie houses, which are an enormous blight on their neighborhoods.”

The initiative is the latest housing proposal from the mayor, who earlier this year saw a more unique idea for reining in Portland’s housing market, a $25,000 demolition tax on Portland homes, fail amid widespread outcry.

This one’s not so controversial—and far less novel. In recent decades, cities around the country have established formal programs to help refurbish vacant properties that have become eyesores or worse. Baltimore, San Diego, Philadelphia, and many others have programs in place. Portland, despite having tools on the books that can combat the issue, hasn’t had a comprehensive effort.

There’s no easy way to identify zombie homes as they sprout up. And it’s often not until things get really bad that someone calls the city.

For the whole story, check out the Portland Mercury’s website here.

Restaurants revitalize neighborhoods in PDX

Por-Que-No-Portland-Walking-OR

A look at any of Portland’s most vibrant neighborhoods will show that food has been central to their success. In fact, food-based businesses most often are first at the table when it comes to neighborhood development and revitalization, according to Mike Thelin.

Thelin, co-founder of Feast Portland, said there are striking similarities between the design community and the food community, and the creativity involved in both stems from the same inspiration. He noted that food has played an essential role in Portland’s reputation and has directly impacted its built environment.

“You can track the development of neighborhoods around certain gathering places where people came together over food,” he said. “It’s usually the food operators, the bar operators, and the cool coffee shops and cafes that are the first to the table. And if there is a good restaurant, people will want to live near it and work near it.”

Likening Portland’s food-and-design dynamic to that in Brooklyn, New York, Thelin pointed to Genoa as an early driver in the Belmont neighborhood and the more recent influence of food carts in downtown Portland and multicultural cuisine on Northeast Alberta Street. Each created a unique environment that attracted other retail and commercial businesses and increased property values for homeowners.

Clarklewis Restaurant is among the pioneers that put Portland’s Central Eastside on the map, paving the way for a thriving district that merges an industrial and manufacturing history with newer tech startups and creative companies, he added.00003543120757

With Pok Pok, Lauro Kitchen and Salt & Straw Ice Cream, among other big names, Southeast Division Street is yet another example of the synergistic relationship between food, design and economic success.

“This is a street that was kind of sleepy, sleepy for inner southeast Portland, and now you have five or six of the best restaurants in the city within a three or four-block stretch,” he said.

 

Read the rest of the story here on Pamplin Media Group’s website.

 

Design Week Portland presents Futurelandia

popup

Strap on your jetpack–let’s time travel to the Portland of tomorrow.

Since being incorporated in 1851, The Rose City has experienced a nearly constant state of change. Once again, it seems like everywhere you turn Portland is evolving before our eyes. Our city skyline transforming, historic neighborhoods gentrifying, and housing costs running sky-high as a steady influx of newcomers flock to capture a slice of the city’s unique potential. Yet amidst all these changes, we’re left to ponder what will our Portland of tomorrow look like?

The Futurelandia exhibit will display posters created by 20 of Portland’s most imaginative artists, graphic designers, and illustrators to visually express their vision for the future of the city. Featured artists will have the opportunity to share the inspiration of their work, while civic voices lead open discussions about our city’s future. We think art can spark a bigger conversation about the (distant) future of our beloved city. How about you?

For the whole story and for a list of featured artists, check out Design Week Portland’s website here.

 

Thursday, April 21

6:00 PM to 9:00 PM

Union / Pine
525 SE Pine St.
Portland, Oregon 97214

Free entry!

A Community Energy Project offers free classes on lead based paint

lead

Lead poisoning has hit the headlines during the past few months because of the situation in Flint, Michigan, where citizens have been overwhelmed by a huge, toxic-water problem. Portland, fortunately, does not have problems with lead in its water, but its denizens should be aware of lead-based paint.

Lead-based paint was for all practical purposes the only kind of paint used on homes throughout the United States until 1978. About 80 percent of homes in Multnomah County were built before 1978. Those are two of the many facts you will learn when you listen to a presentation by Ryan Barker on lead poisoning prevention.

