Green Urbanism's Affordability Problem

Nature writer David Oates embeds himself in green, urban Portland and finds much to like about the green city movement but also much room for improvement.

The main issue Oates confronts is how unaffordable this sort of green development is for the average American.

"It's a good vision, but, so far, the Green Urbanism I've seen glides on a silent lubrication of money. A lot of it. And on an enabling American silence about class. Both these silent premises have been deeply challenged in the economic catastrophes that followed my residency in South Waterfront.

None of the waiters or bank clerks employed in this neighborhood-or poodle-clippers, baristas, or construction guys working the next tower over-can live here. They do not walk to work. A two-bedroom in the John Ross cost $700,000 or more at the time of my stay in South Waterfront. For comparison the median two-bedroom house (on the West Coast) was $309,000, and the average worker couldn't afford that either. Prices in both categories have dropped in the economic free fall, but the problem remains. Several new towers have since risen in South Waterfront, some offering apartments instead of condos. Still nothing for ordinary working folks, though. That two-bedroom? Bring your cash: up to $5,000 a month."

Full Story: Eco City Dreaming

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