Axios Portland

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🌕 Today is Monday. Happy Holi to all who observe.

  • The Festival of Colors is celebrated at the end of winter during March's full moon.

Today's weather: Rain likely through tonight. High 52, low 42.

Situational awareness: Look out for a special Axios edition on teen mental health this afternoon, and subscribe to Axios AM for free to get more essential national news.

Today's newsletter is 8111 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Portland's population continues to shrink

Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Multnomah County lost nearly 27,000 residents from 2020 to 2023 — a 3.3% drop in population, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Why it matters: After nearly a decade of sustained growth — the Portland metro area grew 13% between 2010 and 2020 — the region is experiencing an exodus of residents who are seeking affordable housing and a lower cost of living.

By the numbers: Nearly 790,000 people lived in Multnomah County as of July, per census data. That's down roughly 4,900 from 2022.

  • The county's population stood at nearly 817,000 in July 2020. And as the pandemic spurred many Oregonians to rethink both their living and work situations, the state's housing crisis only worsened.

Between the lines: The biggest factor in out-migration could be as simple as the pursuit of cheaper housing.

  • Economist Josh Lehner found around 50% of out-migrant households from Portland's tri-county area went to regions with less expensive housing than here — like central Oregon, Washington, Texas and Arizona.

The intrigue: Crook County and Deschutes County saw the state's biggest bumps in population — 8.1% and 4.5%, respectively.

  • Our neighbors to the north, Clark County, Washington, saw a 3.1% increase in population from 2020 to 2023.

Caveat: "Housing prices are high in Portland because housing demand is high," Jake Procino, an economist with the Oregon Employment Department, tells Axios. "People want to live in Portland ­— but there isn't enough housing supply to meet the need."

The big picture: A shrinking population strains a region's economy.

  • There are fewer people in the labor force for companies to tap into when they need to hire and fewer people spending money within the local economy.
  • Plus, "the number of taxpaying individuals shrinks, which can lead to a decline in government services, such as school closures," Procino says.

What we're watching

2. Clean energy fund opens its grant process

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Portland Clean Energy Fund will award grants as high as $100 million for climate justice and community projects, with recommendations made to the City Council this fall.

Driving the news: Last week, the fund's committee presented its framework for solicitation from companies and nonprofits for clean energy projects and job training.

  • Board members have at least $158 million for allocations they aim to make this year, with grants starting at $20 million.
  • The money funds projects that must be completed by 2029.
  • Small nonprofits are encouraged to team up with public entities — such as school districts and private companies — so they have the capacity to deliver large projects.

Follow the money: The funds come from a 1% surcharge on large retailers.

Friction point: Members of the public called in to last week's virtual meeting, and around a dozen encouraged board members to stick by what they say was the intention of the measure, which voters approved in 2018.

  • Some callers wanted the money used for community projects rather than regular bureau projects such as replacing gas leaf blowers and remodeling the Keller Auditorium.

What they're saying: "If the city has other projects, they should find their own funding," said Nathalie Paravicini, representing the Pacific Green Party.

What's next: Applicants should submit letters of interest by May 10 and, if invited, applications by July 16.

Read more

3. Rose City Rundown

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

🏀 After beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers 61-51, the Oregon State women's basketball team advanced to the semifinal and will play the Notre Dame-Mississippi winner Friday in Albany, New York. (The Oregonian)

🏗️ Dozens of layoffs in the city's Bureau of Development Services significantly slowed down new construction permitting — so much so that developers are willing to pay higher prices as long as the agency's budgetary woes are addressed by the City Council. (Willamette Week)

ğŸŽ Teachers in Oregon's second-largest school district, Salem-Keizer Public Schools, voted to authorize a strike after the union declared an impasse over contract negotiations last month.

  • A mediation session between the parties is scheduled for today. (OPB)

Passengers aboard the Alaska Airlines flight that experienced a midair door plug blowout over Portland in January received a letter from the FBI's Seattle field office saying the agency is investigating the situation, according to an attorney for the passengers. (Axios)

4. 🤔 Where's Joby?

Even Joby loves the view from up here. The guardrail may also be a clue. Photo: Meira Gebel/Axios

🥾 Meira here. Light drizzle, moderate temperatures and blooming buds make spring the perfect time to hike.

  • So, in the pursuit of fresh air, Joby and I crossed the Columbia to climb the core of an ancient volcano with a 680-foot elevation gain and insane views of the Gorge from its rocky peak.

💡 Need another clue?

  • Lewis and Clark named this landmark during their historic voyage in 1806.

Send us your guesses! We'll draw a winner from all correct answers.

  • The answer will be revealed Wednesday.

🙃 Meira spent the weekend watching her favorite genre of film: fabulous women slowly losing their minds — "Safe" and "Opening Night," to name a few.

🦷 Joseph is going to the dentist, which, if you include filling out the paperwork and you're a Brit, is a whole afternoon.

This newsletter was edited by Rachel La Corte and copy edited by Khalid Adad and Anjelica Tan.