14 Millennials Got Honest About How They Afforded Homeownership

For most millennials I know, the American dream of homeownership doesn’t just feel far away, but impossible. Especially if you live in an urban area, if your own parents didn’t own a home, if you’re saddled with student debt — it doesn’t matter if a mortgage payment might be equal to what you’re paying in rent when you’re struggling month to month, barely putting enough aside to save for an emergency, let alone a down payment.

And it doesn’t just feel like fewer of us are buying homes. Statistics bear it out: According to a 2018 report from the Urban Institute, as of 2015, the homeownership rate for millennials (then age 25 to 34) was around 37% — that’s 8 points lower than the percentage of Gen X’ers or boomers at the same point in their lives. According to the study, there are multiple, intersecting reasons for this, all of which will likely sound familiar to millennials shut out of the market: We’re getting married and having kids later; we have far more student debt; and many of us are drawn (by necessity or choice) to urban areas with “inelastic housing supplies,” where both home prices and rental costs have skyrocketed.

When I lived in Brooklyn, I’d gaze at the prices for a studio apartment in my neighborhood (between $700,000 and $1 million) or a brownstone ($2 million to $5 million) and wonder: Who could ever make this happen? Rich people, sure. But people tend to get rich, at least in part, by owning real estate. To get there, you need a down payment. And if you’re putting your extra money toward child care, or loans, or medical bills — how do you come up with that down payment? And how do you find a home you can actually afford?

Homeownership, like other forms of participation in the American dream, increasingly resembles an exclusive country club, with membership predicated on who your parents are and your race. To wit: A millennial’s likelihood of owning a home increases 9% if their own parents were also homeowners. While 39.5% of white millennials own homes, the black homeownership rate is just 13.4%, the Asian ownership rate is 27.2%, and the Hispanic ownership rate 24.6%. “Left unchecked,” the Urban Institute study declares, “current trends will result in even greater wealth disparities among white, black, and Hispanic millennials.”

The trends we’re seeing right now in homeownership will reverberate for generations to come — and accentuate the 21st-century parameters of privilege. The difference between people whose family can afford to help with a down payment and people who have no choice but to rent might mean the difference between who can live within 15 minutes of their job and who has to commute two hours, between who’s employed full time and those who depend on contingent work, between who can presume safety in public spaces and whose skin color makes them a perceived threat, between who can pay for college independently and whose children — and grandchildren — will eventually take out their own massive student loans.

I wanted to talk to people within this new reality about how they actually managed to make homeownership work. So I created a survey, and asked readers and Twitter followers and friends of friends of friends: Tell me everything. Tell me how you found the house, how you pulled together the down payment, and how you feel about all of it. Being transparent about this stuff won’t necessarily make buying a home easier for others. But it will hopefully demystify what it takes to make it happen, and help make clear that millennials who don’t own homes aren’t failures. They’re just young people who have faced a dramatically different financial and real estate reality than the generations that came before — a reality that has impacted some more than others.

What follows are 14 stories chosen from over 500 submissions, and they all exemplify, in some way, themes I saw again and again. (Stories have been lightly edited for length and clarity; some names have been changed to protect people’s privacy.) Many people received money from family for a down payment; they chose to buy in an area of the country where homes are markedly cheaper; their parents were homeowners or felt very strongly about homeownership as a mark of adulthood; others are ambivalent about their own homeownership and the way it excludes so many others their age.

The shifts in homeownership aren’t just about capital and equity and down payments and mortgage debt. They’re also about how we think about ourselves, and the places we live — and about how places that remain affordable can change.

We can try to articulate new standards, different from those of our parents and grandparents, for what constitutes success or adulthood. But in this moment, we are still a country very much obsessed with homeownership — despite the fact that just over a decade ago that obsession, and the predatory lenders willing to encourage it, sparked a global financial crisis. What’s clear is that homeownership is still one of the most effective means to transmit wealth and accumulate status. Until that changes, the question of who can own a home — and how they’re able to make it happen — matters.

