Where/how do students live in Portland OR?
May 23, 2016 10:50 AM   Subscribe

We are thoroughly terrified by the stories of the rental market in Portland, but just like everyone else, we might want to move there. My wife would be a grad student. Is it possible for a couple and a dog to find a decent place? How do students afford to live there?

Our general criteria:

-the biggest limitation is our 60 pound dog. Not on any aggressive breed lists but it can be hard to find a rental that takes large dogs.

- we will likely be on only my income plus any student loans, so $1200? is really the tippy top of our monthly budget and I'd love to get cheaper

-We do have a car but would prefer to live somewhere where commuting to downtown/PSU is viable and not hellishly long on public transit.

-we really do not want roommates. We can make a one-bedroom work but would rather not do a studio unless it's big. Ideally we'd like a duplex or small house with a small yard - but I realize that is not likely.

-via the horror stories, we are terrified that we'll find a place within our budget, move there (we're across the country now) and then have our rent doubled next year and have nowhere to go. Does this really happen?

I know there is more than one college in Portland, so where the heck do students live without going broke? Or can you really not live there without an hour commute and/or a bunch of roommates?
posted by nakedmolerats to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How long of a commute are you comfortable with?
posted by aniola at 11:02 AM on May 23, 2016

I live in the Concordia neighborhood, and given the college kids around me (many of whom are sort of non-traditional, or at the grad school level) I'd say the vast majority are living with a pile of roommates in houses that are bursting to the seams. In the case of Concordia I believe that there's some on campus housing, or roughly on campus housing, but that it seems to be geared toward underclassmen. With PSU I believe you're in the same boat, if not worse, although it'd probably be worth your while to check with them on housing availability, etc.

Anecdotally the single friends and young couples I know all struggle to make a rent that's a bit higher than you're wanting to pay or they live way the heck out there. You might have some luck finding housing along the sort of newly opened Green line.
posted by togdon at 11:25 AM on May 23, 2016

Ideally within 30 min, each way, on public transit, but that is not ironclad. And I think we are open to the possibility of having to drive too. Basically we're just trying to feel out how far away we are talking about realistically living, or in how tiny of a space, if $1200 is the top number.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:28 AM on May 23, 2016

Give Padmapper a shot with your requirements.
posted by o0dano0o at 11:31 AM on May 23, 2016

I've been looking at apartments on and off, and it seems like there are decent one bedrooms for $1000 around the desirable part of Hawthorne / Hollywood and that the price doesn't go down that much with moving further out. So, probably doable with a one bedroom, you are unlikely to find a duplex. Maybe way out in Lents, but the commute to PSU is 45-60 minutes from there. And yeah, there is no rent control, your rent may go up.

Stuff is more expensive than I expected even in Longview, WA, you would probably spend any money you saved on gas. :(
posted by momus_window at 11:45 AM on May 23, 2016

You're unlikely to get a duplex or house in decent condition at that price, and if you do it'll be a lucky under-market find and you will be in some danger of having the home sold and/or the rent increased significantly. Oregon State Law currently prohibits rent control, though it is possible that Portland will be trying to place some kind of guidelines on rent increases soonish, and Ted Wheeler (the mayor-elect) has said that he plans to develop a just-cause (e.g. limiting/eliminating no-cause terminations) evictions process. As of right now, though, landlords are required to provide 90 days notice for rent increases over 5% in the city of Portland, but there is no limit on the amount that rent can be increased outside a lease agreement.

Most students have roommates, or live a ways out, and are banking on post-graduation pay increases to offset the debt they're taking on during school. Roughly average rent for a 1-bedroom is $1,100-1,700, and while rent will be on the lower end of average for some parts of the eastside, vacancy rates are very, very low and competition is very, very fierce for decent places on the low end of the market. It's going to be pretty challenging to secure a place from a distance, unless you have someone local who can scout places for you. I'd guess you're probably looking at 500-800 square feet for a 1-bedroom. For reference, The Elwood is a new building in my neighborhood that accepts dogs, and it looks like their 1-bedrooms range from 650-800 square feet, $1,500-2,100 per month. It's a high-end building, and that is a lot of rent-- but it's right on the MAX line and the building is filling up.

