Thursday, January 30, 2014

Portland Ruined Its Eastside for Fairness

Decades ago when Oregon was a purple state with a healthy logging industry, the city of Portland decided to transform its eastside. The city wanted to use the undeveloped land to plan an amazing expansion of affordable housing. No one asked residents, and when they did there was pushback. No real reason for the development except for the fair housing act and developer & construction firm contracts. The focus then switched to affordable housing, and after several decades one can see that Portland ruined its eastside.

Portland's eastside expansion is like an evil twin to the development of Irvine, California by the Irvine Company. Where the Irvine Company carefully plans how it will build its villages and develops the housing supply for buyers who want to go to Irvine for the community, Portland developed the eastside for fair housing to meet the demand by the victim groups demanding cheap housing. This development was tried on the city's southwest section, but the wealthy inhabitants of southwest Portland fought off development. The eastside did not have such wealthy advocates, so developeprs and the city built the townhomes, senior apartments, apartment buildings, strip malls and stuffed them with section 8 renters and minorities. I am not assuming this because 41% of the city's eastside is nonwhite which is well above the other parts of Portland. On top of that, this same author of the eastside link above also wrote a four part series on the failures of the affordable housing initiatives and how blacks get squeezed out of good neighborhoods. Locked Out is the SWPL, weepy story of how blacks are locked out of good housing.

Portland's eastside with an Irvine approach could have developed into a nice, middle class suburb like many others across the nation as Portland's educational and FIRE economic interests grew after 1980. The neighborhoods could have been stocked with nuclear families raising cute little SWPLs. That is not what happened. The federal government set a mandate to be fair in housing, which turned into build crappy enough housing that even the poor could buy or rent, and develops saw an opportunity to build multihousing units to cost just exactly what the section 8 subsidy would cover. The entire program and development became a transfer of wealth from taxpayers to the developers, construction firms and property owners using oppressed victim groups as the financial conduit.

The complaints in the eastside article are from old timer residents who saw a good area go to waste as well as surveys that show eastsiders do not rate their area highly. The very poor who were crammed into the eastside create more problems with bad test results and crime that they need more services and public spending. The Oregon writer misses the point that cheap housing was accomplished, but the people that can only afford cheap housing and make bad decisiosn that destroy socioeconomic mobility often come with social dysfunction. As Chuck Ross has written, liberalism begets more liberalism.

A development like an Irvine village creates a product people want but sets the cost (spending) as the barrier to entry. We do not want to admit it, but the national obsession with property cost comparisons is to gauge and signal that a positive community feeling and similar desires are exhibited in that community. Spending the money to get into a neighborhood is a sign that you value education, safety and want to enjoy and contribute to those goods. This is what the left and underclass does not get, as they think, you get into the neighborhood and good living just happens. Restrictive covenants are gone and no one can openly advertise on that, so we have to substitute cash as the marker. If you organically save the money for 20% down and can afford a traditional marker, you most likely have made good decisions and displayed good future time orientation to show you are worthy for the neighborhood. All subsidization and lowering of standards destroyed that with the housing bubble and section 8 voucher program.

There is something at the heart of this that typifies the nature vs. nurture debate and school spending debates that is verboten in public discourse. Do the buildings make the neighborhood or the people? Liberals planning in that post-'68 world thought that if they just build cheap, new neighborhoods and cram the oppressed into them, they would flourish. Many on the right, whether pure skeptics or bootstraps advocates, knew then this was dumb, and have only been proven right with decades of data. It also is an example of the heart of our national problem where a problem spotlighted by the media (unfairly treating the poor for housing) has a remedy with backing from academic studies (environment, "safe housing = good later life outcomes") that becomes federal law with regulations crafted by the unelected ruins a section of a city 3000 miles away with the citizens having no voice in the plan.


Portlander said...

I think you should have started with the first paragraph, rather than ended with it.

regulations crafted by the unelected ruins a section of a city 3000 miles away with the citizens having no voice in the plan.

Absolutely it sucks for those on the east side that saw their community inundated with the Poor in Character. I definitely sympathize with them. However, the Poor in Character have to be somewhere. The Irvine solution, to make them someone else's problem doesn't scale when the national policy is working against it. Poor in Character have to be stopped at the border and those that are already here have to be dis-incentivized from reproducing above replacement.

Besides, who wants to live in Irvine? Insecure over-achievers and incurious strivers make my skin crawl.

Also, I remember when that series first ran. It was so ripe with irony my coworker (lives in West Linn oddly enough) and I got a good laugh out of it. Part 2 begins and ends with Tanisha Green. Her childhood neighborhood (fwiw, it's just a couple neighborhoods over from where I live -- it's not bad, but it's not that great either) is now gentrified and a much nicer place to live vs. either the ghetto it was when she was a kid there, or the suburban ghetto she lives in now as an adult. Ironically, when she was a kid everyone did want to live in the outer east side. Outer east side was a nice neighborhood. She seems flummoxed by the cruel irony of it all.

It is cruel irony alright, but nothing flummoxing about it. It is completely rational and entirely predictable. The whole series was crocodile tears over a feature, not a bug.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Thanks for the Portland talk. I saw the east portland article a few months ago, but something seemed familiar. Then I went back and saw the author wrote a series basically crying about the poor in that area a year earlier.

Randall Parker and I have been tweeting back and forth about what to do with the dysfunctional poor. Jerry Purnelle style walled off communities to contain dysfunction, immersive vr, anything.

I need to find another developed city or burb that is like Irvine in planning but not Irvine.

Portlander said...

Pretty sure Irvine is unique. Thankfully so. :)

Michael Church has a good take on the housing scam, and by implication where one may find the best rent seeking opportunities, although it takes him what feels like 20,000 words to get around to it. One can safely skim along until the final section, "The Real Cause".

Coincidentally, I noticed his post prior to that one happens to be (IMO) one of his better ones. It's on the social class hierarchy in the US.

peterike said...

I clicked on that "Locked Out" link -- amazing. A massive, four part article that could be summed up as "boo hoo." Of course I won't read it. It would make me furious to read it.

More than any other Progressive cause, I think housing pushes my buttons, because it directly ruins the lives of white people in a blatant, shoved-down-your-throat way. It is a intensely hostile gesture made all the worse because the forces behind it hold themselves as moral avatars.

Brad Schmidt is the apotheosis of everything wrong with SWPL progressives. I hope he's walking through the East Portland one night and one of his little black darlings puts a shiv in him. Following which, of course, Schmidt will "forgive" his assailant because racism.

Anonymous said...

People need to be openly racist, but say they mean it in the most benign possible way.