View the full article here at BuzzFeedNews

Oregon Legislature Passes Nation’s First State-wide Ban on Single-Family Zoning in Cities

Two- three- and four-unit buildings will now be allowed in urban Oregon neighborhoods on lots where only one home was previously allowed.

The Oregon Legislature took the dramatic step of passing a bill on the final day of the 2019 session that will require at least duplexes be allowed in city neighborhoods where previously only one home was allowed per lot.

House Bill 2001 applies to cities of at least 10,000 people. For cities of 25,000 or more triplexes and duplexes will also be allowed.

Supporters of the bill hope it will provide one more way to increase housing supply. Some supporters have also backed the proposal as a way to provide economic and racial diversity, reversing what the intended effects of single-family zoning.

Larger cities will have until June of 2021 to officially revise their plans for allowing diverse housing types, and smaller cities will have an extra year.

The bill was the second piece of high-profile housing legislation successfully championed by House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland). The first was a statewide cap on rent increases.

No other state has either policy in place.

The 17-to-9 vote for the bill by the state Senate in the late afternoon came hours after the bill narrowly failed.

Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) returned to the Senate floor for the second vote, after declining to be present when State Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) was present.

Boquist, who had implied he would shoot any state police sent to retrieve him during the Republican walkout, was not present for the second vote, and neither was Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr. (R- Grants Pass).

 View the full article here at Willamette Week

10 awful, oddball Portland-area homes get flipped

Can you recognize a house with “good bones” even when it’s buried in debris? Flippers can. They lay down cash for a dwelling deemed unlivable, then remodel, restore and remake it into a property a new buyer will pay a bundle for. Or so they hope.

Check out these before and after photos to see how 10 awful Portland-area homes rose in value when the hammering was done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A deconstructed, single-story 1965 house was deemed “a major fixer” by listing agent Brian Flatt of Legacy Realty Group. The 0.29-acre property at 352 N.E. Enyeart Place in Hillsboro sold for $307,125 in December 2018.

After it was “taken down to studs” and rebuilt, it went put back on the market at $549,900. “Can I just say WOW,” says listing agent Sherry Hawkins of Knipe Realty ERA Powered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ranch-style house, built in 1960 on a 6,098-square-foot lot in Northeast Portland’s Parkrose neighborhood sold for $150,000 in March 2019.

The structure was described at the time by listing agent  Beth Kellan of Windermere Realty Trust as one that “cannot be financed even with repairs… a very heavy fixer or tear down.”

The remodeled, expanded house at 10908 N.E. Marx St. is now back on the market at $269,999. It has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and 1,209 square feet of living space with hardwood floors and new appliances, says listing agent Chris Wagner of Mal & Seitz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tri-level house, built in 1978 on a 10,000-square-foot lot in Sherwood, was for sale as a cash-only transaction since it “not financeable in this condition,” according to listing agents Donald Johnson and Jay Westfall of Premiere Property Group. It sold for $277,000 in November 2018.

Fast forward after a complete remodel of the house with four bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and 2,471 square feet of living space: The property on Southwest June Court sold for $430,000 in June 2019 by listing agent Jennifer McNair of All Professionals Real Estate.

 

View the full article here at The Oregonian

This Otherworldly Museum in China Is Buried Beneath the Earth

Hidden between the sea and the sand, the UCCA Dune Art Museum is a sanctuary for nature and art.

Simple, pure, and touching, the UCCA Dune Art Museum is a fascinating network of subterranean concrete galleries carved into the sand of a quiet beach along the coast of northern China’s Bohai Bay in Qinhuangdao. Designed by Beijing–based OPEN Architecture, the 10,000-square-foot space is programed and operated by the country’s leading independent institution of contemporary art, the UCCA Foundation.

Inspired by the way sand dunes are organically created by countless years of wind, the architects proposed to create a museum underneath the sand that would protect both the land and the vulnerable coastal ecosystem.

“Because of the museum, these sand dunes will be preserved instead of leveled to make space for ocean-view real estate developments, as has happened to many other dunes along the shore,” explains the firm.

