A story of the Buckman neighborhood

joecotterThe East Side was involved in the settlement of Portland from its beginning. James B. Stephens arrived in the mid-1840s and settled on the east bank. In 1850 he received title to a 640 acre donation land claim that included much of what was to become the City of East Portland.

The settlement grew and, with the arrival of the railroad, it became a city in 1870. A major facility for the treatment of the mentally ill and destitute was built in 1868 by the Dr. J. C. Hawthorne. The nearby east-west street was named Asylum Avenue and later was renamed Hawthorne Boulevard in honor of this civic leader.

The Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905 put Portland on the national map and led to a large increase in population that expanded in the east side.

Zoning came to Portland in the 1920s and began with only four zones for: homes, apartments, businesses, and industries.

The residential area in Buckman began at SE 7th Ave. and over time, became zoned for apartments. World War II brought an influx of shipyard workers that caused a shortage of housing and many large older homes were subdivided into rooming houses leading to their misuse and deterioration.

The area from SE 7th  to 12th Avenues contained many nineteenth century Victorian homes that became victims of the expansion of the industrial district.

The automobile was replacing the trolleys and traffic and congestion led to the widening of east-west arterial streets. In the post war period, Buckman was in decline and the neighborhood became one of the depressed areas of inner Portland. There was a lack of investment which encouraged speculative interests to acquire properties east of SE 12th Ave. with the expectation of further commercial expansion.

In the mid 1960s, the Johnson Administration initiated the Great Society Program and the War on Poverty. One of the requirements of these federal programs was the involvement of low income residents in decisions about growth and change in their neighborhoods.

The Portland Development Commission created SE Uplift to provide help with the rehabilitation and assistance. This led to the revival of the inner SE neighborhoods as greater interest developed in the area.

Planning was a vital part of the work, and it took the Buckman area several years to finally get funding for its neighborhood plan and the Buckman Community Association was created in 1971.

At the same time, local planner John Perry was hired to facilitate the Buckman neighborhood plan. Even though it was not finished, it identified the basic needs of the neighborhood.

The main goal was to stabilize the neighborhood through the re-zoning of much of the area back to single family residential.buckman-house

A committee was formed to study the rezoning of a small four block demonstration area and upon its completion, the city decided to proceed with the rezoning of larger areas.

The first new row house project in Portland was completed in the 1970s on a half block site that was originally to be just another two story apartment complex. This happened through the advocacy of the neighborhood association. It was designed by neighborhood architects and the units were purchased by people in the neighborhood.

The early 1980s began with the closure of the Washington-Monroe High School. The progressive neighborhood association proposed that the school should become a much-needed community center and affordable housing.

Soon after the second Buckman Community Congress, the REACH Community Development Corporation was created. REACH is an acronym for Recreation, Education, Access, Commerce and Housing. It was not successful in obtaining the rights of the vacated high school, but it went on with various housing and development projects and today REACH is a leading multi-million dollar regional success.

Neighborhood Plans became a priority in the Bud Clark administration and the Buckman Plan was one of the first to be completed. It was a 15 month process that began in 1989.

After many public meetings and at least four preliminary drafts, the final document was approved by city council in 1991. It provides a comprehensive description of the Buckman neighborhood and contains many objectives and strategies that would make Buckman a desirable Portland neighborhood again.

The Central Eastside Industrial District has always been an important part of Buckman. In 2006, it became an urban renewal district. This provided the implementing tool and resources to act on several major objectives of the Buckman Neighborhood Plan.

Among them are the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, the first trolley on the east side of the river in sixty years and progress toward the realization of an East Side Community and Aquatics Center, along with many improvements to the industrial and warehouse areas.

Buckman neighborhood continues to be actively involved in Portland’s growth and change by providing a forum for neighbors to discuss their issues and meet those that represent their interests.

Homeless concerns, the Washington High community center, the comprehensive plan, the new mid-rise apartment buildings, parking issues, and many other challenges engage the association members.

The annual Buckman Picnic takes place Sunday August 14 from 4 to 8 pm at Col. Summers Park, SE 17th Ave. at Taylor St.. The picnic is a good opportunity to meet current association member and Buckman neighbors while and enjoy food and entertainment.

