Blazing A New Path


Land use issues are almost inherently contentious and often very emotional because you’re dealing with people’s property and competing visions for the future.

2020 Growing Pains


Growing Pains

A decade after ballot-measure battles threatened its land use system, has Portland’s quest for a livable, inclusive city progressed? Has there been any shift in the balance between local and regional needs? Between property rights and the public good? Are Portlanders buying in to their land use laws, or is another challenge on the horizon?

2009 Living on the Edge


Living on the Edge

Portland’s urban growth boundary protects farms from development, but it also lowers the market value of that land, adversely affecting the lives of some farmers.

2009 Cornelius



In making land use decisions, Portland’s regional government, Metro, must weigh the needs of local communities against those of the larger region. When should it be flexible and when should it stand firm?

What would a true regional housing strategy look like—[one] that promotes fair share, equal access to opportunity?

Coastal “hot” cities across the United States are grappling with the pressures of their own popularity. With more and more luxury developments and skyrocketing rents, cities like Portland struggle to preserve affordable housing and prevent displacement. But those most affected by rapid gentrification are getting support in the form of local and state tenant protections, innovative rezoning, and justice-oriented community development corporations.

Creating Housing

Since 2000, over 10,000 people of color have been displaced from North and Northeast Portland to the outer edges of the city. The area has a long history of such segregation, from the state’s earliest Black Exclusion Laws in the 1840s to aggressive and targeted urban renewal. These divides have been compounded by racist real estate actors, banks that wouldn’t lend, and predatory lenders that eagerly did. Displaced residents and their descendants are demanding action.

Urban Removal in Albina

Backyard Brouhaha: Could Inclusionary Housing Break the YIMBY Deadlock?

Anthony Flint

In the few years since the Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) movement splashed on the scene in cities across the United States, the YIMBY mantra has been persistent: clear away the regulatory barriers and let developers build more housing.

Inclusionary Housing: Creating and Maintaining Equitable Communities

Rick Jacobus

After decades of disinvestment, American cities are rebounding, but new development is driving up housing costs and displacing lower-income residents.

Boundary Issues: The 2016 Atlas of Urban Expansion Indicates Global De-Densification

John Wihbey

Cities around the world seem to be stretching out physically and consuming land at a rate that exceeds population growth. As populations double, land use triples.

2009 Urban Growth Boundary


Urban Growth Boundary

Portland isn’t the only city attempting to regulate its growth, but Portland’s urban growth boundary (UGB) has real teeth. That’s why it works. But that also makes it controversial.

2009 Nature City


Nature City

The outdoors and environmental stewardship are at the heart of Portland’s identity. By keeping rural and urban land separate, the urban growth boundary (UGB) strengthens a symbiosis between the two, reflected in both the city’s culture and its economy.

2009 Banking on Transit


Banking on Transit

Transit is key to preventing sprawl while creating a more livable urban environment.

We have the countryside, the forests
. . . but we also have Portland, the city itself. It gives you the best of both worlds.

Measured Growth

See Portland’s urban growth boundary in action.

Projected Population of Portland
line graph of portland's growing population
pie chart shows 94 percent


Of New Residential Units Built
Within 1979 Boundary



New Homes Planned

Portland is well known for its eccentric bike culture, and an explosion in cycling has helped the city make impressive progress toward its ambitious climate goals. Today the city is still pushing the envelope, but along the way it is learning important lessons about how these efforts impact its citizens.

Bike Town

City Tech: Quantifying the Economic Benefit of Trees

Rob Walker

A 2012 United States Forest Service Study of urban tree cover estimated that American cities were losing around four million trees per year.

Design with Nature Now Amplifies Ian McHarg’s Manifesto on Ecological Planning and Land Use

Katharine Wroth

With climate change posing imminent risks that range from rising seas to more extreme weather events, cities must work with ecology rather than against it to develop sustainably.

As the population grows, dense and efficient urban development keeps Portland’s downtown active and thriving. It also drives out families looking for a more suburban environment, which in turn affects the health of the city’s public schools.

Urban Density

Tracking Education

Patterns of school enrollment can tell us a lot about Portland’s shifting demographics.

Median Rent in Portland
line graph of portland median rent
three person icons with one highlighted

1 in 3

Students Change Schools

apartment building


Family Housing Units Permitted

2020 Good Neighbors


Good Neighbors

NIMBYism can put neighborhood associations at odds with efforts to create infill density and accommodate a growing homeless population. Yet these groups, with their high level of civic engagement, are critical to solving problems.

2009 Neighborhood Associations


Neighborhood Associations

Grassroots activism helped create Portland’s land use system. To help safeguard it, the city’s neighborhood associations were vested with significant resources and influence.

Three people can do anything in this city and three people can stop anything. Sometimes it’s a source of frustration, but . . . that’s the ultimate strength of this community.

The sharply rising cost of housing forces low-income Portlanders into a cycle of moving farther and farther from the city center. Will gentrification result in a city that is desirable, but habitable only by the wealthy or privileged?

A Boutique City

Gentle Infill: Boomtowns Are Making Room for Skinny Homes, Granny Flats, and Other Affordable Housing

Kathleen McCormick

Recent news stories routinely feature “hot market” U.S. cities with astronomical housing prices that end up displacing residents with moderate or low incomes.

Community Land Trusts Grown from Grassroots

Miriam Axel-Lute and Dana Hawkins-Simons

As interest in urban living grows, the cost of residential real estate in many hot markets is skyrocketing.

Rezoning History: Influential Minneapolis Policy Shift Links Affordability, Equity

Kathleen McCormick

With the arrival of 2020, Minneapolis becomes the first major U.S. city to implement a ban on single-family zoning in every neighborhood.

Imagery in the above videos are courtesy of the following:

Bike Town: J. Maus/BikePortland; Joe Biel/MusicVideoDistributors; M. Andersen/BikePortland; Street Films. 

Creating Housing: Oregon State Government; The Oregonian/Barcroft Media; The Oregonian Op-Ed; Pond5; Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability; Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives; Shane Burley; Willamette Week.

Good Neighbors: Zach Putnam. 

Growing Pains: Metro; Pond5; Shutterstock. 

Urban Removal in AlbinaAlbany Democrat Herald; Corvallis-Gazette; KOIN; Mapping Inequality; Oregon Historical Society; Oregonian Publishing Co.; Portland City Archives (A2010-003.3600, A2010-003.6541, A2012-005); Prosper Portland; Pond5. 

Click here to watch the entire 2009 film Portland: Quest for the Livable City, a documentary film produced by Northern Light Productions and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.