Barker is a community educator who works for the Community Energy Project, a non-profit organization that teaches Portlanders how to maintain healthy, livable homes; control utility costs; and conserve natural resources.

Barker gives workshops about the hazards of lead poisoning. The workshops, offered throughout the Portland metro area, are free of charge and open to everyone.

Read the whole story here on the Hollywood Star News website

Citizens try to save SE Belmont’s oldest buildings from demolition

belmont

 

As SE Portland continues to be split at the seams by development, residents along historic corridors like Belmont are learning the hard way that the City currently lacks tools to keep intact the beloved blocks that define their neighborhood.

More than half of Portland’s buildings are more than 50 years old. Most lack any type of landmark protections. Portland’s rampant demolition is legal if it follows current zoning.

To deter the demolition epidemic, citizens are learning that an update of the City’s historic inventory list is critical. Identifying buildings with significant history and architectural heritage would slowdown, if not stop altogether, the teardown of the buildings and bungalows that make Portland unique.

The 3300 block of Belmont is the kind of streetscape that lures newcomers to Portland’s vintage neighborhoods with main streets even Disney might envy.

Behind the storefronts is a rich historical narrative that residents are plumbing in hopes of saving the block from a planned multi-story glass and steel structure. At a special landuse presentation in March, residents said that the planned demolition of the midblock building threatens the entire block. A petition circulating has more than 5,000 signatures.

The building is perhaps the least architecturally interesting on the block, but residents believe that saving the weakest link, may save the entire block from eventual destruction.

Residents are pinning their hopes on research neighbor Meg Hanson presented indicating that several prominent early Oregonians were among the original owners of the property. Onetime mayoral candidate T.S. McDaniel was chair of Willamette University for 8 years at the turn of the Century and influential in politics.

Hanson’s research is intended to make a case for additional protections of the building. “ We’ve been able to develop a deep and meaningful historic narrative for the building’s original owners, businesses, and tenants from 1895 through 1940.”

City representatives praised her research but said there is no easy way to save the building – or others on the block that lack historic designations. Current zoning allows structures up to 45 feet tall along Belmont. That means one and two-story buildings are likely to come down as four-stories of glass and steel go up.

Read the whole story here on The Southeast Examiner’s website

New project to keep SE Portland bike-friendly!

 

clinton

Neighborhood Greenways are streets that prioritize bicycling and are the backbone of Portland’s bicycle network. SE Clinton has been a Neighborhood Greenway for over 20 years. PBOT is testing traffic management tools to better address auto volume and speed issues that affect the greenway’s safety and comfort.

Phase I of the test is to temporarily place median diverters at 17th and 29th to block east-west auto traffic on Clinton while allowing north-south traffic at those intersections for six months.

This is an attempt to reduce auto traffic volumes on SE Clinton St to meet guidelines for Neighborhood Greenways (less than 1,500 cars/day) and to reduce auto traffic speeds on SE Clinton St to meet guidelines for Neighborhood Greenways (20 mph).

SE Clinton at 17th

SE Clinton at 17th

A Citizens Advisory Committee will review before and after data and community comments to recommend modifications to the Phase I improvements and potential additional traffic calming measures to be implemented in the summer of ‘16 as part of Phase II.

The whole story can be found here on the Southeast Examiner website.

Old school building may help with our homeless population.

washington-high-school-portland-exterior-750xx2048-1152-0-86

First it was declaring a housing state of emergency last fall, then it was converting unused buildings into temporary homeless shelters.

Now, the city of Portland has taken its creative approach to chipping away at Portland’s homeless problem to a new place, this time to Portland Public Schools.

According to Willamette Week, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales is negotiating a deal with PPS Superintendent Carole Smith to turn a school district owned building in Southeast Portland into a homeless shelter. In exchange, the city would continue to provide funding for “school security and student bus passes.”

The building under consideration is a storage building on the campus of the former Washington High School at 1300 Southeast Stark Street. The latter facility underwent an extensive renovation and is now home to the music venue Revolution Hall, as well as business tenants such as New Seasons and Copious Creative.

Check out the whole article here at the Portland Business Journal website.