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Formerly the home of Beaumont-Wilshire Neighbors for Responsible Growth, the Portland Land Matters blog explores citywide land-use concerns, such as home demolitions, with the belief that development should create an improvement.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Middle housing also gets demolition treatment

A shiny batch of units rises along the river in Portland, while another resident
pitches a tent. Demolitions remove the affordable in-between.
Courtesy of Stephen Poole.

Midway through the city's troubled Residential Infill Project the term "Middle Housing" became the buzzword. Introduced by the developers' lobby, it also turned into the battle cry for housing activists bankrolled by developers in another all-too-transparent bid to maintain dominance at City Hall and take down more of Portland's viable, affordable housing stock for cheaper construction with a greater rate of return.

The latest list of demolitions shows dozens of units more affordable than what is being built now—the sort that city leaders and staff, not to mention neighborhoods, say we need. Among the properties destined for the landfill are duplexes of that so-called middle housing, apparently not expensive enough for the teardown crowd to keep standing.

In another irony, don't miss the demolition permit issued to the firm that calls itself "Sustainable Development." Has Portland finally jumped the shark? (We do know Portlanders increasingly are jumping ship.)

How long until we say No to the destructive and outsize impacts of this kind of development?

The city's Urban Forestry gang has gone on the offensive looking for ways to stop or reverse an alarming loss of mature urban tree canopy. Going around to the neighborhood association meetings, the staffers harangue neighbors to plant trees, especially the large, old-growth-suitable kind that teardown developers love to raze for cookie-cutter units across the city.

Preserving this neighborhood old growth benefits everyone and requiring it would lead to more creative and site-specific buildings. A more robust, preservation-oriented tree code—instead of the pay-to-clearcut program in place now—could score a win for everyone, even for developers who might be able to make even more money with a plan less out of a plan book and a project more driven by the beauty of an established tree.

We love trees, don't we?