With recent news about anti-California stickers being placed on Portland’s real estate listings, and growing animosity against newcomers, Portland’s official motto should be changed to “Don’t move to Portland” instead of “Keep Portland Weird” (which was stolen from Austin, by the way).
Oregonians have long been wary of outsiders, preferring to isolate themselves from the rest of the country. One of Portland’s most beloved governors, Tom McCall, famously said, “I urge them to come and come many, many times to enjoy the beauty of Oregon. But I also ask them, for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live.” This mentality has prevailed since his term in office during the 1970s. And it’s easy to see why—Oregon has been ranked the top moved-to state two years in a row, causing a housing crisis, a growing divide between rich and poor, and highways that are at capacity—creating the longest commute times Portland has ever experienced.
Now young people everywhere dream of moving to Portland instead of Los Angeles or New York. Can you really blame them? The sunbelt is out and the Pacific Northwest is in. For three years in a row, Portland was the only American city to make Monocle’s annualQuality of Life survey, and it keeps getting more media attention.
Because of all the hype surrounding Portland, its reputation exceeds it. Portland is not the free-spirited utopia “Portlandia” or “The New York Times” makes it out to be. Portland used to be a place that attracted social pariahs, vagrants, recluses, DIY artists and gun-toting hippies who were otherwise too weird to function in a “normal” city. The new crop of transplants are trustifarians who majored in underwater basket weaving, tech bros who sold their condos in Palo Alto, Brooklyn hipster runoff and rich vegan couples from SoCal who have changed the essence of the city.
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the days of packing up your belongings and guitar with $100 in your pocket, and surviving as a part-time barista in the Rose City are long gone. So before you chase the dream of the 90s in Portland with stars in your eyes, consider these factors before making the move.
Portland is More Expensive Than You Think
Once known as the last “affordable” west-coast city, that label is no longer applicable anymore. Now, cost of living in Portland is pretty much on par with Seattle—and rising. Many speculate it will soon be just as expensive as San Francisco.
Renter’s (and Homebuyer’s) Hell
Finding a job isn’t the hardest part of living in Portland; it’s finding a place to live. Portland currently has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country at around 3 percent, a statistic that continues to worsen. Once an apartment opens up, expect to compete with hundreds of other applicants for the same place. And homebuyers don’t have it any easier—listings within the metro area are being snapped up within minutes, and many are going for thousands over asking price. Making matters worse, buyers from more expensive cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York are selling their homes and paying in cash for property in Portland. Because of Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary, expanding the city outward is impossible, which makes land scarce.
There’s No Beach Culture
Although Oregon is a left-coast state, the cities near the ocean are pretty much dead. The majority of residents along Oregon’s coast are retirees, which means finding a job outside of a nursing home is incredibly hard. To make matters worse, the Pacific Northwest waters are far too cold to swim in. You will never see a tan, bleach-blonde surfer riding the waves in Oregon, because they would freeze their asses off. Beach bums who want to swim must wear wetsuits year round.
Endless Traffic Congestion
A new study shows Portland has the 10th worst traffic congestion in the United States, tying with Washington D.C. Despite being the 28th most populous city, Portland’s traffic is far worse than it should be. Anyone who commutes in Portland will tell you how awful it is.
Full-time Jobs are Hard to Come By
Although Portland’s unemployment rate is improving, the statistics don’t factor in people who have given up trying to find employment, nor do they consider part-time workers. Sure, there are ample jobs for highly qualified engineers, but everyone else is sh*t out of luck.
Portland is quickly becoming a playground for the rich. Homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks next to shiny new high-rises make up a common scene. According to Oregon Business, wage inequality keeps growing, and Portland is facing a very real homeless crisis.
Below Mediocre School System
Oregon has one of the worst public school systems in the country, and Portland-area colleges pale in comparison to other cities like Boston and even Chicago. In fact, Oregon has the worst graduation rate in the nation. If you have kids and are thinking of moving to Portland, better save up for an expensive private school.
Hardest Place to Make a Living
According to USA Today, Portland is the second most difficult place in the country to make a living behind Hawaii in 2015; plummeting 11 spots from 2014. Although the cost of living is cheaper than places like San Francisco or Boston, the average wages don’t make up for it. “The state’s cost of living index is nearly 30 percent above the national average at 128.5. The average income is $46,850. In addition to high unemployment, Oregon has one of the highest rates of workplace safety incidents in the nation (4.2 workplace incidents per 100 workers). In March 2015, Oregon noted there was a slight rise in worker fatalities in 2014 from the previous year. The estimated state tax on average income is $3,981.50.”
A Great Place for Amphibious Albinos
It’s common knowledge that the Pacific Northwest is dark, damp, and rainy for most of the year. If you’re a sun-worshipper, Portland probably isn’t for you. On the bright side, if you have a sun allergy and thrive in wet environments, you just might make it.
Don’t expect to be greeted by Fred Armisen while browsing for vintage doilies at the doily store, because that Portland only exists on IFC. But if you think buying kombucha at Whole Foods and cardigans at American Apparel is authentic, then move to Portland! The former authenticity of what made Portland great has now been replaced with superficial attempts at eccentricity by people who want to recreate a cliche.
In case you haven’t heard, the entire Pacific Northwest is bound for a deadly earthquake. In The New Yorker article “The Really Big One”, Northwest FEMA Director Kenneth Murphy estimates that 13,000 people will die in what’s called the “Cascadia Earthquake and Tsunami.” Another 2,500 people are expected to be hurt in the devastating earthquake. Andrew Phelps, director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management said, “You’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a hazard of this magnitude that could essentially cut off lifelines and supply chains and structures for two weeks.”
He adds, once the “really big one” hits, Portlanders would experience up to six minutes of shaking. Afterwards, come landslides, then a 50-foot high tsunami, and forest fires.
“Along the coast, it’s going to be a bad day for the state of Oregon, that’s for sure,” Phelps said. “But again, you can’t do everything to prevent hazards, but we can try to prevent those hazards from becoming disasters.”