The original article can be found HERE at The Southern Examiner website

Are Solar Panels for you?

solar1Brett VandenHeuvel, the executive director of the nonprofit environmental group Columbia Riverkeeper, celebrated the Fourth of July by installing solar panels at his house in the Columbia Gorge and working to achieve, what he calls, energy independence. Here’s what he did to reduce his use of fossil fuel energy:

On Independence Day, my family turned on our new solar panels to power our home, taking steps to declare independence from fossil fuel energy. Along with being more efficient to use less energy, the solar panels will power nearly 100 percent of our home’s energy use.

Like most people, our family has a long ways to go to kick the fossil fuel habit. But I’m excited to choose solar over the coal-fired power plants and hydroelectric dams that currently power our home.

We are also replacing our old natural gas furnace with a high-efficiency electric heat pump, powered by the sun.

As someone who works to protect clean water and fights dirty fossil fuel projects, I can’t wait to shut off the gas and do my small part to reduce fracking, new pipelines and carbon pollution.

What took me so long?

I don’t know. Maybe I thought solar was too expensive and too complicated.

I’ve seen solar panels go up on dozens of homes and businesses in my small town, but never pulled the trigger. Too expensive? There are up-front costs, but after a few years, the 3-kilowatt system pays for itself.

We paid $12,228 up front, but the final system cost is just $2,560 after four years, factoring in the rebates and tax incentives. And I will save that much on my energy bill.

So after four years the system pays for itself, while increasing the value of my home. A 2015 U.S. Department of Energy survey found buyers are willing to pay more for homes with solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems.solar3

People have been telling me that solar pencils out for years—better late than never.

Is it complicated? No.

Nonprofit and government programs exist throughout our region to help people get started on solar. In the Columbia Gorge where I live, a nonprofit called Gorge Owned launched GO! Solar to make residential PV systems easier in Hood River, Wasco and Skamania counties by working with utilities, local government and nonprofit partners.

Gorge Owned and my contractor, Common Energy, did all the paperwork and worked with my utility to set up net-metering.

While residential solar is not feasible for everyone—you must own your home, have good solar access and be able to afford the up-front costs—it really pencils out for many people.

Other drawbacks are it requires research. But in my case, a nonprofit organization and the contractor did all of the research. They conducted the solar analysis (how much sun is available on our roof, considering the roof aspect and trees) and gave me a bid. It does not cost anything, or take much time, to get a bid.

I evaluated the bid and increased the size of the system slightly over what the contractor proposed. He suggested a system that would cover 90 percent of our power use, and I asked him to increase to 100 percent.

The contractor took it from there.

Just like any purchase, you could research it forever. But there are trained professionals who are there to help. This is especially true with solar because nonprofit organizations like Solar Oregon are promoting solar and have excellent resources.

Another hesitation may come from a homeowner who doesn’t like the look on the roof and doesn’t know the resale value if they sell. I can’t speak others, but I think it looks cool.

Our roof only had only one spot that worked but other homeowners will hear from the contractor where the panels could be positioned.

Last night, a neighbor down the street came over to introduce himself because he watched the solar installation and wanted to learn more. We don’t have a fancy car, but maybe our flashy solar panels will be the envy of the neighborhood.

My family’s simple rooftop solar is good for energy independence, good for our planet and good for our finances. That’s something to celebrate.

–Brett VandenHeuvel

Columbia Riverkeeper works to restore and protect the Columbia River.

The original article can be found HERE at Oregonlive.com

Portland Ranked the TOP city for nature lovers

More than 80% of America’s population is clustered in its cities. This, of course, is no surprise. After all, cities are where the jobs are, where public transportation makes it a snap to get around, where you can get a whole roasted pig head delivered with a single tap on your iPhone, where beautiful people congregate in herds. It’s where the entire world seems to be waiting on your doorstep. So, what’s not to love?

Well, the traffic. The pollution. The indignant subway workers. The lack of open spaces. The paucity of gardening. And mostly the inability to commune with nature on a regular and sustained basis.

