16 Pros and Cons of Living in Portland, Oregon

The story of Portland, Oregon, begins in 1843 when two business partners, Asa Lovejoy and William Overton, decided to file a claim to land on the western bank of the Willamette River. The current name for the community was chosen in 1845 by a coin toss, and then it was formally incorporated as a city by 1851. It has continually grown in size since then, with the 2010 census showing that nearly 600,000 people were living in the city proper.

The city has seen its fair share of ups and downs over time. A significant fire destroyed 20 blocks of it in 1873, causing $1.3 million in damage at the time. Less than 20 years later, the local newspaper referred to Portland as being the dirtiest community in the northern states. It wouldn’t be until 1887 when the first bridge over the Willamette River would be complete.

One of the most significant events for the city was the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, a world’s fair held in 1905. The 1900 census showed that 90,000 people were living in Portland. By 1910, that figure reached more than 207,000.

If you are thinking about joining everyone else who has made their way to Portland in recent years, then these are the pros and cons you will want to consider.

List of the Pros of Living in Portland

1. Portland causes you to embrace an outdoor lifestyle.
With the plethora of outdoor options that are available to you in and around the Portland area, outdoor adventures are more than just an opportunity to have some fun. It is a real lifestyle here. You have the mountains right in your backyard, lava fields to explore to the south, and it’s about 90 minutes to the ocean if the traffic cooperates for you. Climbing trips are common, as are backcountry hiking trips.

The people here have a strong desire to be outside in any conditions. If they have a choice of being inside or enjoying what Mother Nature offers, almost everyone is going to choose the latter option.

2. You will experience a new level of green in nature when living in Portland.
The Pacific Northwest sees a lot of precipitation throughout the year, so there is a whole lot of green that surrounds you here. The trees are tall and healthy, lawns don’t need irrigation throughout most of the year, and there is a genuine love for the environment. There might not always be a lot of sunshine to enjoy, but you will only find a handful of other spots in the United States where the natural beauty is as consistent as it is in this city.

Then there are the colors of fall to enjoy while in Portland too. There are always a handful of people who will take their love of the environment to the extreme, but it is also nice to see what an entire community can do when they pull together to protect their natural resources.

3. You can find amazing natural wonders within an easy drive.
One of the best reasons to consider living in Portland is the fact that you are very close to numerous natural wonders, even if you live deep in the city. You are only about 30 minutes away from stunning waterfalls, mountain trails, and some of the most amazing hikes that you can find in the United States.

If you are willing to go a little further east, then there are some beautiful desert landscapes to explore. The rocky coast along the west is quiet and isolated, even though there is easy access to the region. Then there is the fact that Mount Hood is always standing guard over you. It really is a lovely place to be.

4. There are plenty of communities for you to join.
Portland offers lots of different community activities for you to join throughout the year. Whether you are spiritual, athletic, or have a specific hobby that you pursue, you’ll discover that there is a place where “your people” can be found. This advantage makes it a lot easier to start making friends with others, to establish your foundation, and become comfortable in your own skin.

You may encounter a bit of distrust if you are from outside of the state, but that will quickly fade if you are invested in the city and your community. The primary concern that locals have in Portland is that you will place a higher priority on your opinion instead of looking at the facts in any given situation. Taking a logical approach to your decisions will help you to fit in quickly.

5. There is no sales tax for you to worry about in Portland.
Portland is one of the few large cities in the United States where the price tag is what you’ll actually pay for an item. There is no sales tax that you need to worry about when you start living here. Where you get hit is with the income tax, which is 9% on any state-based income that is over $8,401. You’ll get charged a 7% tax on income between $3,351 and $8,400. If you are married or have a qualifying household, then the bracket limits double.

If you manage your income smartly and keep your property investments to a minimum, you may find that the final tax rate is better for you even with the higher income tax rates in the state. You could also move to Vancouver, WA, where there is no income tax, and then visit Portland across the river if you prefer.

6. It is easy enough to get around once you get to know the city.
There are a lot of strange streets in Portland where they end at nothing. You’ve got lots of bridges that you’ll need to learn how to navigate. Even the network of interstate highways at the border with Washington can drive you crazy the first time you go through them. Once you begin to figure out how to navigate the complex grid that the city provides, you’ll find that almost everything is a quick trip away.

Unless you need to drive all of the way across town during rush hour, you can get to most places in about 10 minutes. If you have an accessible neighborhood with your home, then stores that are five minutes away might feel like a tough trip to make.

7. You can’t beat what summer feels like in Portland.
There might be a lot of overcast days to make your way through when you start living in Portland, but you will also discover that summer is the perfect season when you are here. The sun stays up a little later than in other parts of the country. There are days when the heat can be strong, but it cools down at night rather quickly. Stick a box fan in your window around 8 PM, grab a book, and you’ll have the perfect evening.

