Monthly News and Updates

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Housing our region.

There are few issues that have captured the zeitgeist of our regional imagination as much as housing affordability in the 2020s.

We know that, historically, population growth, limited housing supply and strong demand lead to a rise in housing costs. We also know that the last few years of the Feds' interest rate increases, as they work to control inflation, have also played a role. However, what we are learning is that not all of these factors are at play. For example, data tells us that we have seen a regional decline in population (though recent reporting tells us the decline has "slowed to a trickle") most notably in Multnomah and Washington counties. And so, what other forces may be influencing the cost (and availability) of housing?

Our region has additional challenges that pose unique hurdles as we work to define broad ranging policy solutions to housing production and affordability. With a well-defined urban growth boundary that requires extraordinary time and financial commitments to expand, not to mention organizations who exist for the sole purpose of fighting any expansion, we also have outsized limits on land availability. Any Econ101 student could make a strong supply-demand argument that more land availability for all levels of housing production would lower the cost for housing at all levels.

Add to that data from the Oregon Employment Department which tells us "healthcare and social assistance" coupled with "leisure and hospitality" are the second and third, respectively, fastest growing job sectors in our state. Are there policy decisions we are making that puts these sectors at the top of the growth chart as opposed to sectors that create opportunity for career advancement? Affordability is about ability to pay in addition to market trends for housing costs - and so are we creating a recipe for a shrinking middle class which will only exacerbate a family's ability to buy or rent in our region?

At our April Forum we will be talking with three experts about the recent Housing Production legislation: what made it in, what is on the cutting room floor, and what locals can expect to see as a result of its' passage. Join me in hearing what policy solutions are working, what we might expect in the 2025 session, and how regional public and non-profit partners are working to address this crisis.

Upcoming WEA Events

April Forum: What's next in housing?

Registration open



Event is being held at PCC Willow Creek. New Breakfast Format. Same Great Programming.

WEA is excited about a new partnership with Portland Community College and they will be hosting some upcoming WEA Forums and meetings. We are so appreciative of their support and are excited to showcase their campus and facilities. Thanks to our Forum Series Sponsor Legacy Health and our event sponsor Homebuilding Association of Greater Portland.

News & Notes

Are residents fleeing the Tri-County region?

Over the past several years, there have been discussions about whether the tri-county region is losing population to our partner county in Southwest Washington. According to a report just released by state economist Josh Lehner, this is no longer a regional 'gut feeling'. The data now bears out that since 2019 we've seen rapid changes in population moving to Clark County from across the tri-county area.

To be clear, Lehner identifies many factors that might be at play, including the truism that suburbs tend to grow faster as cost of housing is lower than in surrounding areas that are already built out. Additionally, there is the border tax effect though it is important to remember that you pay income tax where you work, not where you live. So, for those individuals whose employer is in Oregon but are now remote workers, they benefit from no income tax in Washington State.

State Economist Lehner says, "We don’t fully know the reasons why people move. We know humans are complicated, and one definition of economics is constrained optimization, or trying to do the best possible given all of the various variables impacting us. But economists tend to be believers in watching what people do more than listening to what they say."

The good news is a promise from their office to update this data near the end of this year. You can count on Westside Economic Alliance to track this reporting and share out the findings.

Click here to read the full report.

Click to stay up to date on ODOT's Highway 217 Auxiliary Lane Project

Regional Wins from our Federal Delegation

Earlier this Spring Oregon's federal delegation played a key role in ensuring our region received direct federal investments for critical infrastructure. Thanks to Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Bonamici and Salinas for your work to secure these critical investments for our region including many Westside Economic Alliance members.

  • $1.616 million for the City of Beaverton’s Downtown Loop Project, which aims to improve the walkability, access, safety and overall experience of all those using the city’s 20-block downtown core.

  • $946,956 for the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District (THPRD) to improve emergency preparedness infrastructure for wildfire and disaster response. These funds will support the installation of equipment in seven buildings, enabling them to serve as safe air-filtered cooling and warming centers during wildfires and extreme weather; purchase technology to maintain communication across the district in emergencies; and conduct seismic and solar evaluations of the Fanno Creek Service Center, THPRD's emergency operations hub.

  • $900,000 for the City of Forest Grove for their project to install three 100 KW solar arrays at community facilities. This will reduce energy costs for low-income customers while reducing fossil gas dependence and combatting economic inequity. And another $850,000 to improve the local portion of the Tualatin Valley (TV) Highway. This will fund installation of a mid-block crossing to connect a low-income and historically disadvantaged community to transit and commercial options and installation of an enhanced bikeway to allow bicyclists to travel the corridor safely. This major stretch in rural Washington County is among the riskiest arterials statewide, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). 

  • $850,000 for the City of Hillsboro's Year-Round Shelter Project. These funds will support construction costs of a 24/7 shelter for homeless and housing-unstable community members. The shelter is designed to offer a diverse range of sheltering and wrap-around service options for single adults and couples, estimated to provide up to 75 beds and replace current short-term safe Rest Pods the city offers to homeless community members.

  • $850,000 for Clackamas County to make Mt. Hood Transit enhancements. The project will fund transit improvements including a new park and ride facility, improved transit stops, and the construction of public restrooms. These improvements work toward a shared goal of improving and expanding transportation services to Mt. Hood – a popular travel and recreation destination.

  • $500,000 for the City of Tigard to renovate a public library into an emergency heating and cooling center that will serve as a vital community resource in dangerous weather for people experiencing homelessness.  Secured with support from Rep. Salinas.

  • $500,000 for the Family Justice Center of Washington County to construct a multi-service center in the county to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse in one location.

Thanks to our Forum Series Sponsor Legacy Health

Legacy Health is a nonprofit health system with one mission: to bring good health to our communities. At Legacy Health, our integrated network of clinics and hospitals covers the Willamette Valley from Silverton to Southwest Washington and everything in between. Our services include, dozens of primary care clinics and urgent care centers, six hospitals, including a dedicated children’s hospital. Legacy also works in partnership with non-profit community organizations to address the most pressing public health needs in our communities including access to care and addressing social determinants of health, such housing and food stability.

For more information, visit

Upcoming Events

2024 State of the City

Sherwood, Wednesday, April 17 at 5pm, Sherwood Center for the Arts

Forest Grove and Cornelius, Monday, April 22 at 11 am, Forest Grove City Auditorium

Tualatin, Thursday May 2 from 7:30 - 9 am, Marquis Community Center

Wilsonville, Monday, May 6 at 7 pm, City Hall

Tigard, Monday May 13 (no time listed), Broadway Rose Theatre

Events information will be added and updated as received.

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