Seeing Demographic Shifts, Developers Refocus

Oregonians' neighborhood and housing preferences are changing, and developers are taking notice. After decades of building low-density subdivisions and suburban garden apartments, smart builders are refocusing inside the urban growth boundary.

The Daily Journal of Commerce's Lee Fehrenbacher reports on several such developers, including Holland Partners Group, based in Vancouver, Washington. Seeing dwindling demand and significant oversupply of suburban large homes, CEO Clyde Holland has instead shifted the company's work to more walkable multifamily developments. They're breaking ground on projects across the West, including a sizable development on an infill site in Wilsonville.

Another builder, the Mill Creek Residential Trust, is also focusing its investments inside the urban growth boundary, with new projects in Tualatin and Portland's Pearl District and Goose Hollow neighborhoods, while Creston Homes is focusing on several smaller apartment projects in Portland's inner eastside.

The trend is driven by two major demographic shifts in Oregon. Currently, the largest age groups in Oregon are people in their 50s. A demographer at Portland State University tells Fehrenbacher that these residents are looking for a different style of living today: "As their children move out, he said, many of those people are unloading their large homes in favor of smaller, close-in apartments. Some are either divorced or widowed and are living alone."

On the other end of the spectrum is the fact that the Portland region has the nation's highest in-migration of people aged 26-40 who have college degrees. These residents will drive the region's future economy, and a majority have indicated in surveys and housing decisions that they don't want a big house in the suburbs.

Fehrenbacher reports:

Holland thinks a pivotal change in values is taking place. People formerly cherished their large homes and garages, he said; however, today, they appreciate a home’s access to the rest of the community.

“I want to be able to walk to 10 restaurants; I want to be able to go to a couple bars,” Holland said. “I want to be able to hang out. I want to be able to ride the MAX, take it across town to my job or walk to my job. And I don’t want to spend any time commuting because I want to have more time for me or more time for work.

“You can talk about the cost of an automobile and all that, but what’s really expensive is your time.”

Smart land use makes neighborhoods like these possible, by inspiring innovative development and focusing investment on creating great transportation options. It also helps these communities' residents be healthier, while promoting a healthy environment and protecting valuable resource lands at the region's edge from wasteful sprawl. Learn more about the role of land use planning in this effort at friends.org/LandUseIs.

Read the full Daily Journal of Commerce article here. (A subscription may be required.)