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By now, nearly everyone in Portland has heard the city’s population will skyrocket over the next 20 years. The Comprehensive Plan update recently approved by the City Council predicts that around 260,000 more people will be living in Portland by 2035, pushing the total to 880,000 or so. That’s why there are so many apartments under construction.


But new population projections being finalized by Metro, the elected regional government, shows that even more people will move into the rest of the tri-county area in coming years. Those 362,593 additional residents will substantially reshape the character of many other cities and currently unincorporated areas in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties by 2040.

“This new data helps illustrate greater Portland’s big challenges: paying for the pipes, roads, schools and other public services that allow growth to happen, and establishing the community expectations that will allow our growth to happen in great places,” says Tom Hughes, the president of Metro, which administers the urban growth boundary (UGB) where development can occur.

No other city or unincorporated area in the region will attract more than 13 percent of people expected to move to Portland in the Metro projections. But that doesn’t mean major changes aren’t coming. Some of the most important predictions include:

• Portland will grow a little slower than the estimates in the Comp Plan update, which was based on older data. Metro predicts the city will grow by “only” 250,154 people over the next 24 years. The 863,509 total predicted by Metro is still a lot of people, however.

• Most of the growth outside Portland will take place away from current employment centers on land that is now unincorporated or outside the existing urban growth boundary. That is where Metro predicts 208,848 more people will live by 2040.

• Most of that growth will happen in Washington County, which has five of the 10 fastest- growing cities (including the western portion of Wilsonville).

• Hillsboro is predicted to become the second-biggest city in the region, jumping ahead of Gresham with a total population of 128,901 by 2040.

• Many new residential and employment projects will occur in areas with existing but stalled growth plans, such as the Pleasant Valley area shared by Multnomah and Clackamas counties.

• Although the city of Damascus was disincorporated on July 17, it is still expected to gain 19,639 more residents by 2040 after Clackamas County approves a growth plan for the area.

• Happy Valley in Clackamas County is predicted to nearly double in size, growing from 17,510 to 32,314 residents, with some of the increase on property annexed from the former city of Damascus.

“These numbers show that those challenges aren’t going away, and that we need to work together to address them. Without management of and money for the types of public services necessary to develop new housing, developers will continue to struggle to keep up with the demand in our region,” Hughes says.

Projections to change over time

Metro is preparing the projections to help fulfill its state-mandated land use and transportation planning roles. Such projections are always prepared following the Metro Council’s periodic UGB expansion decisions.

After the council voted not to expand the UGB last year, Metro staff developed the projections by working with the Portland State University Population Resource Center and its own MetroScope forecasting program. The resulting figures were then shared with the local jurisdictions, which provided feedback. They were reviewed by the Metro Technical Advisory Committee on July 6 and will be presented to the council in September.

The projections are based on the current comprehensive plans that have been adopted by all jurisdictions, as required by state land use planning laws. They largely determined how many more people will move to each city and unincorporated area over the next 24 years. Modest additional UGB expansions were also predicted as the result of a new planning process currently being discussed by Hughes and a task force of regional mayors.

“We’ve had good discussions and charged our planning department staff to develop potential next steps for policy and procedures of handling modest adjustments. Those will be considered by the task force at the end of the month,” Hughes says.

At least some of the projections are likely to change in the future as cities amend their comprehensive plans to allow for more development. For example, Milwaukie is only currently predicted to add 2,644 more people by 2040, despite the opening of the newest MAX project that is widely expected to spur new development along the line.

The projections are scheduled to be updated in 2018 — three years earlier than usual. Although Metro traditionally considers UGB expansions every six years, the council agreed to conduct the next review sooner because of questions about how fast the region is actually growing, now that the economy has officially recovered from the Great Recession.

To learn more

To see Metro’s full draft projections, visit: pamplinmedia.com/documents/artdocs/00003551437334.pdf

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