Gently carved into the sand, the structure contains a series of cavernous rooms, including 10 galleries of different shapes and sizes, a cafe, and a space for reading. Skylights above silently yet powerfully fill the museum with natural light.

Openings of various sizes allow museumgoers to intimately connect with nature, while also observing and contemplating the ever-changing expressions of the sky and sea throughout the day.

Sustainability was another key aspect in the design. “The building’s many skylights, each with a different orientation and size, provide natural lighting for the museum’s spaces at all times of the year; its sand-covered roof greatly reduces the building’s summer heat load; and a low-energy, zero-emission ground-source heat pump system replaces traditional air conditioning,” states the firm.

Recently recognized as the best building under 1,000 square meters by the 2019 AZ Awards, the UCCA Dune Art Museum will soon be expanded to include a long walkway that extends into the ocean. This path will allow guests to visit another smaller art gallery, also to be designed by OPEN, which will be partially submerged by water and only accessible during low tide.

View the full article here at Dwell

Emotions flare as Portland, long friendly to neighborhoods, weighs gutting their powers

As it gets more expensive to live in Portland, officials have been pondering: What to do when the city’s vaunted neighborhood associations seem to act more like swank homeowner associations?

The answer reached by a government committee – to erase neighborhood associations from the city code altogether – has dozens of neighborhood leaders sounding the alarm that their renowned system of civic engagement is under threat.

That proposed undoing has board members of Portland’s nearly 100 neighborhood associations drawing battle lines against the city committee, officials in the Office of Community & Civic Life – the bureau that works with neighborhood associations – and the bureau’s commissioner-in-charge, Chloe Eudaly.

It has also surfaced long-simmering tensions. Neighborhood activists view themselves as representatives of grassroots Portlanders and the distinctive parts of town they inhabit. Detractors see the associations as entrenched, overly powerful voices for homeowners, who tend to be older, white and opposed to housing density, homeless shelters and other development helpful to a growing city’s health.

Sam Stuckey, for example, said neighborhood associations “are just there to be obstructionist and delay housing we desperately need.” Despite that qualm, Stuckey, a 32-year-old architect, sits on the Mill Park Neighborhood Association board.

“I think there’s some level of truth to that,” said Stan Penkin, chairman of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, though that line of thinking fails to acknowledge “all the things that neighborhoods do that are positive.”

John Legler, a board member of the Creston-Kenilworth association, sees it differently. In his view, the city wants to “get rid of neighborhood associations because we cause too much trouble” over land use issues. If the committee gets its way, he said, “We will exist in form but without legitimacy.”

At a meeting of the committee in June, many board members also insisted their groups are more diverse than critics acknowledge.

“I am neither old, nor rich, nor white,” said Elizabeth Deal, 33, a nurse and leader of the King Neighborhood Association who is Asian.

Erasure of the associations from city code would have sweeping effects, though the full extent is unclear. Officials say the worries of neighborhood association champions are overblown.

At its core, the change would remove the special powers of neighborhoods to officially weigh in on city government actions. The most notable of those are zoning decisions adopted by the City Council, often at real estate developers’ urging. Currently, neighborhood associations must be consulted on such decisions and may formally appeal them at no cost.

Activists also worry the update is a pretext to cut off neighborhood associations from city-paid event insurance. They say doing so would prevent family-friendly events like block parties and also push some associations into financial ruin.

Neighborhood matters would also be less transparent, as the committee plans to remove requirements that associations allow the public to attend board meetings, make a record of votes and preserve copies of documents.

Activists have also cried foul about the code change process. Neighborhood board members say they were not notified of committee meetings. While officials are adamant notices were sent, members of associations across the city said, without fail, that was untrue. And a survey about the code change, which garnered more than 1,000 responses, was seen as insufficient by officials because 69 percent of respondents were white.

In a challenge to the conventions that have underscored more than 40 years of local activism, Eudaly, the commissioner in charge of outreach to neighborhoods, said many Portlanders view themselves less as members of neighborhoods than as a part of ethnic, religious or other non-geographic affinity groups.

