Worker Shortage Hits Portland Builders Two Ways

Many years ago, a local homebuilder told me he wouldn't build in the Portland City limits anymore, because the permitting and inspections took so long and were so expensive that it ate into his profits, not to mention his psychological well-being. Since then, I have had others say similar things. Well, it's kind of like the old saw attributed to Yogi Berra and others: "Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded." City of Portland building permits are up 43% this year compared to 2012; and building inspections are up 37% over the same period. If some builders are staying away from Portland, many more must be moving in.

Now residential and commercial builders complain that there is a shortage of workers that prevents them from building more and faster, and they still complain about the wait for permits and inspections. You see, the City is having trouble finding workers, as well; dozens of planner and inspector positions are unfilled.

So, it seems the only solution is for more construction trade workers to come to Portland. Oh, wait, but that would require more housing units for them to move into, and we already can't build them fast enough.

A partial solution may be coming in the form of the approved and budgeted Portland Online Permitting System but it is likely a year away from full implementation. Until then no builder wants to visit the City's Development Services Center for permits and inspections; it's too crowded.