Featured Stories

Where do most want to live? In the suburbs

Sandy experiences continued real estate growth

Photo Credit: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Sandy Windermere Real Estate reports home sales have increased in 2014.The traditional American Dream is alive and well in the Portland area, and in the Sandy area too.

Despite all the buzz about tiny homes on wheels and apartments with no designated parking, most Portland-area residents want to live in their own single-family detached home with a yard. And more people prefer the suburbs — such as Gresham, Troutdale, Fairview and even Sandy — instead of downtown and close-in neighborhoods.

Those are among the results of the most comprehensive study on housing preferences ever conducted in Portland and surrounding communities. The Residential Preference Study for the Portland Region was undertaken by Metro, the elected regional government.

The results are the most in-depth and complete ever gathered in the metropolitan area. And they fly in the face of national surveys that claim most people prefer to live in cities.

According to the study:

– Asked what kind of housing they prefer, 80 percent of metropolitan residents said a single-family detached home. Only 13 percent prefer an apartment of condo, and just 7 percent prefer a single-family attached home, such as a row house or townhouse.

– Asked where they prefer to live, 34 percent chose a suburban neighborhood, 27 percent chose an urban neighborhood or town center, 26 percent chose a rural neighborhood and 13 percent chose an urban central or downtown neighborhood.

– Reaffirming the preference for suburban-style living, 61 percent of respondents said they would like a large or medium size yard separating their home from a neighbor. Thirty-nine percent preferred a small yard or private courtyard.

“There is still significant support for single-family detached homes across all demographics. The question is, is there going to be enough buildable land to meet that need,” says Dave Nielsen, chief executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Metro Portland, one of several partners in the survey. Others include Portland State University, the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors, NW Natural, the cities of Hillsboro and Portland, and Clackamas and Washington counties.

But Mary Kyle McCurdy, staff attorney for 1000 Friends of Oregon, says the results do not paint a complete picture. She notes that most of those who participated in the survey were older and had lived in the region longer than the average resident. And she says the existing population is projected to change with more younger people moving to the region in coming years.

“It’s a snapshot in time of what the people who responded to the survey are thinking, but it is just one piece of information and does not say what people will prefer as their households change in 10 or 20 years,” McCurdy says. “And we know the demographic of the region will be different in the future.”

McCurdy also notes that most residents also said they prefer to live in a neighborhood with activities within walking distance, something not offered in most traditional subdivisions.

Sandy real estate on the risePhoto Credit: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - New housing developments are popping up in Sandy as the local economy begins recovering from the recession.

Sandy itself is becoming a destination suburb for families.

In 2014, real estate in Sandy has been on the rise, according to Carl Exner, a city councilor and real estate professional for Windermere Real Estate in Sandy.

“People are much more happy with the market,” Exner said. “They want to buy.”

Not only have Windermere’s home sales gone up, 236 total sales from January to September this year up from 176 sold at the same time last year, the types of sales have changed as well.

Exner said that since the beginning of the recession, a large part of real estate business has been from bank-owned sales. In 2012, Windermere sold 51 bank-owned properties between January and September. That number has since dropped drastically to 21 at the same time in 2013 and only 18 so far this year.

“The amount of time to go from listing a house to the date it closes escrow has dropped quite a bit,” Exner added.

When helping families find homes in Sandy, Exner said he often hears praise for the community for its small-town feel.

In addition to citing the new high school, new library and the fact that Sandy has its own police force as reasons to look for a home in this community, home buyers like Sandy’s focus on atmosphere.

In addition to its continuing improvements on building façades, the city requires new housing developments to include a park in neighborhoods or invest in nearby existing parks.

Sandy has more than 10 parks accessible to all of its nearly 10,000 citizens.

“Sandy looks like a community worth bringing families into,” Exner said. “People are seeing that.”

According to the 2010 census, Sandy is the fifth fastest growing city in the state, and city administrators expect it to continue growing.

City planners have been looking into expanding the city’s urban growth boundary to help deal with continuing growth in the next 20 years.

According to the city’s recent Urbanization Report Update, if Sandy continues on its current growth path, in 20 years, 963 additional dwellings will be needed to accommodate population growth. Within the city’s current boundary, there are 94.6 buildable vacant acres, but in order to provide the needed dwellings the city will need 217.9 acres.

Exner said the Sandy City Council will look into expanding the city’s urban growth boundary over the next year.

Expanding the boundaryPhoto Credit: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - More than three dozen new homes have been constructed in the Bronson Creek development on West Union Road in Washington County. A new study says many people still desire the suburban lifestyle.

Metro did the study to gain a better understand of housing preferences in advance of the next decision on whether to expand the region’s urban growth boundary. By law, the Metro Council, which sets the boundary for cities in the Portland area, must decide whether there is enough room within it to accommodate the next 20 years of projected growth in 2015.

According to Metro, about 400,000 more people are expected to be living inside the growth boundary by 2035. The agency released a draft Regional Growth Report in July that suggests the urban growth boundary does not need to be expanded in 2015 to accommodate that increase. It rests on a number of assumptions questioned by the study results, however. They include whether a large percentage of those additional people are willing to live in tens of thousands of new apartments and condominiums in Portland, as envisioned in the comprehensive land-use plan update headed to the City Council next year.

The study was conducted by DHM Research beginning in the spring. The firm used a variety of techniques, including an online poll, a “managed panel” of 200 residents each from Clackamas, Clark, Multnomah, and Washington counties, and a “public engagement panel” of roughly 5,700 respondents from throughout the region. They were asked to choose which style of housing and neighborhood they preferred, and were then asked what factors — such as housing costs and commute time — might encourage them to change their minds. Each trade off lead only a small percent to change their minds, however, usually less than 10 percent.

That does not mean residents will not compromise, however. Only 65 percent actually reported living in a single-family detached home, well below the 80 percent who say they prefer it. More than twice as many people live in apartments and condos than prefer them, 28 to 13 percent. But everyone who wants to live in a single-family attached home is apparently doing so, however, 8 percent compared to 7 percent who prefer them.

The Metro Council is just beginning to consider the results of the housing preference study, which was released to the public on Sept. 4. Although the council is not obligated to honor the results, they will be discussed as it considers the draft Regional Growth Report in preparation for deciding whether to expand the Portland region’s urban growth boundary next year.

Sandy Post reporter Kylie Wray contributed to this report.