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Posts published in “Day: August 14, 2006”

Puncturing a bubble, maybe

Tour NWProbably no place is more thoroughly emblematic of the boom-grwoth side of the Northwest than Bend, where people have long since run out of superlatives to describe the explosion of development in their midst.

We can report that it is ongoing. In the fall of 2004 we gassed our car at a fairly new Chevron tourist stop on the east fringe of Bend, beyond which lay the desert, and across Highway 20 from an under-construction shopping center. Last week we gassed up at the same Chevron station and noticed that across the street, the center was completed - and enormous, almost in itself the size of a small town, easily a match for the biggest new centers at Vancouver. Washington or Meridian, Idaho. Nor was that all. The whole area, back of the shopping center, back of the Chevron station, off into the distance, was brand new residential development.

This was maybe a bit extreme, but other parts of Bend were growing too, notably anywhere on the east or south sides. Visiting the Deschutes County election office, we inquired where, most specificially, were the big growth places around the city. The eventual answer was, almost everywhere.

The prices have been going up, too. We know an executive who took a job at Bend more than a decade ago but concluded he could not afford to live there, and bought a house instead in Redmond. Things have gotten much more extreme since. As late as 2000, the average sales price of houses at Bend still was under $200,000. In 2005, the average sales price was $334,570. If decently-paid professionals couldn't afford a decent house in Bend a decade ago, what can they afford now? Maybe more to the point, who's buying these houses?

We may get a clearer public answer before long. And yes, there are political implications afoot. (more…)