Most people of color can’t afford to live in Portland, report finds

By Alex Zielinski (OPB)
March 22, 2023 8:46 p.m. Updated: March 22, 2023 10:15 p.m.

The high cost of housing in Portland has put homeownership out of reach for many people of color.

A new report by the city’s housing bureau finds that in 2022, Portlanders identifying as Black, Native American, and Latino and making the average income for their demographic would have been unable to afford the cost of a house anywhere within city limits. These findings come as the city and state have committed funding and policy changes to increase the amount of affordable housing in the region.

Downtown Portland, March 2, 2023.

Downtown Portland, March 2, 2023.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

The city considers property to be unaffordable if residents have to spend more than 30% of their monthly income on housing costs.

Based on 2020 U.S. Census data for Portland, the average Black household brings in about $3,000 in monthly income, while Latino households earn $4,500, and Native American households earn nearly $5,000. In comparison, white Portland households earn $6,400 on average each month. The report shows that white residents can afford a home in about one-third of Portland’s neighborhoods — mostly adjacent to the city’s eastern border.

According to city data, the median sale price for homes across Portland was $525,000 in 2021.

Housing costs are also too high on average for Portlanders who identify as Asian or Pacific Islander, but not completely out of reach. The average Asian household in Portland, which earns $5,900 monthly, can only afford homes prices in one-fifth of the city. And houses in one-eighth of the city’s neighborhoods are considered affordable for the average Pacific Islander households, who earn around $5,700 monthly.


The report finds a similar trend for people of color renting in Portland. In 2022, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Portland was $1,904. According to the city’s data, two-bedroom apartments across the city were considered unaffordable for the average Black household. Average Latino and Native American households, meanwhile, couldn’t afford that rent in two-thirds of the city.

For average white renters, two-bedroom apartments were too costly in only one-fourth of the city’s neighborhoods. These numbers are nearly the same for average Asian and Pacific Islander households.

This data reflects a significant surge in housing costs in recent years, paired with inequitable income increases. The city report finds that home prices increased 17% between 2016 and 2021, while Portland’s median household income grew by 22% between 2015 and 2020. The report notes that those incomes increased “significantly” for white households while households of color saw “only minimal increases.”

The city has attempted to spur affordable housing development in recent years. During a Portland City Council meeting Wednesday, Portland Housing Bureau Director Molly Rogers noted that the city has created more than 4,300 units of affordable homes since the city declared a housing state of emergency in 2015.

During the council meeting, commissioners agreed that those additions don’t go far enough — and expressed concern with the report’s overall findings.

“It’s totally sobering and depressing and not surprising,” said Commissioner Dan Ryan, who served as the city’s housing commissioner in 2022.

Commissioner Carmen Rubio, the city’s current housing commissioner, called the housing crisis the result of a “perfect storm” of market conditions. Rubio said she is committed to focusing on barriers to affordable housing in the coming year, including reassessing the city’s current housing development regulations.

“This year’s report comes at a critical time in Portland’s housing landscape,” said Rubio in a written statement.

Portland is also poised to receive financial support from the state to increase affordable housing. A $200 million housing package passed Tuesday by the Oregon Senate includes $20 million to create modular housing (which can cost less to buy) and $3 million to help developers interested in building affordable homes.


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