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Affordable Living in PDX?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
DH is interviewing for a couple of jobs in PDX. If we bite on an offer, I'm a little nervous about housing prices. I got a little bit of sticker shock checking out the real estate prices.

He'll definitely factor housing costs into salary negotiations, but we still hope to keep things reasonably affordable. I'm probably a stereotypical MDCer in my preference for an older, quaint, established neighborhood where it's easy to walk or bike to shops, farmers markets, etc. DH will probably work downtown. He'd love a close commute but would consider a quick, efficient route by public transport.

My initial web research is showing that quaintness may come with a high price tag. yikes2.gif We're really trying to avoid outskirt-y subdivisions, which usually involve long commutes, heavy HOA fees, prohibitions on gardening and clotheslines, etc. To sum it up, I may have Selwood tastes with a HIllsboro budget, lol!

I've been reading about a recent trend in gentrification. The area that was called "felony flats" when I visited 15-20 years ago is seeing people move in and revamp old houses, for example. Good idea? Bad?

One concern I have is the schools. I'm not hearing glowing reports about most PDX schools, but maybe one of you locals can tell me otherwise. While I'm planning to homeschool, it would still be nice to know that our neighborhood school was decent, if nothing else for property values or just knowing I had a safety net in case homeschooling didn't work out. It seems like all of the best public schools are in unaffordable neighborhoods, like so many places, I suppose. We don't consider test scores a mountain to die on, by the way.

So with all of this in mind, what part of town might be a good match for my family? Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this!
post #2 of 15

It looks like your post might have been missed, so I wanted to bump it up for attention. :bump: Anyone have experiences to share? OP, I hope you and your family can find the perfect location and community!

post #3 of 15

Well, the simplest answer is that the Eastside is cheaper than the West. I am sort of a social worker, and work and live on the Eastside. Over here, we have islands of expensive upscale, trendy hipster, uber-crunchy families, scary druggish, immigrants sorted by language, and others, all floating in a sea of working class regular folks. Through my work, I have opportunity to see many, many schools, in the Portland Public School District, and several others. My call is it goes school by school, rather than by the district. I work with special needs kids, so my perspective may be skewed. I have worked with fabulous staff in some of the Portland schools, and inflexible nitwits in the most upscale suburb around, that would prefer to remain nameless. Of course the fanciest neighborhoods have the prettiest buildings and more resources, but I have not been impressed. Maybe the teachers and staff in the poorer neighborhoods are more dedicated. I can't really say. I can tell you that my dear friend, an elementary school teacher herself, researched the best schools here, and bought a million dollar home to be in the best area. After 2 miserable years, they downsized to a slightly less upscale neighborhood, mainly to get into a different school district.


At the far eastern edge of town, there are a couple small school districts (I am thinking of Centennial and David Douglas). My experience is that they are pretty good, at least for kids needing lots of individualized attention. But they don't have the resources and options of the larger districts: several alternative school choices, charter schools, language immersion programs, things like that.


I don't know if I would shop for a house by school district, if resale value was the primary reason. I don't see that as a huge factor in home prices here.


What other factors would influence your neighborhood choice? From your comments above, I think you might find a spot in Ladd Addition, Hawthorne, or Mt. Tabor areas. It may take some looking, but any of those neighborhoods have some affordable homes, mixed in with the over-priced. All are quaint, have great access to fun shops and public transportation, good parks, and family-friendly atmosphere.


What I did when I moved here was to rent an apartment (took it sight unseen, over the internet, because it was the only 4 bedroom apartment I could find). Then I spent a year getting established in my work, checking out neighborhoods, and finding a truly great house. Some of the best houses are only advertised by a sign in the yard, but you need time to find them. I don't know if that would work for you - moving in but knowing it would be short-term. For us it worked great. As we also were homeschooling, it had little impact on the kids.

post #4 of 15

I've lived in Portland all my life, and I do agree that the east side is better priced.  We lived in what would qualify as felony-flats when we were in our first home, and it had it's rough spots, but was definitely undergoing a change, and in 5-10 years will be very different.  We're in the Foster-Powell neighborhood now, and while it's not as quaint as others, it's also undergoing some great changes.  We bike to the library, community center, outdoor pool (in summer), and our daughter started at our neighborhood school as a kinder this fall.  We're happy with the school so far.  We don't have a great walk-score here, but I believe that it will change in the next decade.  I'd say come and explore SE, as there are many great neighborhoods. 

