May 20, 2024 - News

Why Portlanders are moving to Clark County

A photo of people gathered along a waterfront.

People gather along Vancouver's waterfront for a concert. Photo: Courtesy of City of Vancouver

People are moving out of Portland — and it appears many are settling down across the Columbia River.

Why it matters: Outmigration from Multnomah County has cost the state upward of $1 billion in income since 2020.

Context: People move for myriad reasons. But several factors, including the availability of affordable housing, tax benefits and job growth, could be what's propelling Portlanders to pack up for our northern neighbor.

By the numbers: Since 2020, while Multnomah County has seen a rapid exodus, Clark County has grown 3.5%. Roughly 14,000 Portlanders moved across the river in 2022, according to a report by Josh Lehner, a state economist for Oregon.

  • The number of people living in Clark County is now equal to 21% of the population of Portland's seven-county metro area — up from just 12% in 1970.
  • The majority of people who left Portland's tri-county area for Clark County between 2021 and 2022 were medium- to high-income earners, with average annual incomes ranging from $50,000 to $150,000, Lehner wrote.

Zoom in: Prior to the pandemic, the median sales price for a home in, say, Hazel Dell, Washington, hovered around $300,000, which made it relatively affordable compared with Portland's $450,000 median.

  • Today, as Portland's affordability crisis drives more demand for housing outside city bounds, median home prices are neck and neck.
  • But Clark County still has its advantages: No income tax, and its proximity to Oregon's border also means residents can still shop tax-free when they want, too.
  • Plus: Clark County added more jobs in the last four years than any other county in the region, a study by the Portland Metro Chamber found.

What they're saying: New development in places like Vancouver is also fueling growth, Bryan Snodgrass, Vancouver's principal planner, told Axios.

  • "The waterfront is leading the way as intended," he said.
  • Snodgrass also pointed to new construction at the 205-acre The Heights development off Mill Plain Boulevard in central Vancouver, and another 100-plus-acre mixed-use plot on SE 192nd Avenue as what's coming next.

What's next: To account for projected growth in the next two decades — and address an affordability crisis of its own — Vancouver is aiming to add up to 38,000 more housing units and "be more aggressive" about creating jobs in the area, Snodgrass said.


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