In the past 20 years, housing production in the US has failed to keep pace with demand by approximately seven million units, with half of that underproduction accounted for by the West Coast. Currently, Oregon is one of the most unaffordable states for people to rent and own housing. (http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/conferences/2018/ITED/Presentations/2A-2.MichaelWilkerson.pdf) In 2018, voters in the Portland metro region approved a $652.8 million affordable housing bond measure, one of many responses to the affordable housing crisis across the state. In May of 2019, we checked in with the Portland metro region’s residents to find out whether or not they support building more affordable housing in the area and in their own communities.
These findings come from the May 2019 fielding of our DHM Panel. The survey was conducted from May 16 to 23, 2019, and surveyed 430 residents of the Portland metro region. The results were weighted by age, gender, area of the state, political party, and level of education to ensure a representative sample of residents in the Portland metro region. The margin of error for this survey was ±4.7%. The survey questionnaire can be found at the end of this post.
While most residents consider their housing affordable, half of renters do not.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines “affordable housing” as housing that accounts for no more than 30% of a household’s income, including basic utilities. Using this calculation, most residents of the Portland metro area consider their housing situation affordable (61%). Metro residents find their housing to be slightly less affordable than Oregonians in general (69%).
Statewide, there is a significant disparity in the percentage of renters and homeowners who say their housing is affordable. While the difference is not significant in the metro area, there is still a gap between renters and homeowners.
Additionally, 36% of renters say they could not afford an emergency costing $1,000, compared to only 6% of homeowners.
Income and education have significant impacts on whether an individual living in the Portland metro area considers their housing to be affordable. Those who make less than $50,000 annually are most likely to say their housing is not affordable (54%-72%). 56% of metro residents with some college education say their housing is not affordable compared to 12% of college graduates who say the same. Income and education are also significant factors in determining whether or not residents can afford an emergency costing $1,000.
Metro residents would support building more affordable housing in their community or neighborhood.
In order to more accurately gauge residents’ support for building affordable housing, DHM asked in a split sample about perceptions of affordable housing in residents’ “community” or “neighborhood”. While the majority of metro residents said they would support building more affordable housing in both cases, the results show that word choice does matter. Metro residents are more likely to support the initiative in their “community” (75%) than in their “neighborhood” (61%).
Individuals residing in Clackamas County are less likely to support affordable housing in both their neighborhood (28%) and community (46%), while the greatest support comes from those in Multnomah County (82% and 88% respectively). Democrats are much more likely to support either option (82%, 96%) than Republicans (34%, 42%). While all renters (100%) support affordable housing in their neighborhood, 44% of homeowners do so.
Slightly fewer residents answer in favor of building affordable housing in their neighborhood when forced to choose if they would welcome affordable housing in their neighborhood. 3 in 10 feel that neighborhoods other than their own would be better suited for building more affordable housing and 12% say they don’t know.
Familiar demographic trends are also seen here, with higher support for building affordable housing in their own neighborhood coming from Multnomah County residents, Democrats, and renters. 74% of Multnomah County residents would welcome more affordable housing in their neighborhood compared to 32% of Clackamas County and 49% of Washington County residents. Democrats (78%) express stronger support than Republicans (30%) and Independents or other voters (44%). Twice as many renters (83%) as homeowners (44%) would welcome affordable housing in their neighborhood.
Metro residents prefer long-term solutions like building affordable housing.
While most metro residents are supportive of a range of reasons to build more affordable housing, the idea of a long-term investment rather than a short-term fix was a clear front-runner (84%). This reason received similar support from all demographic groups. Individuals from Multnomah County, Democrats, and renters are more supportive of the three remaining reasons than their counterparts.
Metro residents focus on the benefits rather than the concerns when it comes to building more affordable housing.
In general, Portland metro region residents agree more often with statements about potential benefits of affordable housing than with statements about potential concerns. The benefits that received the strongest agreement from residents are presented in the figure below. Less popular benefits are that more affordable housing would support local businesses and increase neighborhoods’ purchasing power (46%) and that more affordable housing would ensure that themselves and their family would be able to remain in their neighborhood in the future (51%).
Considering potential concerns, around half agree that decisions about affordable housing should not be imposed by local governments (52%) and that building more affordable housing will lower property values for existing residents (49%). Fewer residents expressed concerns about personal and family safety (36%) or agreed that their neighborhoods already have enough affordable housing (26%).
Republicans and men are more likely than their counterparts to agree that building more affordable housing will cause concerns for safety and lower property values. Republicans (90%) are also more likely than Democrats (23%) to agree that building more affordable housing should be a neighborhood decision rather than a local government decision and that their neighborhoods already have enough affordable housing (66%, as compared to 14%).