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How do Portlanders Want to Live? Planners’ Survey Finds Complex Picture of Housing Preferences

Portland-area residents overwhelmingly want to live in single-family houses, but many want to move from a suburban setting to either a more compact neighborhood or a rural setting.

That’s according to a new study sponsored by Metro, the regional government tasked with land-use planning, along with other local governments and metro homebuilders. It paints an ambivalent picture of resident’s housing wants and needs, and the trade-offs they’re willing to make.

The takeaway I keep coming back to is that people are complex animals, said Metro senior regional planner Ted Reid. We want it all.Now regional planners need to figure out how to reconcile those findings with their plans for accommodating growth over the next 20 years, which lean heavily on building high-density apartments and condominiums within the city of Portland.

I think the region really needs to take a look and say, is that going to work? said Dave Nielsen, chief executive of the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland.

The study, conducted by Portland-based DHM Research, asked nearly 6,600 residents about their housing preferences, including 813 in a statistically representative panel and 5,783 who responded to solicitations from the government agencies and business groups. They were asked about their housing preferences without regard to tradeoffs, then when faced with choices between things like higher costs and longer commutes.

Without considering differences in cost, 80 percent of respondents preferred to live in a single-family house, though only 65 percent of respondents currently live in one. And despite predictions from housing analysts that a younger generation might prefer renting apartments in an urban environment, respondents age 18 to 34 showed an even stronger preference — 88 percent — for single-family detached houses.

But more people currently live in a suburban setting (56 percent) than prefer to (34 percent). Slightly more people would choose to live in the urban core or in a compact neighborhood with some 15622207-mmmainurban amenities. Twenty-six percent say they’d prefer to live in a rural setting, but only 8 percent currently do.

The study also looked at under what conditions, all other things being equal, residents would change their choice of neighborhood. For example, 12.1 percent of downtown residents would move elsewhere if the downtown residence was 500 square feet smaller than the alternatives.Read the entire study at

— Elliot Nudges





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