I'd recommend using Craigslist and Padmapper, and focusing along MAX corridors and frequent-service bus lines with service to downtown. TriMet is the transit agency-- use their maps and Trip Planner to find out what your commute will look like. If your wife will be attending PSU and you will be working anywhere downtown, you're not going to want to drive in-- parking downtown (especially near PSU) is very limited and very expensive, and you'll eat up any savings with parking costs.
posted by Kpele at 12:15 PM on May 23, 2016

No roommates + dog is going to make it really, really difficult. Students afford to live here by having roommates or a trust fund. It's worth keeping an eye out and you might get lucky, but you'll need to apply the instant you see it - if you're not in town, you'll need to be comfortable paying the deposit sight-unseen. There were some places renting in your price range the last time I went through the process (9 months ago) but they go SOOOO fast, especially the ones that allow dogs. It will help if the building doesn't need to be "cute" - in my experience, older but well-maintained eyesores are notably less expensive than buildings with visual appeal.

Nthing suggestions to check the MAX corridors. You might find something along the blue line in Beaverton or Gresham, around the top of the Yellow line in north Portland, or maybe something at the far end of the Orange or Green lines.
posted by slagheap at 12:29 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would say based on your criteria, your requirements are unrealistic. Not impossible, especially for an established resident (there are still cheap places to live, but they're kind of handed down to friends of friends, and never really hit the market as it were. A co-worker of mine just got 'handed down' an apartment on 38th and Clinton and she'll be paying 850/mo for a 1br, dogs allowed, with a garage...she basically won the lottery). Without a local network of friends and acquaintances, you don't necessarily have access to that...and for better or worse, Portlanders (even new residents) are pretty closed off to opening that kind of network to anyone newer than themselves. We're unfortunately an unfriendly bunch that way.

But realistically, you're looking at a 'pick two' kind of scenario. You're closer with higher rent, or you're further out and can get a duplex/house. No matter what you're in for a serious fight to get housing. If your credit and rental history isn't impeccable, you're going to end up paying much more in deposits (a friend just moved to a new house and ended up paying first, last and a full months rent worth of deposit because her credit was dinged).

the biggest limitation is our 60 pound dog. Not on any aggressive breed lists but it can be hard to find a rental that takes large dogs.
In my experience as a longtime renter in Portland, you will have much better luck renting a house than an apartment with a dog, especially one that size. Nice houses probably will not rent to you.

we will likely be on only my income plus any student loans, so $1200?r
Lents might get you closer to $900-1000/mo, for an apartment (not a house). But you're going to get some crime statistics and awesome tweaker neighbors to match. Houses around there go for $1200+ If you want a house for that price, you're looking at East Portland (ie, past 205, before you hit Gresham)

We do have a car but would prefer to live somewhere where commuting to downtown/PSU is viable and not hellishly long on public transit.
This is unrealistic for your budget, but be sure to check your bus and max distances; certain pockets of the city are much easier to reach by bus than max, and vice versa. And yeah, you're not going to want to drive there if you can avoid it; parking costs near and around PSU are bananas expensive.

we really do not want roommates. We can make a one-bedroom work but would rather not do a studio unless it's big. Ideally we'd like a duplex or small house with a small yard - but I realize that is not likely.
You could find these in Lents within your price range, but then you're at the mercy of a longer commute. Rental houses are being bought and sold with alarming frequency too, so even if you are living with other people, there's no real security there for long-term renting, especially in better parts of the city.

via the horror stories, we are terrified that we'll find a place within our budget, move there (we're across the country now) and then have our rent doubled next year and have nowhere to go. Does this really happen?
Yes. Probably not actually double, but I've seen up to 35% yearly increases from my friends who are renting; this number increases pretty in line with the desirability of the neighborhood.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:41 PM on May 23, 2016 [4 favorites]

Average rents in some parts of Portland have actually gone down a little in the past year. I think with your requirements, as long as you're okay living in a 1-bedroom apartment (you're right that a house in your price range is not going to happen--they exist, but you won't find them, as they're not usually advertised), you'll be able to find something within a 30-45 minute transit commute to PSU.