But here’s the deal:You can have your city and your nature, too. The back-to-nature urban trend sweeping the U.S. is nothing new—it dates to the early days of the 20th century when a rabble-rouser named Bolton Hall caused a hullaballoo when he appropriated a 30-acre lot deep in the Bronx borough of New York for “vacant lot gardening.”

Fast forward a century or so, and the idea of urban nature has become a renewed obsession for city planners and new residents alike. More and more Americans are waking up to the fact that the perfect antidote for the stresses of city life might just be nature’s lush green spaces. Wherever and however you can find them.

Our environment-loving data team is here to help! Because when it comes to being green, not all cities are created equal. To come up with a list of the most “nature-tastic” big cities, we used the following criteria:

  1. Parkland as a percentage of city area
  2. Air quality index
  3. Number of plots in community gardens per capita
  4. Percentage of homes that have a garden or greenhouse
  5. Number of farmers markets per capita
  6. Number of farm-to-table restaurants per capita

1. Portland, OR

Bikers take a break in Portland's urban oasis
Bikers take a break in Portland’s urban oasis.

RyanJLane/iStock

Percentage of parkland: 17.8%

Yup, the city known for its meticulously brewed coffee, bearded hipsters, and artisanal pickle shops also gets top marks for being in tune with nature. Just 10 minutes west of downtown, Forest Park is the largest urban forest in the country—its 5,157 tree-studded acres include more than 80 miles of soft-surface trails. Don’t like trees? (Um, what’s wrong with you?) Hop over to the snow-capped Cascades, the Columbia River Gorge, or the sparkling Pacific coast. Portland might have more diverse terrain to offer the adventurer than any other city in the country. Ski in the winter, surf in the summer, and hike, camp, and explore all year long.

The original article can be found HERE  on realtor.com

 

1031 Information every investor should know

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Text by Toija Beutler, Attorney/Owner, Beutler Exchange Group, LLC

1031 is an incentive program for the Investor who owns rental properties, commercial properties or investment land. When the Investor sells they can defer the payment of the capital gains tax … as long as they work with their real estate agent to find and buy a replacement property and comply with the 1031 rules.

1031 builds wealth

Because the Investor doesn’t have to pay tax on the gain, more cash is available for the purchase of the next bigger and better property.

The definition of “like kind” is the best feature of 1031. All real estate is like kind with all other real estate as long as what is being sold and bought is rental, commercial or land held for investment.

Example: The Investor can sell investment land (non-income producing) and buy a residential rental (income producing).

Example: The Investor can sell a residential rental and buy a commercial property.

Very popular example: The Investor can sell a residential rental and buy a residential rental that will become either a second home or a primary residence — after 24 months of seasoning as a rental.

This frees up the investor to purchase a property that better suits their personal or business goals. And, because 1031 is federal law, the Investor can sell in one state and purchase in a different state — thereby “moving” their investments around the country.

Yes, there are rules, many of which will be surprising to the Investor.

Deadlines

The Investor must close on the new property within 180 days of closing the sale of the old property. The worst feature of 1031 is that they only have the first 45 days of the 180 to identify the replacement property. Most Investors can only list three properties and they must buy from the list. 45 days is an exceedingly short time in which to find suitable property, especially with the current limited inventories.

Non-Qualified property

1031 is not for second homes, flips, new construction or land held by a builder or developer. These are personal use properties or inventory properties and not eligible for the tax deferral.

Reinvestment rules

To get the best result the Investor will apply the net cash from the sale toward the purchase of the new property and obtain a new loan that equals or exceeds the loan on the old property. This makes sense when you consider that the Investor, owning and selling a rental house, has $300,000 in the American economy. If they sell and pull that investment out of the American economy, they have to pay tax on the gain. If they don’t want to pay tax on the gain they have to drive $300,000 back into the American economy, whether using their own cash and/or financing.

Exchange Process

The exchange company prepares specialized documents for the Investor to sign in closing as they sign the deed to the Buyer. There will be similar documents at the closing of the new property. It is the exchange company’s paperwork in those closings that creates the exchange and tax deferral. The following spring the accountant reports the exchange on the tax return.

