Table of Contents:   


Family Friendly


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Portland is generally perceived as a safe, supportive and wonderful place to raise a family.

Section Summary

'Family-friendliness” is upheld as one of the city’s greatest virtues and a primary reason why many people and companies move here from larger cities around the country. However, some worry that families are being pushed to the suburbs by rising housing costs and troubled public schools. They express concern that “family-friendliness” is becoming less of a public priority as attention and resources are increasingly devoted to major infrastructure and urban renewal projects. People believe that by keeping the focus on improving the quality of life for families, everyone will benefit. Portland will continue to strengthen its position relative to other major cities and will be able to attract the most desirable residents and businesses, keeping the city vital and preventing urban decay.

Note: This chapter contains content and themes that are very similar to those mentioned in Social Issues: Family/Youth. A reading of both sections will provide a more complete picture of people’s thoughts on the benefits and challenges of raising families in Portland.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Portland has a reputation as a family-friendly city.
  2. Family-friendliness is losing ground as a top public priority.
  3. Policies that are good for families are good for Portland as a whole.


  1. Portland has a reputation as a family-friendly city.
  • Many people value “family friendliness” and feel that Portland is a wonderful place to raise children.
  • The following attributes contribute to Portland’s “family-friendliness”:
    • Access to neighborhood parks, greenspace and urban nature;
    • Lots of activities and events for children and families;
    • Its safety relative to other cities;
    • Wonderful library system;
    • Neighborhood public schools;
    • Bicycle and pedestrian options for commuting and for going out with children;
    • The slower pace of life, which allows people to spend more time with their families; and
    • A culture that values families and children.
“Most important, Portland is very family friendly – a totally unique trait to any other ‘international city.’ This is a fundamental reason why many families, even young, working professionals without children, choose Portland. There is still hope of good housing and a promising future for raising a family in a balanced urban environment.”

"I love that this is still a livable city for individuals and families, that we can access natural areas easily, that art and culture seem to be valued, that public transportation is accessible and attractive to use, that the county library system is fantastic, and that – regardless of the funding crises in which we find ourselves – there seems to be a great deal of civic involvement and interest in education and social issues.”

“It’s such an easy place to live – the people and city itself are friendly, good public transportation, eco-friendly…it offers all the amenities (stores, restaurants, culture, sports) of a larger city without the crime and hassles, it’s a great place to raise children.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. More support for new mothers (e.g. access to childcare, making hospitals “baby friendly”).
  2. Greater acceptance of “non-traditional family units” (e.g., gay couples, children raised by grandparents and single parents).
  3. “Support companies that provide family-friendly and sustainable workplaces.”
  4. Improve the safety of park bathrooms, so bathrooms can be open without attracting drug activity or “scary people.”
  5. More activities for youth such as skateparks, under-21 music events, etc… (see Urban Livability: Entertainment and Urban Livability: Access).

  1. Family-friendliness is losing ground as a top public priority.
  • A number of respondents voice the concern that Portland is becoming less family-friendly in recent years.
  • Factors that threaten family-friendliness include:
    • The recent loss of affordable housing options, which is pushing many young families out of the city;
    • The struggling public school system, which also leads some families to move to the suburbs;
    • New condo developments such as the Pearl and the South Waterfront. These are criticized for lacking affordable “family-size” units (two- and three-bedroom units) as well as lacking sufficient greenspace for children;
    • High-profile urban renewal projects which are seen as taking resources and attention away from policies that benefit children and families; and
    • The presence of drug dealers, drug users and gang members, especially downtown, at Lloyd Center, along 82nd Avenue and in some parts of North Portland.
  • The great majority of respondents in this section want to see the City focus first and foremost on policies which enable children to become well-educated and engaged citizens.
“Although I am a grandmother, I love how friendly Portland is to young families. I mourn the loss of affordable housing, as I believe one of Portland’s signatures is that young families can afford homes.”

“Before we start ‘remapping’ the physical structure of the city (i.e. burying freeways and implementing ferry systems and extending tramlines) we need to invest in the core of our future: the education of the young citizens of Portland.”

“[I would like to see] less concentration on high-rise apartment/condo buildings and more on family housing and parks. It seems we are forcing families out of the city. I would hate for downtown to be unaffordable and livable for families.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “Think as a parent… Can the stroller go there? Are there clean bathrooms nearby? Is nature valued and preserved?”
  2. Increase the availability of affordable housing throughout the city.
  3. “Support families moving to the city, rather than childless professionals. Areas like the Pearl look great and sound great on paper, but without real families and children, they are hollow.”
  4. Address drug dealing, especially on downtown streets, on the MAX, on busses and at bus stops.
  5. “SE is not very kid-friendly—very adult-centric. We need a soccer field, pool, kid stuff in central Portland to support young families.”

  1. Policies that are good for families are good for Portland as a whole.
  • A number of respondents call for the City to put family-friendly policies at the center of their agenda, believing that these policies will strengthen the entire community.
  • Family-friendly places are more likely to attract people with a sense of long-term commitment.
  • By becoming more family-friendly, Portland can attract the most desirable residents and companies from other larger or more cosmopolitan cities.
  • By focusing on the health, well-being and education of Portland’s children, we produce a more creative, resilient and globally competitive city.
  • Policies or actions that benefit families as well as the greater community include:
    • Reducing traffic and minimizing commute times;
    • Maintaining and increasing access to greenspace as the city grows;
    • Making system-wide changes to create first-rate public schools in Portland (many respondents speak to the need for a “system overhaul” as opposed to minor adjustments in funding levels or other surface-level changes); and
    • Creating safer streets and neighborhoods by increasing the focus on community policing (see Public Safety: Neighborhood Safety).
“Families with children are a vital part of this city. And to that point, if Portland wants to become a truly international city, one that supports business, embodies progressive, forward-thinking and positive growth, it needs to make great strides in supporting, financing, and planning to build a stronger educational system for our city.”

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