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

This is so helpful that I think I'll print out this thread for DH! I've looked into Foster-Powell, actually. We're not super handy, but we'd love to breathe some new life into an older house.  I'm a social workers, too! :joy


As a follow-up question, do you know much about the charter schools there, like Opal and Emerson?  Are there long waiting lists?

post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 


post #7 of 15
We're in South Tabor and love it--affordable, compared to even 10 or 15 blocks further west, diverse, walkable, and we love our neighborhood school (Atkinson). Dh and I commute downtown, usually by bus. Charter schools are by straight lottery (no waitlists) and have a lot of applicants, so it's a long shot, though of course people do get in. The lottery happens in Feb-March. PM me if you'd like to chat more!
post #8 of 15
We are in the often overlooked Brentwood Darlington neighborhood. Huge lots, walking distance to Woodstock. It was the perfect affordable place for us. smile.gif
post #9 of 15

Maybe look at North Portland, too. We're right in between Kenton and St. Johns and while our neighborhood is a little more up-and-coming (I hope), we're walking distance to a lot and the schools aren't horrible. 

post #10 of 15

We are in St. Johns, too and love the community! I agree with not judging the schools by the internet score such as "great schools" and such. There are a lot of good community schools that you wouldn't know about unless you just visited the school.


Rental market is pretty tight right now, but I would also suggest renting before buying, even for 6 months or so. I think it is a good idea to explore the neighborhood and see what you like.


Good luck!

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Yea, I'm having a heck of a time finding a rental! Yikes! We may end up in a hotel if things don't pan out. greensad.gif St. John's does look really neat! DH heard something about PDX having lots of petty crime and car break-ins. Has crime been a problem where any of you live? It's hard to find a house in Portland proper with a one-car garage and nearly impossible to find a 2-car garage for both cars!
post #12 of 15
I don't think the crime in Portland is that bad.
post #13 of 15

I have been living in Portland for 7 years or so, and have exactly zero personal experience with crime of any sort. I live in a quiet pocket in an otherwise sketchy neighborhood. I rarely lock my house or car. My teen kids take public transportation all over town, and DD, 18, walks alone at night (well, usually takes the dog), and has never had a problem. I am concerned about the number of homeless people I see - not from the perspective of crime, but rather genuine concern for them as the weather gets cold. Maybe I am missing something, or in denial, but I feel safe here.

post #14 of 15

DS1 was at college in Portland and lived in both Eastmoreland (rented a room, lest it sound as though we're loaded) and a rented studio in Sellwood.  He loved Sellwood.  Walkable, safe, comfortable, not outrageously expensive or painfully trendy.


(I realize he had way different criteria than you do:  single and no car, so I can't speak to what might be available in your need range . . . is going to one car an option for your family?)


Try this tool for crime stats:  http://www.gis.ci.portland.or.us/maps/police/



post #15 of 15

I think the whole "crime" issue is a matter of perspective.  Stuff happens around here, to be sure, and sometimes the headlines get colorful, but my experience is--assuming you're not actively involved in the shady world of drugs/prostitution, or planning on working the graveyard shift at a convenience store, the worst thing that's likely to happen to you is someone might steal stuff out of your yard/car.  Most people that I know who live here have never experienced anything more serious than having a bike stolen, or things taken out of their cars...and these are the people who live in the "dangerous" parts of town. 


Having lived in both rural and urban Oregon, there's just as much weird, random, crazy stuff that happens in a town of 500 as goes on in Portland.

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