What happened to Portland? It’s been a focus of America political tension. Decades ago when Oregon was a purple state with a healthy logging industry, the city of Portland decided to transform its eastside. The city wanted to use the undeveloped land to plan an amazing expansion of affordable housing. No one asked residents, and when they did there was pushback. No real reason for the development except for the fair housing act and developer & construction firm contracts. The focus then switched to affordable housing, and after several decades one can see that Portland ruined its eastside.
Portland’s eastside expansion is like an evil twin to the development of Irvine, CA by the Irvine Company. Where the Irvine Company carefully plans how it will build its villages and develops the housing supply for buyers who want to go to Irvine for the community, Portland developed the eastside for fair housing to meet the demand by the victim groups demanding cheap housing. This development was tried on the city’s southwest section, but the wealthy inhabitants of southwest Portland fought off development. The eastside did not have such wealthy advocates, so developeprs and the city built the townhomes, senior apartments, apartment buildings, strip malls and stuffed them with section 8 renters and minorities. I am not assuming this because 41% of the city’s eastside is nonwhite which is well above the other parts of Portland. On top of that, this same author of the eastside link above also wrote a four part series on the failures of the affordable housing initiatives and how blacks get squeezed out of good neighborhoods. The media was on this when Obama was trying to push the affordable fair housing. From that era, Locked Out was the media’s approved, weepy story of how blacks are locked out of good housing.
Portland’s eastside with an Irvine approach could have developed into a nice, middle class suburb like many others across the nation as Portland’s educational and FIRE economic interests grew after 1980. The neighborhoods could have been stocked with nuclear families raising cute little SWPLs. That is not what happened. The federal government set a mandate to be fair in housing, which turned into build crappy enough housing that even the poor could buy or rent, and develops saw an opportunity to build multihousing units to cost just exactly what the section 8 subsidy would cover. The entire program and development became a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the developers, construction firms and property owners using oppressed victim groups as the financial conduit.
The complaints in the eastside article are from old timer residents who saw a good area go to waste as well as surveys that show eastsiders do not rate their area highly. The very poor who were crammed into the eastside create more problems with bad test results and crime that they need more services and public spending. The Oregon writer misses the point that cheap housing was accomplished, but the people that can only afford cheap housing and make bad decisiosn that destroy socioeconomic mobility often come with social dysfunction. As many have written, liberalism begets more liberalism.
A development like an Irvine village creates a product people want but sets the cost (spending) as the barrier to entry. We do not want to admit it, but the national obsession with property cost comparisons is to gauge and signal that a positive community feeling and similar desires are exhibited in that community. Spending the money to get into a neighborhood is a sign that you value education, safety and want to enjoy and contribute to those goods. This is what the left and underclass does not get, as they think, you get into the neighborhood and good living just happens. Restrictive covenants are gone and no one can openly advertise on that, so we have to substitute cash as the marker. If you organically save the money for 20% down and can afford a traditional marker, you most likely have made good decisions and displayed good future time orientation to show you are worthy for the neighborhood. All subsidization and lowering of standards destroyed that with the housing bubble and section 8 voucher program.
There is something at the heart of this that typifies the nature vs. nurture debate and school spending debates that is verboten in public discourse. Do the buildings make the neighborhood or the people? Liberals planning in that post-’68 world thought that if they just build cheap, new neighborhoods and cram the oppressed into them, they would flourish. Many on the right, whether pure skeptics or bootstraps advocates, knew then this was dumb, and have only been proven right with decades of data. It also is an example of the heart of our national problem. Repeatedly, a problem spotlighted by the media (unfairly treating the poor for housing) has a remedy with backing from academic studies (environment, “safe housing = good later life outcomes”) that becomes federal law with regulations crafted by the unelected only ends up ruining a section of a city 3000 miles away with the citizens having no voice in the plan.