Supporting players

Consultation with the Investor’s accountant will confirm whether an exchange will benefit the Investor.

Consultation with an exchange company, sooner rather than later, is essential to understanding the rules and common pitfalls. Exchange companies do not charge for this consultation. Their fees are typically flat rate and charged at the time of closings.

Consultation with the Investor’s real estate agent is critical to understanding the market and options that will be available before and during the 45-day identification period.

Challenging scenarios that particularly require consultation:

  1. Wanting to buy from a related party.
  2. Breaking up or forming partnerships at the time of an exchange.
  3. Making improvements as part of the exchange.
  4. Closing on a new property before closing the sale of the old — a reverse exchange.
  5. An installment sale of the old property.

The best exchanges not only shelter tax but also achieve important business and personal goals.

 

The original article can be found HERE at All Things Real Estate Magazine’s website.

Rescued pianos on Portland streets

Cat

“Cat” — by designer: Blaine Fontana

Rescued pianos are coming back to life on the streets of Portand, put back in public cirulation by Piano! Push! Play!, an organization that is on on a mission to “make pianos available to anyone who wants to play them.”

At Portland’s Salmon Street Springs Fountain, one of the recovered instruments (boldly labeled “PIANO” on its backside) had a steady stream of players late Tuesday afternoon.

Dani McGraw, 13, of Oregon City,  sat down confidently and began playing, though not without a few stumbles, which she played right through. Her mom, Laura, said Dani had been taking music lessons for six years and added, “She loves it.”

Fanny

“Fanny” — by designer: Nemo Design (Brian Nally)

Kristen Timmons, of Milwaukie, said her daughters, Kinsley, 3, and Teegan, 7, had to wait for their turn because it was so busy. While neither is taking music lessons yet, exposure to the piano and a neighboring guitar player might have sparked some interest, Timmons said.

Yoshi Christner, of Portland, pedaled up to the piano with his dog, Blueberry, who listened to a short recital from a front basket and after, a little applause from onlookers, off they they went.

To find out more about the Piano! Push! Play! project, click here.

The original article can be found HERE on The Oregonian’s website.

 

Deconstructing Portland’s Old homes

demoPortland’s City Council has given the go-ahead on a measure requiring contractors who demolish homes built before 1916 to fully deconstruct them.

The idea is that the materials become available for reuse, as opposed to simply thrown in the landfill.

The Council approved the measure unanimously. Portland is the nation’s first to pass such a rule.

More than 300 single-family homes are demolished each year, according to Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability.

“By keeping valuable materials out of the landfill, we ensure the least amount of impact on the environment and neighbors,” said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, in a release. “Deconstruction reduces our carbon footprint, prevents harmful air pollution caused by demolition and creates good, family wage jobs.”

Contractors who demolish houses deconstruct them less than 10 percent of the time in Portland. About one-third of single-family demolitions would be subject to the requirement, which takes effect Oct. 31.

The city’s efforts would divert an estimated 8 million pounds from landfills.

Earth Advantage and the Building Material Reuse Association will offer training and certification in deconstruction beginning July 18.

The original article can be found HERE on Portland Business Journal’s website

Shipping Containers are coming to PDX

adu 1What once may have hauled everything from new sneakers to smartphones across the seas and across the country could now be part of the answer to Portland’s housing state of emergency.

At least that’s how Montana-based Montainer Inc. is in part positioning its entry into the Portland market next week. The company, which is headquartered in Missoula, revamps old shipping containers into Accessory Dwelling Units. Decked out with utilities, appliances, a range of finishes and design accents, the units are manufactured in Montana and then delivered and installed to homeowner sites across the U.S.

Montainer plans to officially launch in the Portland market with a demo installation event in Pioneer Square that runs from June 28 through July 2. The company sees its offerings as part of the solution to the Rose City’s increasingly tight and expensive housing market. According to “independent research” cited by the company, Portland has more than 100,000 backyards that are zoned to accept ADUs.adu 2

“We see each of these backyards as a vacant lot, with the potential to add much needed housing for the city,” said Montainer co-founder and CEO, Patrick Collins, in a release. “We are empowering individual homeowners with a streamlined way to add an ADU to their backyard, and in essence, become micro developers who can collectively make a real dent in rising housing costs.”

