limits to growth ease Portland’s housing pain
Posted by ecoshift on May 25, 2008
News Flash: Rational planning provides buffer against economic boom and bust.
Strict controls on development and a late-blooming economy have kept Portland’s home prices afloat, but critics say the region may be headed for trouble
- |Tribune correspondent
- May 18, 2008
NORTH PLAINS, Ore.—Here at the western edge of the Portland metro area, green fields flow into fir trees and foothills and eventually the Coast Range. They are a developer’s dream: flat, picturesque and a quick freeway spin from the region’s high-tech center.
If this were Phoenix or the San Francisco Bay area, real estate experts say, master-planned subdivisions would carpet these fields all the way to the mountains. Instead, their foot-high grass faces out on just one new, 15-lot cul-de-sac, buffered by strict growth controls that help North Plains maintain its rural feel and help shield from the housing crisis stunting the national economy.
While home prices fell by about 20 percent in the Sun Belt and the Midwest over the last year, values here in the northwest corner of Washington County rose 4.5 percent, according to local real estate statistics and a federal housing index. Prices overall in the Portland metro area dipped slightly; only Charlotte fared better among major cities.
While other cities confront half-built or half-empty housing developments, Portland’s longtime fight against sprawl ensured that the supply never got too far ahead of demand.
“Unlike other places where there was a lot of overbuilding during the boom years, what we don’t have is this huge overhang of subdivisions,” said Gerard Mildner, who directs the Center for Real Estate at Portland State University’s School of Urban Studies and Planning.