Affordable condos? Easier commute? a puzzle

We all have been hearing more than we want to about the mortgage crisis.  I don’t think it has hit Portland like it has hit California or Ohio or South Florida, but I do know our skyrocketing housing prices have slowed down a bit.  Also, it is harder to sell a house these days than it was a couple of years ago.  Couple that with $4 gas and you have yourself a little conundrum.  I still don’t feel the majority is being affected by $4 gas.  Every day on my walks home, I cross the Skidmore bridge over I5 north and 2 lanes are bumper to bumper while the HOV lane is empty.  That tell me the commuters are still willing to shell out the cash for their daily commute.  Many don’t have a choice.  They have jobs that don’t have flexible schedules or are in places not easily served by public transportation.  Others though do have choices and are just not making them in my opinion.  Buying my house in North close in was the best financial decision I have made in the past 12 years.  Wow, who’da thunk it.

This week, PDC announced that their South Waterfront project (all condos) isn’t living up to what they had hoped.  The high priced condos are not selling period.  One building has been turned into apartments.  Those must be swanky apartment.  Yet, the news states that construction down on the waterfront will continue.  Thinking about $4 gas and 1 hr commutes and topics like that, I begin to wonder if people will begin to move closer into the city in order to cut their commuting costs.  Living closer in costs more usually.  An average house in my neighborhood is around $300,000.  Condos downtown start around $500,000 unless your willing to live in a shoebox.  I guess I’m wondering if PDC or the City or a developer or whomever could devise an affordable option within the condo market to that family that is currently commuting from Gresham or Clark County.  A 3 bedroom, 2 bath with a park location for around $300,000.  The upside would be less commuters and more expendable cash for that family.  Urban Growth areas don’t always have to cater to the wealthy.  I know, this is pretty ethereal, but I see it as a way to shift the mindset that people have currently regarding their requirement to commute.  Just my two cents.

4 Comments so far

  1. mattdavis on June 11th, 2008 @ 12:25 pm

    We bought a 415sq foot condo downtown for $200,000 last December. The point being that if you want to live in the central city, you have to change your expectations: "A 3 bedroom, 2 bath with a park location for around $300,000" is impossible.

    Perhaps my perspective is colored by where I’ve been sat all morning, but I do think Americans are in the process of re-evaluating what a home means, in the context of economic necessity. We only think a big house is great because the GI bill made it a reality for Americans after the second world war.

    Now, our privilege is leading us back into the cities. But perhaps we should leave some of the cultural expectations behind about what’s necessary as a house. You should come live on my commune!

  2. divebarwife on June 11th, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

    I don’t disagree that we need to shift our thinking in housing, but a 3 bedroom, 2 bath with a park location for around $300,000 is NOT impossible. Not at all.

    We paid just under $200K for a 3BD/2BA house with a big yard just a tad more than 5 miles from my office in downtown.

  3. dieselboi on June 11th, 2008 @ 3:24 pm

    You are correct, our current market doesn’t allow for my fanciful notions. Divebarwife is also correct – one can get affordable housing closer into the city still in this day and age.

    I know what I wrote above is a little theoretical – that was the point. I wonder if a developer could run the numbers – a tower of $500,000-$1,000,000 condos sitting empty or a tower of $200,000-$300,000 condos rather full. Granted, if that was made available, the market and the speculators would swoop in, buy them up and the prices would inflate. Vicious circle.

    I guess I’m asking the question – what will it take to get people to look at the total cost of a commute and can the city/developers help in that equation over time.

  4. pdxjer on June 15th, 2008 @ 5:26 pm

    It’s a good sentiment, but what you describe is not within the laws of supply and demand. You have two options for affordable family size condos near the city.

    High Prices


    Rent Control.

    Neither one are likely. I think that a greater reliance on telecommuting would help deal with our oil and traffic problems.

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