The company offers a range of different configurations and has a design team that works with individuals to customize their units. Prices vary, but sample configurations on the Montainer website range from a 160-square-foot unit that would cost between $60,000 and $105,000 to build and install to a 1,000-square-foot configuration that could top $325,000 to build and install.

The original article can be found HERE on the Portland Business Journal’s website.

Millennials love Portland!

2015-06-24-035557-750xx4457-2507-0-472When it comes to their perfect city, a majority of millennials want a thriving job market, affordable rent and home prices, lots of parks and hiking trails, non-chain restaurants and, of all things, quality pizza.

So say the folks at apartment rental company Abodo, which recently released t he results of a survey that shows which U.S. cities are most ideal to millennials. Coming in at No. 4 on the list: Portland.

Adobo surveyed 2,000 millennials in its survey and found that much of what those born between 1982 and 1998 find attractive in cities can be found right here in Portland. In addition to a hot job scene and (relatively) affordable rent, other most-desired features in a city included movie theaters, top-notch public schools, walkability, ethnic food and sustainability. The survey identified 20 attractive qualities in all, and while Portland has about 90 percent of the qualities most attractive to millennials, it does lack a few. Among those: highly-rated public schools and walkability.

The original article can be found HERE on the Portland Business Journal website.

Portland forecloses on the first of many “zombie houses”

The abandoned house at 8515-8517 N. Portsmouth Ave. has sparked complain00003549420637ts from neighbors for 24 years. Its owner has violated multiple city codes over the past five years and racked up more than $66,000 in liens. But its days as a nuisance are coming to an end.

Last week, the Portland City Council unanimously voted to start foreclosing on five abandoned homes and approved new codes to make it easier to force sales of homes with mounting unpaid liens. The five that made the cut were considered “the worst of the worst” of the city’s more than 400 abandoned homes, says Sarah Landis, the chief deputy city auditor.

Along with the Portsmouth house, the city plans to foreclose on homes at 4112-4118 S.E. 91st Ave., 15803 S.E. Powell Blvd., 7101 N.E. Prescott St. and 9120 N. Tioga St.

All five are part of the Bureau of Development Services’ Extremely Distressed Properties Enforcement Program. Together, these five properties carry a total of 37 liens worth $378,291, Landis says. Much of that owed money is the result of unpaid nuisance violations.

The code changes should help the city get a handle on a longstanding problem that has distressed neighbors and confounded city officials for years. Many owners are neglecting their homes, attracting squatters and other illegal activities, at a time when Portland faces a severe housing shortage. By using its powers of foreclosure, the city can sell the homes, earning funds to pay off unpaid liens and get the homes back into productive use.

“The foreclosure process will not be a quick fix nor will it be appropriate for every blighted property with delinquent liens,” Landis says.

However, it’s a start. The city has been reluctant to use the foreclosure process since the last foreclosure was bungled in 1965.

“It’s an outrage that houses are unoccupied and falling apart in a city where the housing prices went up faster than anywhere in the country last year — 11 percent — and where people are desperate to find housing,” says Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Until now, city code allowed the property to be sold for no more than the total of liens and collection costs. That means a property potentially would sell for a tiny fraction of its value, Landis says. The new code allows the city to sell the home for its true market value.

A second code change will allow the city treasurer to recoup city costs of conducting the sale.

In order for a property to have these new laws applied, it will have to be vacant, abandoned and have a long list of violations and unresponsive owners, Hales says.

The City Auditor’s Office will select the homes for foreclosure. The list is then approved by the City Council and given to the city treasurer to start conducting a foreclosure sale.

Even after the foreclosure process has begun, property owners will have a grace period in which they can pay off their liens and reclaim their properties.

“We want the property owners to get the message and fix them before we foreclose,” Hales says.

The entire article can be found HERE on the Portland Tribune’s website.

