Next Stop Tigard! Light Rail Planned to connect Downtown to Tigard

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A steering committee has picked light rail to link downtown Portland and Tigard, and opted to ditch a plan that would have called for a tunnel to serve Portland Community College’s Sylvania campus.

The selection follows a likeminded recommendation earlier this month from planners at the Metro regional government. The planners said light rail would cost less and cause less congestion because it could operate with fewer vehicles than the high-capacity bus service they had also considered.

And in the long term, the bus service couldn’t keep up with anticipated growth, the planners said.

Light rail, however, can’t climb the steep hill to access the hilltop college campus. A tunnel, like the one that serves Washington Park in Portland, would have made that possible — but increased the project cost by an estimated 21 percent.

The light-rail project is expected to cost $2 billion as currently imagined. A final route hasn’t been determined, but it would likely follow Southwest Barbur Boulevard for much of the route.

The whole article can be found HERE on The Oregonian website.

More Affordable housing coming soon to PDX

In an effort to counteract an increasingly problematic housing crisis in Portland where soaring rents and housing costs have displaced thousands of residents, the Portland Housing Bureau has delivered its highest funding allocation to date to support the construction of affordable homes. Roughly $47 million in both local and federal funding was earmarked last week for eight proposed affordable housing projects.

The city expects the support to create 585 new affordable housing units, as well as preserving another 255 units through renovation. Of the renovated projects, more than 120 of them are specifically targeted for the lowest-income households, meaning those earning at most 30 percent of the median family income.oleson_woods_t580

Last fall, Commissioner Dan Saltzman ordered the Housing Bureau to dispense all of its available resources into Portland’s housing emergency, including urban renewal funds allocated for future years.

The bureau will be working with Home Forward, Central City Concern, Bridge Housing Corp, REACH, and the Meta Housing Corp on these projects, with developments and renovations spanning from north and northeast Portland all the way to the Hazelwood, Lents and Montavilla areas.

The projects were selected to align with a new N/NE Neighborhood Housing Strategy, “A Home for Everyone” plan to end homeless, and give priority to longtime and displaced residents under a new preference policy.

Additionally, the non-profit housing organization Human Solutions is negotiating with Portland housing officials on creating 40 affordable housing units for low income families in Gateway, as well some specifically reserved homes for families at risk of becoming homeless or who are already homeless, and refugee families.

“This unprecedented level of funding is helping move the needle be providing affordable housing for vulnerable Portlanders,” said Kurt Creager, housing bureau director.

The whole story can be found HERE on The Portland Observer website.

New Apartment building designed for bike enthusiasts

bike aptIn Portland’s Eliot neighborhood, a cycling-centric apartment building is wrapping up construction along Northeast Cook Street.

The mixed-use, 206-unit Cook Street Apartments is the largest complex in the North Williams Corridor and borders North Williams Avenue, a bike route that connects commuters over the Broadway Bridge directly into the City Center, about two miles away.

“The ongoing redevelopment of this area is starting to move toward mixed-use facilities, that’s kind of the trend in this zone right now,” said Aaron Rieck, the onsite project manager with Sierra Construction. “Also, it’s very cycling-centric — that’s part of the difference in the coding, they don’t require parking at all — it’s designed for cycling-centric commuting into town.”

… Cook Street Apartments was developed by Lake Union Partners, designed by LRS Architects and built by Sierra Construction. Its neighborhood is one area that has become more economically valuable than in the past due to its proximity to downtown.

Even though the site is on a bike route directly into downtown Portland, and zoning doesn’t require developers to build parking lots, Cook Street Apartments has parking for 146 cars and 252 bikes.

“In the grand scheme of things, everyone’s going to ride a bike,” Rieck said. “But there are still people who own cars and you end up in a condition where the overflow is moving into the neighborhood, taking up everyone’s spare spots.”

JULES ROGERS - The sculpted orb, made from bicycle gears, represents the cycle-centric buildings amenities and location.

JULES ROGERS – The sculpted orb, made from bicycle gears, represents the cycle-centric buildings amenities and location.

As for other amenities, the residents’ rooftop patio on the sixth floor has indoor-outdoor fireplaces, BBQs, huge sliding doors that connect a community kitchen to the outdoors and a restroom. Two plazas on the southern corners of the lot add landscaped greenery and artwork in the shape of a prominent sculpted orb made from bicycle gears…

The total project cost $30 million, including a little grant money from the Energy Trust of Oregon to add efficient lighting and low-flow water fixtures. At the peak of construction more than 140 workers were onsite, according to Rieck.

The U-shaped building cradles an above-ground parking lot roofed by metal racks that will soon be covered in growing vines. Handpainted murals of historical architecture in the neighborhood adorn the enclosed street-level parking lot.

… The market-rate units range from $1,270 for a small studio to $2,575 for a spacious two-bedroom. Thirteen of the units are already leased.

The entire story can be found HERE on the Business Tribune’s website.

