Averting a housing crisis: Panel Discussion from oregonmetro on Vimeo.

Last week, City Observatory’s own Joe Cortright took part in a panel hosted by the Portland regional planning agency, Metro, where a standing-room-only crowd heard him, TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler, Elissa Harrigan of the Meyer Memorial Trust, and developer Eli Spevak talk about whether Oregon’s largest city is heading the way of San Francisco’s overheated housing market.

It’s worth watching the whole video above, but from our perspective, a few points really stood out:

  • First, Kim-Mai Cutler focused on the exorbitant cost of providing affordable housing in high-housing-cost markets, with the result that even large sums of money just don’t buy relief for very many people. As an example, an affordable housing project in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood is coming out to nearly $900,000 per unit, and a $300 million city bond issue is expected to produce only about 500 units of housing. That’s obviously great for the families who get one of those units, but in a city of over 800,000 people where Zillow pegs the median rent at $4,600, it’s not even a drop in the bucket in the broader affordability crisis.
  • Joe argued that the underlying issue in San Francisco, as in many other places around the country, is a shortage of cities: the demand for housing in inner neighborhoods, with their growing access to amenities, jobs, and cheap non-car transportation options, greatly outstrips the housing available.
  • Finally, Joe also pointed out that parking requirements are one of the elephants in the room: “inclusionary zoning for cars” that drives up the price of housing, since parking gets bundled in before tenants or owners even make the decision to have a car, and reduces housing supply by limiting the amount of space that can be used for housing.

You can read more about the panel at The Oregonian and Willamette Week—or at Metro’s own writeup.