Last week, WW listed 16 office buildings on Portland’s westside that are showing signs of distress (“The Death List,” Aug. 18). These towers lack tenants, they have more debt than income, and they can’t refinance their loans. In some cases, they are being auctioned—but no one wants to bid on them, so the lender makes a credit bid. This is bad news fore some big real estate players, and also bodes poorly for the future of the city. But is it also a possible solution to the housing crisis? Here’s what our readers had to say:
Nicholas Kristof, via Twitter: “Sad article about the collapse of commercial real estate in downtown Portland, which already has a 31% vacancy rate—and is expected to get worse. This in a city that was once a leading example of successful urban planning.”
urbanlife78, via Reddit: “We are going to see a huge shift in cities that have been office focused for so long. If you look at the parts of the city center that are doing well, they are full of residential buildings. If the office district portion of downtown is going to survive, it will require a shift to residential.”
Kaia Sand, via Twitter: “Imagine a housing-rich downtown.”
Strong_Confection628, via Reddit: “This is about to get really interesting, really fast. I’ve played enough Cities: Skylines to know what happens when your tax base shrivels up, and Multnomah County is getting hit by every direction.
“You have high earners leaving the county to the suburbs, you have commercial property values plummeting, cost of services are going up; and, of course, the voter base has hardly seen a tax measure they don’t like. Hold on to your hats, if you thought Multnomah County was inefficient before, they are about to take it to new levels.”
Ben Kizer, via wweek.com: “For a while, we were told that this is all the result of WFH. Well, WFH is slowly becoming RTO or hybrid as COVID continues to recede, so that is bunk. I also live in Beaverton, where a ton of businesses are expanding their footprint, like Analog Devices. I think it’s more of a fact that businesses increasingly don’t want all the headaches involved with doing business in Portland (high taxes, high crime, high regulations) and are looking at places like Beaverton, Tigard, Lake Oswego, Vancouver, Hillsboro and Wilsonville to do their business in instead.”
Dr. Frankenstupe, via Twitter: “Hmmm, and we have several thousand homeless folk living on the streets. No room for them, city and county governments say. Total bullshit. Lots of room in these empty office buildings.”
Piper, via Twitter: “WW with default sympathy for commercial real estate owners who are some of the richest people in the whole city. I celebrate all of their losses.
“It’s cool when the super rich become less rich. I’m stoked these losers happened to have a lot of their wealth in an asset that’s becoming worth a lot less in this changing economy. They shoulda thought of that before becoming landlords.”
omnichord, via Reddit: “Also, for anyone who’s like ‘fuck the banks, let them eat those loans,’ I get where you’re coming from but the tax base/knock-on effects of this sort of massive market correction basically mean that Portland really suffers for the foreseeable future (I’d say five to 10 years?). That just contributes to what will certainly be a prominent national narrative over how ‘progressive cities have failed,’ etc. The suburbs will win. Cities in red states in the Sun Belt will win. We will lose. Progressive policies will become more and more radioactive nationally. So, I’d hesitate to say that that is somehow going to be anything short of a disaster for anyone who cares about that kind of thing.”
VIENNA WAITS FOR YOU
Your articles suggest that Multnomah County has a backlog of funding that could be used for housing, and that there is a glut of unused buildings in Portland. On the cover, Montgomery Park looks remarkably like some of the affordable housing complexes built in Vienna to solve their problems. Can we learn from them?
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