 

The history of the bungalow

lead_960 (1)All around the country, people in communities of many ages—from colonial Boston to postwar Minneapolis—tell similar, virtuous narratives about how their neighborhoods were built. These narratives, in turn, set powerful assumptions about what an affordable, friendly neighborhood can and should look like. Recently, a columnist in Seattle Magazine laid out his version of the story as he argued that housing just isn’t what it used to be. “In a rapidly growing city where the haves have more and the have-nots are being squeezed out, the bungalows offer a lesson we ought to relearn,” he wrote, adding that those early 20th century bungalows “reflect a lack of materialism, housing built not for profit, but for living in.” He wanted his city “to find a way to get back to those values.”

This represents what one might call the “immaculate-conception theory” of development. It holds that unlike the homes constructed today, older housing was built the right way—modestly and without an eye for profit. These older values, in turn, imply the faults of modern buildings: gaudy and wasteful, disruptive to existing communities, and motivated only by money.

The problem with the immaculate-conception theory is that, like parents swearing that they would never have behaved the way their kids do, it is conveniently forgetful about what actually happened in the past. Taking, just as an example, the kind of housing that this theory romanticizes—the early 20th century bungalow boom—a closer look reveals that it was defined not by mass affordability, efficiency, and respect for traditional communities, but something very nearly the opposite.

To begin with, many of the arbiters of taste of the bungalow era believed those new bungalow neighborhoods “ruined” the character of the places they were built, just as new apartment buildings are maligned today. They even had a snappy put-down for it: “bungalow disease.” “Tradition has broken down,” wrote the British planner Thomas Sharp, describing a proliferation of bungalows on both sides of the Atlantic, and “taste is utterly debased … The old trees and hedgerows … have given place to concrete posts and avenues of telegraph poles, to hoardings and enamel advertising signs.” Architectural Record reviewed Seattle’s building boom in 1912 and, in an otherwise positive article, pronounced the quality of its new homes “disappointing.”

Critics accused the new bungalow neighborhoods not just of being ugly, but of ripping apart the social fabric of the city. One writer argued that in new neighborhoods full of many separate houses, “each building is treated in isolation, nothing binds it to the next one,” and as a result they lacked an “essential” “togetherness.” Another pointed out that the rise of bungalow neighborhoods coincided with the rise of decentralized business districts, as these sprawling areas—bungalows took up much more space per person than either the more modest single-family homes or apartment buildings that had come before—encouraged outlying commercial development and car ownership.

Far from being based on an ethic of efficiency and conservation, early-1900s bungalows represented a dramatic leap to neighborhoods that required higher energy consumption than ever before. This was true, first of all, because bungalows tended to be much larger than existing homes. While Seattle Magazinemarvels that one 1910 bungalow was just 1,600 square feet, the average home size at the time was closer to 1,000 square feet—making the 60-percent-larger home look like a McMansion. In addition, many of these new single-family-home neighborhoods, which were built much further from job centers and at much lower densities than older communities, were enabled by the boom in energy-consuming automobiles, and encouraged their use. By the 1920s, one in every two American families had a car—a figure that was much higher in bungalow neighborhoods—and public transit began losing many of its customers to driving. In the same decade, suburban population growth outpaced that of cities for the first time ever.

Finally, the idea that bungalows represented a housing type that was affordable and open to all—and an ethic that valued community instead of money—simply doesn’t describe actual American cities in the 1910s or ‘20s. Home prices in the 1920s were rising rapidly, leading many people to talk about a housing crisis in terms not so terribly different from today’s. But as Gail Radford describes in her book Modern Housing for America, bungalows weren’t holding the line on cheap homes: In many cases, they represented the luxury housing of their day. Bungalows were so much more expensive than the more modest homes that had preceded them that while the overall cost of living increased by about a factor of two between the 1890s and 1920s, the cost of an entry-level home had increased by a factor of five and a half. Even before the economic crash of 1929, there was a growing foreclosure crisis, strongly suggesting that “housing costs were simply too high in relation to incomes for many families.”

