How Does a Middle-Class Family Compete With the Money of Developers? By Chris Timberlake

The Eastmoreland Historic District Proposal…


In June of 2015 I wrote a post in my blog about the experience of trying to find and buy a home in Portland. At the time, we were renting a lovely home in Eastmoreland but the owner had decided to sell and we had begun searching for a home to purchase. I was entirely convinced that there was no way we would be able to stay in Eastmoreland. Our budget was well under what the going rate was for even the most modest of EM homes and we were trying hard to accept, as best we could, that Eastmoreland would no longer be home to us. The idea of leaving the new and dear friends we’d found was crushing. The idea of pulling our kids from Duniway and the roots they’d sown there was even tougher to bear. We spent weeks being outbid by other buyers, particularly developers, who offered cash above and beyond anything we could conceive of spending. “How does a middle-class family compete with the money of developers?”, we asked ourselves a thousand times. They don’t. Period. We wanted a fixer upper. Something that needed love and work. We wanted to put as much sweat and work into our home as money. Those, in particular, were the homes the developers were after. The ones they could bulldoze for cash and rebuild and sell for a fortune.


We began taking a less traditional approach to finding a home. In August, after posting several messages about our predicament on local posting boards, a thoughtful home owner reached out to suggest we take a look at his home. It was still about 20k more than we could afford and from the photos, looked painfully small. We passed on his kind offer and our predicament continued. The stress was awful. First world problems, yes, but stressful none-the-less.


A few weeks went by and the owner’s home was still unsold in a housing market that should have had it sold the moment they conceived of selling. But three weeks later, still it sat. My husband said, “Let’s at least look at it.”


The moment I walked in the door I said, “We’ll buy it. Now. Right now.” I didn’t need to see anything beyond the living room to know we would make an offer. On October 10th, 2015, that little house became our home. I stood outside holding the key in my hand and just admiring this beautiful little place that had made our wildest dreams a reality. We would own one of those sweet and soulful Eastmoreland homes.


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We knew it would be a tight fit. We are a family of 4 with our daughter, then 6, and son, then 7. A two bedroom, one bathroom house would be a challenge to make work. Yet, it has worked and I am grateful for this little house every single day. I am grateful for this neighborhood. Still, after nearly five years of living in Eastmoreland, I drive through and glimpse a house I’ve never noticed before, and I am surprised by its charm. “How do we live here?” I say to my husband at least weekly. “I know,” he says. “I know.”


When we first got into our home, we made the future plans of someday adding a second story to our home. We could have that third bedroom and second bath perhaps! A realtor friend pointed out that our particular style of home was designed to have either a 1 or 2 story option. He even went so far as to point out where a staircase would be in the two story version. Excellent! That would be awesome! We’ll have a goal and an option in the future to expand our home to meet our family’s growing needs. We celebrated our first full year in our little home this last October.


For the last several months, we have been approached in person and mailed letters, trying to persuade us to choose a position on the Eastmoreland Historic District proposal. We are perhaps the quintessential example of a homeowner who would benefit the most from voting against the HD. We want to make significant changes to our home and a tremendous amount of our retirement and financial worth is tied up in our home. If/when we ever sell, we’ll really want to make the absolute most on our investment. That said,


We support the Historic District.


We bought our home here, in Eastmoreland because of how it feels to live here. To look around and see the beauty here in the landscape and architecture, and the remarkable people in it. Their histories are in these homes. I know my neighbors both nearby, and blocks away. I know that on my block there are homes lived in by three generations of families. I know the story of my own home. A prima ballerina lived here. Her husband built this house for her when they moved her from New York. She lived her entire life in this house. My neighbors, in their 60’s now, remember her. They remember her because they were born here; raised and loved in these houses. We owe it to the community we love and that has come to love us, to preserve what we can. We know that nothing lasts forever and that, like the EM elms, these homes will one day face their end. But while there is life left in them, they are worth preserving.


We support the Historic District.


We recognize that any plans we have for home expansion will be made more complicated and add additional costs . But we’ve also seen what unchecked and unlimited building can do to our neighbors; limitless expansion diminishing the value of their home, and even blocking out the morning sun (albeit rare, this is Portland) they’ve enjoyed in their yards for over 20 years. Living next door to a “big-box Target store” that they can reach by just sticking their arm out their window, wasn’t part of their plans when they bought their home here. It doesn’t take much to imagine ourselves in their shoes, and it is awful to think about. I lived many years in Arizona. I know what unchecked development looks like, vividly. The reality for us is that we would not be here had a developer snatched up this home ahead of us. Eastmoreland’s modest older homes represent the handful of opportunities left for middle income families, just like us, to afford a home here.


We support the Historic District.


There’s a reason why films are made on our streets and commercials are shot here. A neighbor once asked a director on one of the sets, “Why here? There must be tons of places just like Eastmoreland only with better weather conditions.” The director replied flatly, “No, there aren’t.” In 2012 before we moved here, we saw this neighborhood through the camera angles of Google Earth. We had a friend drive through in our absence to let us know his thoughts. “If you don’t take it, I will.” We looked at every single other neighborhood in Portland and we chose Eastmoreland. It would, at the least, be short-sighted to withhold our support from the Historic District. We cannot in good conscience say that what was good enough for us, isn’t worth preserving for others.


We love Eastmoreland. We love our community. It is a rare beauty. We support the Historic District and we hope those who have taken the time to read this will too.