I still remember how lucky I felt back in 1991, when I was able to buy 20 acres of land outside of Sandy, design my dream home and build it. As I walked through the front door for the first time, I couldn’t help but feel like I had truly achieved the American Dream.
Obviously, 1991 was a long time ago. And things have changed considerably since then. What’s clear is that housing is much less affordable than it was 30 years ago.
As I make my way around Clackamas County campaigning for commissioner, I get to hear from citizens from many walks of life. One thing they all seem to have in common is that they’re worried about the high cost of housing.
Young people I talk to tell me about how high their rent is. They’re often spending much of their hard-earned paychecks to live in high-density apartments with neighbors above, below and next to them. Because their rent keeps going up, saving enough for a down payment on a house is impossible.
I also hear from people who have already bought their homes. Every month, they pay their mortgage in good faith, hoping to someday have it paid off so they can own their house and property outright. Those people aren’t immune from worrying about housing. What I hear from them is that property taxes are a growing burden on their pocketbooks. It seems like no matter what happens with the economy, their property taxes get higher and higher over time.
The Portland metro area has grown considerably since 1991. People have been coming here from all over the country to try and make a better life for them and their families.
But as the population has increased, the supply of available housing has not. Oregon’s unique land use system deliberately limits the amount of land that houses can be built on. Those regulations are even more stringent within the boundaries of Metro than they are everywhere else in the state.
The artificial scarcity that these public policies create means that the land that can be built on is more expensive than it should be. Anyone looking to build a house is already six figures deep before they put a single stick in the ground or get any permits issued. Once those costs are added in, a home starts to get beyond the price range of the average working family.
That’s not even counting property taxes. They’re are used to fund local government, including at the county level. Here in Clackamas County, we pay an additional layer of property taxes to fund the Metro government and all of its programs.
A common misperception is that property tax increases only affect homeowners. But landlords are forced to pass those higher costs on to renters and that’s another reason why housing is becoming less affordable throughout Oregon.
I’ve always maintained that homeownership is a cornerstone of the American Dream. People become much more invested in the community when they go from renting their home to buying it.
I’m running for Clackamas County Commissioner because I’m concerned that too much taxation and regulation are making it harder for the average resident to ever be able to buy their own home. I intend to remember all the conversations I’m having with people all over the county about their struggles to keep a roof over their head. Once I’m elected, I plan to work hard to support policies that will better enable the people of this county to achieve the American Dream of homeownership.