Urban Growth Boundary: Housing

Just as Randal quotes, central planners (LCDC) of Portland city ended up having shortage of houses, urban open spaces and public transport for the low earning families but with a surplus in rail transit apartments and rural open spaces. In these respect, Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB) had been created in 1979, under the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC), to protect principal farming and forest lands from development while providing sufficient land for development (p.3) and to provide for housing needs of the state’s citizens (p.4) and later was strengthened to a tool to help promote a more packed in, inhabitable, and well-organized metropolitan area.

On the contrary, agriculture in the state of Oregon accounted less than 10 percent its economy, while its major role was to protect Oregonians self-image.The controversy in the impact of the UGB housing process was that instead of making houses prices affordable within the metropolitan, house prices in this metropolitan rose to one of the least affordable metropolitan areas in the United States. One of the main reasons why the house prices rose was because all local government services were financed primarily by property tax hence cities like Portland attracted high property taxes relative to the services they required, which went in favor of families with expensive homes while keeping low families out (p.4).

To solve this problem, the LCDC thought of incorporating wide range of housing types to accommodate all income levels and living within their UGB which still didn’t work out wellOn one side of this argument was some home builders, real estate agents, and advocates of limited government who proposed that UGB’s was solely responsible for the rise in house prices making it unaffordable for low earning families by failing to provide land for development while the smart growth advocates and their allies asserted the thriving financial system as cause. According to the latter, house prices were still affordable compared to some cities in the West Coast, with an attractive quality of life and decreased housing prices off at the end of 1990’s, which they thought it would remain (p.2).

The opposition argued that the U.S recession in economy in 1979 had the UGB just approved. The recession declined sharply lumber prices in Oregon State weakening it’s economy with 10,000 people leaving between 1981 and 1985. In addition, Portland’s housing prices fell by 37 percent in 1979 – 1988 and the exodus left 2000 units unoccupied and decrepit (p.5). Economy rise in the late 1980’s resulted to demand for new homes, offices and industrial and commercial buildings with same UGBs hence increase in housing prices again.The methodology used to measure housing prices had major drawback of deficiencies in the availability of data on the Portland’s housing prices (p.8) hence the use price indexes that excluded apartments in multi-family buildings while including single-family detached homes and attached townhouses (p.9).

In addition, price indices were hard to find since most apartments were for sale. Price indexes didn’t control for differences over time or across markets hence prices varied depending on unit size or the lot. A major Strength was that this methodology was able to provide solid proof that the house prices compared to other cities was quit high mainly because there was no increase in development land by UGB.On my opinion I find the UGB as responsible for the price increase since it failed to increase the land for development in Portland resulting to scramble for the little land there was for new home, industries and offices, hence high prices.


Molly H. & Professor Jose A., (2002). Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary and Housing Prices (A): The Debate. Kennedy School of Government: Case Program.