Minh Tran

SO YOU NEED a place to live in Portland. Yeah, good luck with that. Portland used to be considered one of the more affordable cities on the West Coast, with rents that were a fraction of San Francisco and Seattle's, but the days of reasonable rents are long gone.

These days, expect to see studio apartments in the inner city going for $1,600 a month or more. Need a two bedroom? There's a slim chance of finding one for less than $2,000 a month somewhere near downtown, and prices are creeping up in areas further out. What used to be a $700-a-month apartment in "undesirable" East Portland is sometimes now going for more than twice that amount.

Sorry to break it to you, but it's the arrival of newbies like you who inspired landlords to jack up prices. In the 1970s, city officials fought back against potential urban sprawl by setting up strict urban growth boundaries in Portland, thereby requiring developers to build inside that boundary. This checked urban sprawl, but it also restricted the area in which new housing could be developed, and as a result, increased land prices. But things didn't start getting really nuts around here until just a few years ago, when, as the economy began to recover from the Great Recession, tech companies like Jama Software and Survey Monkey began opening offices in Portland. They hired young professionals by the thousands away from those more expensive cities to our north and south, employees who were ready to enjoy Portland's laidback lifestyle and its relatively lower cost of living.

This was a win-win for both businesses and new Portlanders; companies paid their transplanted employees less than if they were located in Seattle or San Francisco, and employees could do more with what they were paid. As a result, Oregon became the most moved-to state in America, and those people needed housing. All those newbies drove vacancy rates to record lows and rent rates to record highs.

But there are clearly units out there. You're just going to have to pay dearly for them, move farther from the city core, or get creative.

The best advice is to act fast. When you spot a place you like while scouring Craigs-list or property management sites, call immediately. Set up an appointment as soon as possible and keep it. Bring all the pertinent information with you so you can fill out an application on the spot. When places become available, they're snatched up quickly.

Be open-minded about where you want to live. Sure, North Williams is trendy, but Portland has tons of excellent neighborhoods—some of which are far more interesting than the popular choices. If you're feeling overwhelmed by options, explore until you find a neighborhood that feels like home.

If everything is still too expensive, consider looking for a shared housing situation—finding roomies, or moving in with a family. It's not for everyone, but it allows for greater flexibility in location and amenities without being quite as expensive. And, hey, it could be a good way to meet friends in your new hometown.


More Newcomers' Guide Articles:

Welcome to Portland!
Rain! Rain! Rain! Rain!
A Portlander's Pronunciation Guide
Overrated Portland
Sports!
A Newcomers' Guide to Making Friends
Portland Free Stuff
Getting Around Town
Neighborhood Guide
Finding a Place to Live
How to Apologize for Moving to Portland
Comedy PDX
Bicycle Death Traps
Portland History 101
Portland Myth Bustin'!
Portland Tourist Traps

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