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A Case Study Of Demolitions: Beaumont-Wilshire Neighborhood

Portland houses are being demolished at an unprecedented rate. The city has recorded nearly 2,800 demolition permits since 2005, with 384 recorded in 2016 alone. Many more houses have been effectively demolished via a loophole in Portland's regulations, which allowed a developer to avoid obtaining a demolition permit by leaving a small piece of the original house standing, even just part of one wall.

How have these demolitions affected neighborhoods?

A recent study in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood counted 34 demolitions - both officially recorded demolitions and demolitions-by-loophole - during the period 2011 to 2014. This count includes only demolitions in which the original house was purchased and demolished, a new replacement house was constructed, and the replacement house was then sold.

The result of these demolitions has been that the average replacement house was +149% larger (2.5X times larger) than the original demolished house, and the average replacement house cost +148% more (2.5X times more) than the original demolished house.

The average original house was 1,478 square feet and cost $326,645. The average replacement house was 3,160 square feet and cost $770,717.

Here are charts showing this change, for each of the 34 houses. The size and price of the original house is the blue line, the size and price of the replacement house is the red line.

It is very clear how demolitions affected the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood. Smaller, less expensive houses were demolished so that could developers buid and sell much larger, far more expensive houses.

As a result, the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood became less affordable. Home ownership became less attainable for average-income families. The economic diversity of the neighborhood was reduced. Families who don't have $770,000 to buy a 3,000 square foot house lost opportunities to live in the neighborhood.

Another result, which may be less appreciated, is that families who are renters lost their smaller, more affordable rental houses. When such a house is bought by developers and demolished, the tenants are evicted. The replacement house is sold rather than rented. Those families are displaced from the neighborhood and their children are forced to leave their neighborhood schools.

Demolition and redevelopment in Beaumont-Wilshire has made the neighborhood less affordable, less diverse, and less welcoming to families who are not high income earners or otherwise wealthy. The developers profited, at the expense of the neighborhood.

Houses should be for families, not for developers.

Historic district stops most demolitions. Compare the city's map of official demolitions (blue squares) from 2005 to 2016 in Beaumont-Wilshire, which is not a historic district, to the map of official demolitions in Ladd's Addition, which is a historic district. It is clear where demolitions do and don't happen.

Like Ladd's Addition, Laurelhurst can be a historic district. We can stop demolitions and maintain diversity in Laurelhurst.

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