Metro councilors and other regional leaders this month got their first chance to weigh in on the draft Urban Growth Report, a state-required and peer-reviewed document that guides decisions about the urban growth boundary.
The report details regional development trends, a buildable land inventory, population and employment forecasts and modeling of different growth options.
The regional analysis is taken into account when Council makes a decision later this year about whether the four UGB expansions proposed by Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville are needed to accommodate the region's expected population growth.
"We need to recognize that it's a regional housing and jobs market and people are making complex decisions about where to live and work," said Ted Reid, a principal regional planner with Metro.
The four city proposals would together expand greater Portland's urban footprint by 2,181 acres and add about 9,200 homes — about a year's worth of housing growth for the region.
On July 10 and 11, Metro Council and the Metro Policy Advisory Committee were given an opportunity to comment and ask questions about the report.
Here are some highlights:
Housing and an ever-increasing aging population
The report says the most likely amount of growth between 2018 and 2038 would be 524,000 more people in the seven-county metropolitan region.
Reid said that while all age groups are going to see growth, an expanding share of the population will be those who are 65 and older.
Kathy Wai, a TriMet board member who sits on MPAC, asked whether there have been specific discussions around providing housing options for seniors.
Reid said some choose to move back to downtown areas, while others prefer to age in place but need support systems. He said that's where accessory dwelling units might help by providing housing for family or caregivers.
"It's certainly a development trend in the City of Portland," Reid said. "It hasn't happened so much in the surrounding areas, but the potential is there."
Housing and transportation options
Wai also asked about the modes of transportation being used, saying that she's interested in reducing driving across the region and sees the issues of transportation and housing affordability as working together.
As it stands now, it would be difficult to serve most of the proposed expansion areas with public transit, Reid said. But on the upside, most growth is expected to occur through redevelopment and infill in areas that are already accessible by transit.
Elissa Gertler, Metro's director of planning and development, added that of all the modes of getting around, the one that has seen the most growth is telecommuting.
"More people are choosing not to drive as a mode," she said. "It certainly has a land-use implication."
Spillover growth — a concern or no?
The report found that barring unanticipated changes, a decision not to expand the UGB would not cause excessive spillover growth into neighboring communities like Sandy, Newberg or Clark County, Washington.
During the MPAC meeting, some members were surprised by that finding. King City Councilor Gretchen Buehner said she's seen Newberg double its population since 1990.
"That seems to be an awful lot of spillover and that's causing a lot of traffic problems on 99W through Sherwood and Tigard," she said.
Reid said that he expects those local communities to continue to grow but that under all scenarios, the Metro UGB is projected to capture a higher share of new households than in previous years.
Changing job trends
With the region approaching full employment — the point at which nearly everyone who wants a job has one — the report expects job growth to be closely tied with population growth. A large portion of future employment will be in jobs that serve the public such as education, medicine and professional, business and financial services.
Manufacturing is expected to fare better here than in other regions around the country, but nevertheless, a net decrease of 9,000 industrial jobs is projected by 2038 in the larger seven-county region.
Reid said there will be still be some demand for industrial land, but it's not necessarily going to be generated from employment growth. Data centers, for example, create economic activity but provide relatively few jobs.
Buehner, of King City, asked whether the modeling says anything about the growth of high-tech jobs.
Reid said while they can't forecast what individual firms will do, there is a shift in high-tech jobs away from manufacturing and toward software — jobs, he said, that tend to locate in downtown areas.
Creating problems for the future?
The report says that while the majority of housing will remain single-family housing, most growth capacity is for apartments and condominiums because of regional and local plans, infrastructure funding realities and smaller household sizes.
A concern was brought up during MPAC's meeting about whether the immediate focus on multifamily housing would kick the problem down the road for future Metro councilors when millennials decide to move out into their own home.
"We've spent a lot of time over the years debating housing preferences and I think people have strong views on it and how people change their preferences over lifecycles," Reid said. "Right now, we have four city proposals in front of us. We know adding land without a city behind it is not going to create housing. In some ways, that simplifies things, and in other ways, that's potentially an issue that we deal with later on."