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Residential development should be affordable, high-quality and attractive.

Section Summary

Many Portlanders appreciate the need for density and understand that growth will lead to an increase in the housing stock. However, they want new development to match the character of the surrounding area, to be environmentally sensitive and to be accompanied with the appropriate and necessary infrastructure. Many people are worried about the character, quality and price of current infill development, as well as the recent surge in condominium development. They are also very worried about gentrification and maintaining neighborhood diversity and affordability.

Respondents would like the Portland Development Commission or the City to provide financial relief to long-time residents of gentrifying neighborhoods while reducing tax breaks and incentives for developers. They would also like to see development dollars spread more equitably among Portland’s different neighborhoods, with more focus on neglected areas in North Portland, East Portland and Southeast Portland and less focus downtown.

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. The quality of residential infill can be improved.
  2. Portlanders are concerned about accelerating condominium development.
  3. Portlanders value diversity and want neighborhoods to house residents of varying income levels.
  4. Development spending should be focused on residential improvements in neglected areas.


  1. The quality of residential infill can be improved.
  • Many respondents envision residential infill that is architecturally varied, environmentally conscious, sensitive to the surrounding neighborhood and affordable to individuals across a range of incomes.
  • However, much recent infill development does not match the character and charm of surrounding historic houses.
  • There are many specific complaints about infill that is architecturally inappropriate, such as:
    • Large houses on small lots (“McMansions”) in Southwest;
    • “Tall, skinny” houses in Northeast and Southeast on subdivided lots; and
    • Row houses that appear cheap and unattractive.
  • There are also complaints about infill stressing established neighborhoods because new developments frequently do not offer adequate access to parking, greenspace and other amenities.
“I have noticed a trend that has me very discouraged. High density buildings are being built in the old-house neighborhoods. These new buildings completely dwarf the houses around them and block the views. Staring at a 40 ft. wall that’s 10 ft. away from your window does not improve livability.”

“I don’t mind the idea of smaller homes being infilled on larger lots but Portland needs to develop stricter design and materials standards to make these homes a nice place to live and something that will be nice addition to the neighborhoods instead of a poorly designed eye sore.”

“I see nicer structures built in neighborhoods where values are higher, why can’t the same care and standards be given to neighborhoods that aren’t quite there yet? This neighborhood is full of early 1900 houses, someday values will be quite high here and there will be these ugly cheap houses in amongst the nice ones that don’t fit the character at all.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Develop more multi-family courtyard living that offers a small number of units with shared garden and greenspace.
  2. Create more multi-use buildings in neighborhoods.
  3. Provide incentives to make high-quality, “green” infill affordable to middle-class families.
  4. Require developers of condos and other dense infill to pay for upgrades to neighborhood infrastructure such as roads and schools and to include adequate parking and greenspace in their developments.
  5. “Find out how to make compromises and 'build up' in places that people might not want that. Find out the root of their concerns. If it is that they don’t want busy streets filled with cars, then find a way to improve mass transit to the area, etc…”

  1. Portlanders are concerned about accelerating condominium development.
In Neighborhoods:
  • Condos are being built in subduction zones on the waterfront.
  • Condo development is being subsidized by the City when many people feel that developers could easily afford to build them without City help.
  • Some condo developments lack sufficient greenspace or play space for children.
  • Condos are unaffordable to middle-class families with children.
  • Condo developments are perceived as catering to people from out of town.
  • Condos on the South Waterfront block cherished views of Mt. Hood.
  • Large glass condos create a “yuppified” feeling like Hong Kong or Seattle.
  • Condos are replacing affordable rental units and pushing lower-income people out of the downtown area.
  • Some condos are not supported by sufficient parking or public transportation.
“I would like the powers at be to leave alone the quirkyness that makes this city unique. Too much condo style development is destroying this beautiful city. Too much money is being wasted on huge projects that benefit only a small few individuals.”

In Neighborhoods:

  • Condos are aesthetically homogeneous and are accused of ranging from architecturally boring to ugly.
  • Condo developments create neighborhood parking hassles because they lack sufficient parking.
“[I would like to see] zoning laws where people can’t destroy historical old homes and replace them with dense condos – it makes the city unlivable. Greed is getting in the way of our lifestyle, like in NoPo: don’t destroy it and turn it into a snobby eclectic 23rd Avenue. Preserve what we have.”

“High density housing would be a lot easier to appreciate if it were affordable for those working a low wage job, and if it came with a corresponding commitment to providing open natural spaces within our city.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. “For every new condo built, I’d like to see the owner provide an enjoyable urban open space within easy walking distance for the public to enjoy at no cost.”

  1. Portlanders value diversity and want neighborhoods to house residents of varying income levels.
  • Portlanders value that anyone can live in the city and want to protect that idea. There needs to be places where people with low incomes can co-exist with those with more income.
  • A large number of respondents express concerns regarding gentrification and the negative impact this has on long-time residents.
  • Respondents want to see neighborhoods improve but they also want long-time residents to continue to be able to afford to live in these improved neighborhoods. This is summed up by one as a request to “revitalize, not gentrify.”
  • For more on this topic, see Urban Livability: Neighborhood Livability and Economy: Housing.
“[In 2030] Development of neighborhoods can happen and former residents can still live in those places.”

“Developer driven housing and gentrification of neighborhoods does not create good urban conditions. Portland needs to maintain diversity.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Focus City assistance on tax breaks and other forms of help for long-time residents of gentrifying neighborhoods as opposed to tax breaks for developers and purchasers of expensive condominiums.

  1. Development spending should be focused on residential improvements in neglected areas.
  • A significant amount of frustration is voiced over the subsidization of residential improvements downtown and in the Pearl.
  • Portlanders want the City to focus first on uplifting neglected parts of town and developing housing that is affordable to a wide range of Portlanders.
  • These topics are discussed in more length in the chapters on Government: Spending and Urban Livability: Neighborhood Livability.

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