Lennox Scott Speaks with Jim Redden of the Portland Tribune About Housing Affordability

Housing affordability is suddenly the hottest issue in Portland.

The City Council is scrambling to promise more income-limited housing and to protect tenants forced out by rent increases and “no-fault” evictions for remodeling projects. Most of the proposals have followed protests organized by advocacy groups for minorities and low-income people.

But one group having trouble finding affordable housing has not gotten much attention — working and middle-class families who want a single-family house near an employment center. Although homeownership has declined since the Great Recession, many families still want the benefits from owning their own homes. Realtors say this is especially true now that the regional economy is recovering and more and more people are moving here for work.

“This is a historic moment in the residential real estate market. We’re seeing strong job growth and historically low interest rates at the same time. That’s creating buyer demand, and there are not enough homes currently on the market to meet it,” says Lennox Scott, chairman and CEO of John L. Scott Real Estate.

According to Scott’s real estate group, there are hardly any mid-range price houses near employment centers for sale in the region today. Office manager Israel Hill defines mid-range as around $450,000 — which is well above the new median price of $305,000.

Prices not too high?

Scott says home prices are not necessarily out of line in the entire region, which includes Clark and Columbia counties. He believes prices are right about where they should be. The real problem, Scott says, is a shortage of available houses for sale. The most recent Regional Multiple Listing Service report says there were only 5,837 active listings in the region in August, including Clark County. That’s just a 1.9-month supply, well below normal levels.

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