 

Looking in Portland’s Hot market? Here’s what you need to know

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When Caitlin and Charles Vestal began looking to buy a home in January, the search quickly felt like a full-time job…

Here’s what they found:

  • A market that posted the nation’s largest year-over-year gains in home values for four straight months between October and January.
  • Prices that have risen by double-digit percentages in the past year: 17 percent in Portland, according to Zillow, and more than 13 percent region-wide.
  • A remarkably low inventory of available homes, even in the traditionally slow winter sales months. In December, inventory hit its lowest level since at least 1999 and has only budged slightly since then.
  • Housing prices that haven’t been seen in Portland since before the recession, or, in some cases, ever.

So how to navigate such an intimidating market?

“We just kind of had to wise up very quickly to the fact that it’s an insane game,” Caitlin Vestal said. “And that list prices basically mean nothing.”

The Vestals made four offers. They were rejected three times. Another time, they walked away because of issues with the home. “We had to really emotionally unhook from every house we made an offer on,” Caitlin Vestal said. “Because it was so depressing to keep getting rejected.”

Finally, they found a home: a three-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow in North Portland’s Portsmouth neighborhood. The Vestals beat out 28 other offers with their $386,000 bid – 29 percent higher than the list price of $299,000.

They recently closed on the property, but they can’t move in until May. In an increasingly common practice, the deal was contingent on letting the previous owners rent the home, free of charge, for 60 additional days – because in this historically tight market, they were concerned about finding another home of their own.

Rising home values expand the market

… At first, buyers didn’t want to look east of Northeast 57th or Southeast 60th avenues, Brennan said. Then, it was 82nd Avenue. Now, buyers are happy as long as they’re west of Interstate 205. The same thing has happened on the city’s southern fringe.

“It used to be, don’t go south of Powell [Boulevard],” Brennan said. “And then it was don’t go south of Woodstock [Boulevard].” Buyers are still continuing to move southward, he added.

Neighborhoods like Foster-Powell and Mount Scott are particularly hot these days, according to Brennan. And the trend extends to suburban areas such as Milwaukie – where a new public transit extension opened last year – and Washington County, which will be home to massive expansions of single-family housing in Hillsboro, Beaverton and Tigard in the near future.

… It’s very common for homes to be on the market for less than a week. In Northeast Portland’s Sabin neighborhood, the median number of days on the market for the 71 homes that sold in 2015 was five, according to data provided by Redfin. The $595,000 median sale price there represented a 28 percent increase from the year before, third-highest in the region.2009-07-04-irvington-011-photo

Renting can be even tougher

… As tough as Portland’s market is for home buyers, it might be even worse for renters. The latest biannual report from the rental industry group Multifamily NW found Portland’s rental vacancy rate was below 3 percent late last year. In close-in east side areas, average units were vacant for less than 12 days.

Rents were rising at an annualized rate of 14 percent, the report found – in some areas of the region, such as Beaverton, prices were increasing twice that fast.

… Another bubble?

Krautter said the most frequent questions he gets from clients are, “Are we in a bubble again?” and, “Is this market sustainable?”

But Krautter doesn’t believe home values are going down anytime soon, as long as inventory remains so low.

“You don’t all of a sudden see prices go down when the market’s this tight,” he said. He thinks “we have a minimum of two years” before prices will stop rising.

Plus, nearly a quarter of home sales in the Portland area in 2015 were all-cash offers, according to the housing research firm RealtyTrac. In those cases, there’s no risk of the buyer defaulting on a loan – and bad loans were a hallmark of last decade’s housing collapse. Increased regulations surrounding mortgage lending have made it tougher to qualify for a loan, as well.

Oregon state economist Josh Lehner doesn’t see price appreciation slowing much in 2016, either. The region is still underbuilding housing relative to the growing population, he said.

“It is increasingly likely that we will not see much improvement in housing affordability until the next recession,” Lehner said. “That is when we know for sure that demand will fall. Population growth will slow considerably, as it always does in recessions, and household formation, as well.”

But right now, Lehner said, “the regional economy is going full throttle.” In January, the state’s unemployment rate hit its lowest level since 2007.

“I just do not see a big enough increase in the housing supply to hold prices down or even slow them considerably,” he said.

**Several paragraphs were omitted from the original article.  Check out the whole story HERE, on the Oregonian’s website.

 

Neighborhood clean-up calendar

Curb too close?  Dump too far?

Do you have items in your home that are difficult to dispose of because of their size and shape?  Neighborhood cleanups make disposing of bulky waste (old furniture, cat castles, etc.) easy.  Plus they cost less than fees garbagerequired at the dump and help to fund community activities like picnics, movie nights and more!  Eight different cleanups are scheduled April-May 2016 throughout SE Portland…

Click the link HERE for the cleanup calendar and the fine print, brought to you by SE Uplift.

 

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.

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Portland to start foreclosing on “zombie houses”

 

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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

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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

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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!