I too was afraid of the horror stories but the reality isn't nearly as bad as the stories.

Just for context, I have a dog and live a 2 minute walk from PSU. I pay $1075 for a 1-bedroom, and I moved in last April.
posted by Automocar at 12:53 PM on May 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, and they raised my rent $25 when I renewed my lease. It's not that bad here.
posted by Automocar at 12:57 PM on May 23, 2016

One thing that might help is letting yourself settle for less-than-ideal for your first place (longer commute, maybe), and once you get here, keep an ear open for connections and opportunities that would help you move into a more ideal situation.
posted by redsparkler at 3:39 PM on May 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've had some great apartments in Portland that were/are absolute steals and met all your criteria (humblebrag, sorry). The thing with getting these kinds of places though, is really being there at the right time. One apartment I used to live in while I was a student and partnered (one bedroom! 10 minute walk to downtown! $800/mo! Allowed pets!) was never advertised on Craigslist et al, it was only through a friend of a friend that we were able to find out the building existed and get on the wait list. Then, someone bailed on moving in and we got offered an apartment - the catch being we had to move in that week.

Current place I'm at is a two bedroom with roommate, more expensive than last place obviously but still affordable, inner SE, was advertised on Craigslist but the landlord we met with was a bit of a character (showed up late multiple times, had wild, slightly off-putting stories about all the buildings he's managed) and thus other prospective tenants might have jumped ship. Roomie and I stuck it out, however, got the place (again had to move in RIGHT AWAY) and now slightly crazy landlord has been replaced by his *knock on wood* so far reasonable son.

I have a friend here from the east coast originally, when he first moved here all he could find was a room in Felony Flats with an old lady and her son, he eventually found a decently priced one bedroom on NW 21st (apparently those exist?!), although he keep complaining that his rent keeps getting raised...

TLDR; Sometimes the best places aren't advertised, so driving around and making a list of buildings you're interested in might be helpful. Be aware you have to be in the right place at the right time, and be ready to pounce immediately. Sometimes you won't find your dream place right away, you have to establish yourself here first. Rent increases are real, housing market is tough but not impossible if you perservere. Good luck.
posted by aspenkf at 7:15 PM on May 23, 2016

In my neighborhood, Sellwood, the rents are crazy, but there is a place called The Waverly Surf apartments right on the river. They accept pets. They may have a weight limit. Two years ago they were in your price range. If my incredible rental agreement changed I would move there in a heartbeat. The commute to PSU by car isn't to bad but by public transit could suck. Ride share maybe. The colleges here really encourage carpooling and at least at PCC gives a good discount on parking passes for carpoolers.

I waited two years on two lists that came open the same week. I picked the better of the two and am extremely grateful for what I have but if they decided to charge market rent I'd probably have leave the area or go way, way out to what I consider Orange County CA. I would be unhappy.
posted by cairnoflore at 12:14 AM on May 24, 2016

You can check with Elmonica Court Apartments in Beaverton, OR. There are other apartments in that area as well.

Not sure what the rents are right now, but they were around $1000 for a largish one bed room apartment.

I also don't know if large dogs are a no-no, but there were pet charges separately on the lease agreement.
posted by theobserver at 3:23 AM on May 24, 2016

I have a friend who is an apartment building manager in Old Town/Chinatown and he reports there is much less craziness now than there was a year ago: ads that would get multiple calls in the first 5 minutes now get 1-2 calls a day. So, things may be easing up a bit.

I own a rental house in Beaverton and it's a super-short commute by light rail to the PSU area from there, definitely check around the MAX stations in Beaverton -- westside is nicer than eastside, though potentially have the price tag to match. Some MAX stations have Park and Ride lots so even if you don't live walking distance to a station you could do a car-train commute. If you consider bike-train commutes, keep in mind there are peak times when it's really hard to get space for your bike on the train. For that matter, though, I know that at least the Sunset Park and Ride lot does fill up early.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:50 AM on May 24, 2016

« Older What's the big deal about followups?   |   Meditations on traveling and wandering Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.