Schrödinger’s housing crisis

Economics is in many ways like meteorology: Being wrong in one’s predictions is considered par for the course.

However, economics has the added element of requiring a basic understanding of sociology and psychology, as human greed dictates much of the economy. Thus, being wrong in economic predictions is considered normal. As is missing the (in hindsight) obvious economic downfall, which is in many ways how Portland ended up where it is today.

Portland is in a housing crisis, as anyone who has been in the area for longer than 10 minutes can attest. Rents have skyrocketed, rising over 40 percent in the past five years. The number of homeless people in Portland has increased as well, as landlords evict renters to make way for new and improved dwellings.

The housing crisis is also changing the atmosphere of Portland. The artistic, fun-loving millennials who made Portland the ultimate hipster destination are fleeing in droves—and not by choice. Priced out of the city, many people are leaving for Seattle, Austin and other up-and-coming cities that don’t come with Portland’s insane cost of living.

A recent Oregonian article revealed that several food pods currently serving downtown foot traffic may soon be razed to make way for high-rise apartment living.

The April ’16 issue of Portland Monthly also ran an article recommending those of us who cannot afford to live in Portland to try Estacada—an hour’s drive away on a good day. Not horrible advice, but not particularly realistic for those working in the city.

This means, like a social version of Schrödinger’s cat, Portland is both growing and dying. To be sure, if one looks at hard numbers, Portland is growing: Population in Multnomah County has increased by almost 12,000 people in the last year, while Washington county has added 10,000 residents.

But the spirit of Portland is leaving. The aforementioned artists, musicians and free spirits that give Portland its character are increasingly packing up and moving on to cheaper pastures.

The city of Portland recently took several steps to help combat the effects of the housing crisis. Many of these efforts were directed at the homeless population, including directing funds toward homeless and women’s shelters, and waiving city codes that might hinder the homeless receiving assistance. But these steps, as important as they are, do not go far enough.

It is long past time for the city of Portland to push for requiring a period far exceeding the current 90 days needed to raise rents. No-cause evictions currently require a 90-day notice, and that is also insufficient. While Oregon state law mandated much of what the city can do, the city is not without lobbying power and should make the best use possible of its might.

These changes may not go far enough—or they may leave both landlords and tenants open for abuse. Thus, while these options aren’t ideal, they are certainly necessary if Portland is to continue to enjoy the distinctive culture and atmosphere that it has cultivated for so long.

For those of us graduating soon and for whom employment will be the major goal, housing costs will be a huge part of the decision of where to go from here. One can only hope the housing market will stabilize somewhat, and that new-to-Portland transplants will be able to set down roots and call this wonderful city their home.