The Demolition Epidemic: How Developers Are Tearing Down Affordable Housing Faster Than Taxpayers Can Build It.
May 20, 2017
Home demolitions don't only threaten the historic character of neighborhoods like Laurelhurst. They destroy affordable housing all over Portland. Prolific infill developers are tearing down thousands of smaller, less expensive houses to build large, expensive "speculative houses".
Our city needs affordable housing. Portland voters recently passed a bond that will eventually build 1,300 affordable housing units, at the cost of over $258 million in property taxes . But in the past several years, infill developers have demolished far more than 3,000 affordable houses.
Developers are demolishing affordable houses faster than we can build it.
"As the economy recovered from the 2008 implosion, it gradually turned from a rebound into a gold rush for home builders. At the same time, it became a nightmare for renters as no-cause evictions and astronomic rent increases became more common. And at the foundation of that affordability crisis was an unprecedented demolition epidemic. As the number of demolitions increased, so did the rents, the list prices, and the homeless population. More affordable rental and starter homes were being purchased in bulk with cash and then immediately demolished and replaced by one or two luxury homes at double or triple the price."
"It wasn’t long before that kind of greed made it slimmer pickings for developers – they had consumed much of the low-hanging fruit at a bargain, sold it for triple, and contributed to inflating the market in so-doing. About that time, there came a heavy and accelerated push for the Residential Infill Project (RIP). "
Interruption - if you're a regular reader of this website, you know all about RIP. Almost every single-family house neighborhood in Portland, including Laurelhurst, will be re-zoned to duplex and triplex housing. Those duplexes and triplexes will be expensive and to build them, developers will demolish the most affordable houses left in our neighborhoods. Here's an example - an infill duplex on North Portland, each unit cost over $650,000, which replaced an affordable house costing $198,000. Another affordable house demolished. Another Portland family evicted. Why is this good?
3914 N Gantebein. $198,000 before, $650,000 X 2 after. How do new duplexes help affordability?
Resuming with"Profiles In Profiteering":
"Areas that were once somewhat naturally immune to speculative “rip and replace” development because of long retention cycles, high quality craftsmanship, and hi-value properties, like Eastmoreland and Laurelhurst, were suddenly scrambling to avail themselves of the ONLY regulatory tool which subjects demolition permits to review – National Register Historic Districts. And some of the same people who were now clearly riding the pro-density, pro-development, “drill baby, drill!” bandwagon were mangling those efforts at staving off demolitions by hurling accusations of racism and xenophobia in attempts to drown out residents desperate pleas for protections against the bulldozers that were everywhere – not just in their own backyards but in the entire city core."
"Affordability, or lack thereof, is directly connected to demolitions – and not just by one metric but by many. And now we have House Bill 2007 nearing a vote in the Senate."
"[HB2007] would impose these same high-density Residential Infill zoning changes statewide – usurping city and county control of their own land-use planning decisions. Most significantly, the bill would also allow unrestricted demolition and redevelopment in Historic Districts"
"One developer, Randy Sebastian, President of Renaissance Homes, has already gone toe-to-toe with Eastmoreland residents in the past over several high-profile demolitions of solid, beautiful, heritage homes.. replaced by his ‘signature’ sameness at a sticker price that far outweighed the local average."
The article then shows. with facts and figures, how much damage a single infill developer can do to Portland's affordable housing.
"If there’s a house on the lot, [Renaissance Homes] demolishes it 100% of the time, without exception."
"The overwhelming majority of his business is in demolishing existing AFFORDABLY PRICED homes and replacing them with one or more at double, or triple the price."
"In just 5 years, this single developer is responsible for nearly 10% of the total residential demolitions in the city."
"In just 5 years, this single developer has inflated the local single family housing market by over $1 Million dollars for every home he demolished."
Renaissance Homes is far from the only infill developer who is demolishing Portland's affordable housing stock faster than the taxpayers can build it. In Laurelhurst, the most active developer has been Everett Custom Homes, who specializes in demolishing small original bungalow houses and building huge "luxury" houses. Over 30 houses have been demolished in Laurelhurst in the past several years - that is both "official" demolitions and "loophole" demolitions - and on average the new houses are 2.5X bigger and 2.5X more expensive than the original house.
Demolitions are hurting our city, our most vulnerable residents, and our taxpayers. We can do something about it in Laurelhurst, through a historic district. Lets lead by example in our neighborhood, and then join with groups like Stop Demolishing Portland to push for a city-wide solution.