“Personally, I am more likely to identify as someone in the disability community or as a renter than as a neighborhood resident,” the commissioner said.

Winta Yohannes, Eudaly’s aide assigned to the code change effort, said the complaints of neighborhood association board members do not reflect Portlanders’ views. “Why should we elevate them over other groups?” Yohannes said.

Asked to provide an example of another group that should be on equal footing, Yohannes said Portland United Against Hate, a coalition of 70 organizations that track and respond to “acts of hate,” according to a city webpage.

Comments such as those have led neighborhood activists who are white or not religious or don’t speak another language to ask: What group speaks for me if not my neighborhood association?

The proposed code strongly states Portland is an inclusive, welcoming city. It directs the civics bureau to connect Portlanders of all backgrounds with their government, facilitate discussions and develop “learning opportunities that focus on culturally-empowering civic engagement through community-based partnerships.”

Neighborhood association leaders say those are admirable goals but fail to acknowledge the role that neighborhoods play in making Portland vibrant. Far from being heartless NIMBYs, neighborhood leaders say they are instead focused on the mundane but important work that City Hall mostly ignores.

Consider Allen Field. His foray into neighborhood politics began 15 years ago over a typical small-time issue: dog parks.

The board of the Richmond Neighborhood Association was stacked with “dog haters,” said Field, 58, an attorney in private practice. So, he ran for election to the board and recruited other canine admirers to do so. The slate won and used the association’s influence to support the designation of a section at Sewallcrest Park for dogs to roam off-leash.

As a process-oriented lawyer, Field said he is greatly concerned about the city’s plan to remove open records and meetings requirements from applying to neighborhood associations.

“I want things to be open and transparent,” he said. “I believe in notice and being heard. Due process rights.”

Being active in neighborhood matters is rarely about complex land use decisions, he added. Instead, his involvement focuses on graffiti removal, coordinating movie screenings in public parks, trash clean-ups and tending community gardens.

“We’re a city of neighborhoods,” Field said. “And neighborhood associations do things that no other groups do.”

One of the things neighborhood associations do is slow or stop development.

Take leafy neighborhoods like Laurelhurst, where residents shielded themselves from development by seeking a historical area designation. Or Eastmoreland, where neighborhood leaders stopped construction of two homes by launching a protest against the felling of three sequoia trees. And the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood, where bitter opposition to a homeless shelter, spurred on by a neighborhood association leader, has complicated the project.

Using their powers to appeal zoning decisions free of charge, neighborhood associations like those in the Pearl District or Old Town have tried to stop construction of office and condominium towers with varied success.

Critics note those boards may appeal free – and therefore slow developments’ progress – even if the challenges are later deemed frivolous. The fees are waived even for neighborhoods where residents have pooled funds to hire land-use attorneys who charge tens of thousands of dollars to challenge housing density efforts.

Housing and renter advocates have an ally in Eudaly, who said the city government needs a new paradigm for engaging residents.

Yet concerns that the city wants to eliminate neighborhood associations are off the mark, she said. The groups will continue to exist and be “a critical part of what we do,” Eudaly said, adding that the notion she wishes to undermine neighborhood associations is “absurd.”

Suk Rhee, director of the civics office, said the code change is not about “the fate of neighborhood associations” and reducing the groups’ influence “is not a topic that we’ve had.”

The code change committee is supposed to recommend updated language to the City Council in July. It’s unclear if it will. The panel was scheduled to approve the changes at its meeting on June 26, but it could not establish a quorum necessary to hold a vote when a majority of the members failed to attend.

Penkin, the Pearl District leader, said neighborhood associations, ethnic and religious groups and immigrant communities tend to advocate for the same neighborly ideals. Divides are mostly a matter of perception, he said, and passions tend to erupt only when broad changes are afoot.

“This goes back many, many years,” Penkin said. “Everything’s complicated.”

View the full article here at The Oregonian