Would you rather have more McMansions or denser neighborhoods?

Portland is looking into ways that residential neighborhoods might change:

McMansions could be thing of the past in Portland if city planners get their way.

But densities could also increase in parts of many existing single-family residential neighborhoods.

Those are two of the proposals in the recent staff report of the Residential Infill Project. It includes several recommendations intended to balance the need to create more housing in Portland while protecting the character of the city’s established neighborhoods…

The comments represent a split that emerged on the committee in recent months. As housing affordability has become a bigger issue in Portland, the developers have joined with those concerned about rising home prices and preserving the urban growth boundary to accept size restrictions in exchange for the ability to build more homes. Some called it “the grand bargain” during the meeting.

The neighborhood representatives have argued that even smaller homes won’t necessarily be inexpensive — and could still undermine the character of existing neighborhoods. Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association representative Rod Merrick denied that any bargain had been agreed to.

This is an interesting trade-off. Established residents in many communities wouldn’t like either option as it (1) could significantly change the character of the neighborhood they know and (2) each option has particular downsides (McMansions could be oddly designed and bring in wealthier residents, higher densities could lead to many more residents and different kinds of structures). But, if cities like Portland are serious about affordable housing and don’t want to promote endless sprawl (and Portland is quite unique with its urban growth boundary), density is really the only option.

If I had to guess at the outcome here, the new denser housing will be constructed only in certain places (perhaps in redevelopment areas or in places where residents are less organized) and it won’t be as cheap or as plentiful as needed for the region. Creating more affordable housing is not an easy task…

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