Why so many new apartment buildings look like Holiday Inns

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This week’s newspaper looked me straight in the eye and told me I couldn’t afford to buy a house here.

What was not shade. This is actually a real fact for many Portlanders like me. The people who fled the overpriced, overcrowded subways to rent affordable homes here, then watched Portland settle rigidly on a path to becoming an overcrowded, overpriced subway.

Cities grow and evolve, much like living, breathing entities. We would be foolish to try to hold back progress. But we’re also foolish to look the other way as tent cities surround vacant buildings, and projects that could become safety nets to protect both historic Portland and its marginalized residents are tangled in bureaucracy.

Much of this week’s cover pack reminded me of Terry Pratchett’s startup analogy socio-economic injustice of his work men-at-arms. “A man who could afford fifty dollars,” Pratchett wrote, “had a pair of boots that would still keep his feet dry ten years from now, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots at the same time and would still have wet feet.

Many of us are here with wet feet, and it feels like the communities that wear nice boots are very busy theorizing why instead of just giving someone a pair of boots.

This week Dive podcast, my guest is Michael Andersen, senior researcher for regional sustainability think tank Sightline Institute. In today’s episode, Michael and I comb through his contribution to Willamette WeekThe cover story of, which takes a critical look at Portland’s housing crisis, the classism and racism it stems from, and some potential solutions to what might seem like intractable problems.

He also explains why the same rules that make apartment buildings more expensive also make them look so much like a Holiday Inn Express.

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