Why So Many New Apartment Buildings Feel Like Holiday Inns

Portland settled rigidly on a path to itself becoming an overstuffed, overpriced metro.

DISCREET CHARM: Burnside 26 was once the most hated building in Portland. (Cameron Browne)

This week’s paper looked me dead in the face and told me I can’t afford to buy a house here.

Which was not shade. It’s actually a real fact for many Portlanders like me. Folks who fled overpriced, overstuffed metros to rent affordable houses here, and then watched as Portland settled rigidly on a path to itself becoming an overstuffed, overpriced metro.

Cities grow and evolve, kind of like living breathing entities. We’d be foolish to try to curb progress. But we’re also foolish for looking the other way while tent cities surround vacant buildings, and projects that could become safety nets to protect both historical Portland and its marginalized residents are tangled in red tape.

A lot of this week’s cover package reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s boot analogy of socioeconomic unfairness from his work Men at Arms. “A man who could afford fifty dollars,” Pratchett wrote, “had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”

A lot of us are out here with wet feet, and it feels like the nice-boot-wearing communities are very busy theorizing why instead of just giving someone a pair of boots.

On this week’s Dive podcast, my guest is Michael Andersen, a senior researcher for the regional sustainability think tank Sightline Institute. On today’s episode, Michael and I comb through his contribution to Willamette Week’s cover package, which takes a critical look at Portland’s housing crisis, the classism and racism it stems from, and some potential solutions to what might feel like unsolvable problems.

He also explains why the same rules that make apartment buildings more expensive also cause them to feel so much like a Holiday Inn Express.

Listen on Apple Podcasts.

Listen on Spotify.

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