Moreover, the bungalow era coincided with the development of zoning codes—codes that were essential, in fact, to preserving many bungalow neighborhoods’ all-single-family character. The people who advocated for these zoning codes did so by explicitly arguing that they were needed to protect the property values of homeowners and other landowners. In other words, the denizens of the early 20th century cared so much about their houses as a financial investments that they invented an entire new regulatory infrastructure to ensure that they wouldn’t lose their value.

And of course, “not losing their value” was very closely tied to excluding any kinds of people who might threaten the neighborhood’s desirability. It’s impossible to talk about the development of urban American neighborhoods in the early 20th century without acknowledging that this was the period in which modern residential racial segregation emerged—a system of exclusion enforced by covenants, zoning, and violence carried out by the residents of all kinds of neighborhoods. This isn’t some separate issue from how those who were excluding, rather than excluded, built their homes and communities: It’s an integral part of the story, without which those bungalow neighborhoods may have looked quite different.

Why have we forgotten all of this? Partly because all the people in these stories are gone. We can’t see the developers laying roads and streetcar tracks to open up huge new areas for subdivisions; we can’t see the disproportionately wealthy people who were able to buy homes when required down payments routinely hit 50 percent. We can’t talk to the people who remember, and miss, what existed in these places before bungalows. All that’s left are the buildings, which over the years have lost their sheen of newness, often becoming more affordable in the process, and allowing us to imagine our own stories about where they came from.

The point here is not that bungalows are bad. Given what has happened in the intervening century, a return to bungalow-scale living would be a huge win for sustainability and efficient living in the many postwar suburbs and neighborhoods where homes have ballooned to much larger sizes, and development has become much more sprawling. In many urban communities, bungalows today represent a prized architectural tradition, and a form of single-family home that fits neatly into the kind of mixed urban neighborhood—along with small apartment buildings and local shopping districts—that has long since been made illegal.

But there are important lessons to be learned by looking at what the bungalow era actually looked like, rather than our romantic imagination of it.

One is that everything old was once new, and new things often provoke a backlash. We ought to be humble in believing that our opinions represent some timeless, objective truth, looking backwards or forwards. The same bungalows that seem to us quaint and charming were tacky and soulless to many of the people watching them be built; it seems more than possible that the new apartment buildings we vilify today will be thought of sentimentally by future generations who know them only as an important part of their city since they were born.

A second lesson is that American cities have an impressive history of growing to accommodate new arrivals. What’s frequently left out of immaculate-conception stories is that the bungalow era was also the fastest period of urbanization in American history: Between 1900 and 1930, Seattle’s population grew more than fourfold, from 80,000 to over 360,000—a rate of growth approached or exceeded by many other American cities at the time. In the process, millions of rural Americans and immigrants were given the opportunity to live in newly industrializing cities where wages and quality of life were dramatically higher. Today, most of our cities have shut the door on that kind of growth. (Seattle’s growth rate today, while much higher than many other central cities, pales in comparison to the bungalow era many yearn to return to.) As a result, our doors are no longer open to as many people, from this country and others, who would like to make better lives by moving to places where job openings and quality of life are high.

Finally, the bungalow era suggests that building new market-rate housing that’s affordable to working-class and low-income people in urban areas is hard, especially if that housing takes the form of single-family homes. And it’s worse today: While the bungalow builders had the advantage of lots of open land relatively close to center cities, today, that “frontier” has closed. And we’re well aware of the costs—environmental, social, and financial—of continuing to push all of our growth out further and further onto the fringe.

Rather, the deeply affordable and decent homes of the bungalow era were largely in multifamily buildings. It’s curious that, though more than four in 10 of the homes built in the 1920s were in apartment buildings, that kind of construction—and those kinds of people—are entirely absent from romantic musings about the time. But they were a crucial source of urban accommodations for people of modest incomes. As the Sightline Institute has pointed out, rooming houses and other small, multifamily homes made up a huge proportion of the affordable housing stock in cities around the country in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, a combination of regulations and market conditions has virtually eliminated that stock in most places. In order to return to something the 1910s and 20s got right, bringing back modestly-sized homes in multifamily buildings is a good place to start.

The past does have lessons—but we have to look at it as it really was, and not through rose-colored glasses, if we want to get them right.

The original article can be found HERE on The Atlantic’s website