Eliminating Choice in Housing

By John Glennon

You should be able to decide what type of home you live in, but your ability to make that decision is severely limited by urban planning. Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary removes the responsibility of supplying housing from market actors who profit from producing what consumers want to buy. Instead, planners decide whether land within the Urban Growth Boundary has been sufficiently used, or whether it can accommodate growth for the next 20 years. Urban planners effectively choose what types of housing residents will have available to them.

According to the city of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, in Portland, “[a]pproximately 20 percent of all new housing will be in single-dwelling residential units.” Most future housing capacity allowed by planners in jurisdictions across the region is dense “mixed-use” developments. New single-family residences which are permitted are crammed together without yards. Beaverton’s comprehensive plan actually bans new low-density residences. Beaverton’s plan says: “To limit the City’s deficit in its regional share of population, expansion of the low density residential areas must be prohibited.”

Not everyone’s wants or needs are met in dense urban centers, but with the plans in place only the wealthiest residents will be able to make different choices. Let’s prevent this future and question whether compact development is always the best option.

John Glennon is a research associate at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free-market think tank.

Learn more at cascadepolicy.org.

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Housing, Portland, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 8 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bob Clark

    My theory is Metro’s real reason for being was to stop folks from fleeing the City of Portland for the family friendly environs of the surrounding suburbs and exurbia (Metro is Soviet like in that it has built a wall around folks wanting to flee the dictum hood of the City of Portland). It isn’t about sprawl, at all. It’s about keeping the City of Portland in power politically. The natural inclination of folks is to have a space they can call their own, to escape the daily rigors of urban life. Heck even downtown Portland started out as sprawl. (Sprawl has an undeserved bad name.) This whole Metro gestalt is hurting our economy, too, because by and large companies want their own campus with plenty of parking. This acceleration in economic livelihood would come by shifting economic development planning to the individual community and away from City-of- Portland-centric Metro.

    • John J Glennon

      That is an interesting take on the situation that had not really crossed my mind. I was speaking with a Portland planner the other day and he said that the city of Portland did not want to stop growing but said it was because they needed to take on a “fair share” of the population growth that the metropolitan area will be experiencing. It is definitely possible fairness is not the only variable in the equation!

  • Ruthie

    Without this excellent urban planning we would have massive sprawl and there would be no wineries. Then what would I do?

    • Tempest Swarm

      Take shelter with the crumb bums now being eviscerated from defecating and fornicating in the front yard of Hales Hall.

    • nobody

      Do you want cheese with that? 🙂

  • Jay

    I really don’t see anyone forcing you to live within the UGB. There are many homes for sale outside of the current boundaries. Have you considered moving to Estacada, Molalla or Carlton…. or even buying a small farm in rural Clackamas or Washington counties? This notion that you don’t have “a choice” seems absurd.

  • Anthony

    All part of the A21 plan to turn us into the great nation of Panem (from The Hunger Games), most of the key elements are here;

    Relocating most people into dense urban “districts,” bounded “wildlands” that are strictly off limits. Most of the property both inside and outside the districts belongs to the state.

    Increasing the price of food, water, energy, clothing, and housing by rationing, to a point where most people must rely on the state for survival. This also aides the state in relocating people where the state wants, and control in general.

    Wealthy elite oblivious to the world around them.

    Complete removal of religion and spiritual beliefs. Poor education. Revisionist history and propaganda.

    Complete ban on weapons (not just firearms), even for hunting. Police get an exemption.

    The only thing really missing is the annual fight-to-the-death gladiator games performed by abducted children, but I suppose that doesn’t start until District 13 stages a rebellion.

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