If your home doesn’t have central air, then purchase a window-based air conditioning unit during the off-season so that you don’t need to beat the first buyer’s rush when a heatwave rolls through. It can feel like Black Friday during the first days of high temperatures in the city.

List of the Cons of Living in Portland

1. The weather can be challenging to manage when living in Portland.
Living in the Pacific Northwest is an adjustment for the average person who is not used to the climate. Your summers are going to be filled with some sunshine, but the rest of the year involves overcast skies, plenty of rain, and more than your fair share of snowstorms. Many people who say that they love the rain will find themselves challenged by the sheer amount of precipitation that falls during the average year.

From the months of November through April, Portland averages a measurable precipitation event every other day. Even during the warmer months of July and August, you will still have a rainy day about once per week.

2. Seasonal affective disorder can be a disabling issue that happens to you.
Because there is a lack of sunshine during the winter months, it is not unusual for the average person in Portland to struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) at some point in their life. You might experience higher levels of lethargy when you experience this phenomenon, have symptoms that are similar to depression, and a desire to isolate from the rest of the city. You can counter this problem by increasing Vitamin D levels, using a sun lamp, and enjoying some of the fine coffee the city offers.

You must take action to counter the problems of this disadvantage before any of the symptoms have a chance to start. It can take control of your life if you’re not ready for it.

3. You won’t have much access to air conditioning when living in Portland.
There are a lot of people who say that it doesn’t get very hot in Portland. Those who offer that advice didn’t live in the city during the months of July and August. You could have temperatures easily hit 90°F, which can feel like a sauna because you’re so used to having the highs be in the 60s or the 70s. Because there are about eight weeks each year where the weather becomes unbearable from a heat standpoint, most buildings do not invest in any type of air-conditioning.

When you get a combination of hot summers and dry winter’s, the chances of a wildfire occurring in or around the Portland area can increase dramatically. The weather tends to blow up from Northern California, so you get the smoke from their wildfires as well. During a bad season, the air quality here can be worse than what it is in Mexico City.

4. Traffic can be a nightmare in Portland.
Portland has several logistical challenges because of its placement near the rivers. Bridges are everywhere around the city. There might be one route that you can take to get to your destination, but if there is an obstacle in the way, it might take you 30 minutes to go the equivalent of a mile.

People are also polite with their driving here in Portland, which means you can expect slower speeds and frequent yields that are not always necessary. That makes it easier to ride your bike in the city or stay safe as a pedestrian, but it can be a real headache if you find yourself stuck in rush hour traffic.

5. You might need to dig to find quality food options.
There appears to be hype around restaurants that are popular but that do not necessarily deliver quality. Locals report that you have to know where to look, and that there are hundreds of delicious locally-owned food carts sprinkled throughout the city. If you are new to Portland or are visiting and you want to take a culinary tour of the city, then your best bet is to choose an ethnic restaurant or a place that serves fresh seafood that was just taken off of the boat.

6. The city is not as inclusive as some might think that it is.
People who are native to Portland get really frustrated with the transplants who come to the city from outside of the Pacific Northwest. If you are from California, then don’t expect to make friends with the locals anytime soon. There could even be a sense of entitlement in your neighborhood based on the amount of time that one person has spent in the city compared to your time here.

There is certainly an effort to keep Portland weird, much like you can find with the attitudes in Austin, Texas. You’ll find a desire for progressivism in the city, but there is also a certain level of distrust, and even racism, that you can locate here if you look for it hard enough.

7. Trying to travel out of Portland can be rather inconvenient.
Trying to navigate the highways and bridges of Portland is challenging for even the best drivers. If you want to fly out of the city, then he will discover that it is difficult to find a direct flight. Layovers are more common here than throughout most of the United States, and that includes the various bus routes that you might take. You’ve got to give yourself an extra 90 minutes or so to make sure that you get to where you need to be on time.

8. Property taxes in Portland are higher than in other places in the Pacific Northwest.
Oregon does not charge a property tax on your personal belongings, business inventories, household furnishings, crops, orchards, or automobiles. The items which are subject to taxation are all privately-owned real property items, such as fixed machinery, equipment, buildings, and land. You’ll also pay a tax on any personal property used for business purposes.

The property taxes are lower than the national average despite this disadvantage. Multnomah County, which is where most of Portland is located, has an average effective tax rate of 1.13%, with listed rates in the city ranging from $16 to $25 per $1,000 of assessed value.

9. It can be tough to find a place to live if you’re renting.
Portland used to be affordable, but it is one of the cities that is consistently leading the country in rising rental costs. Occupation rates in the city are hovering around 97%, which is only beat by New York City for tops in the nation. Since it is a free market system, landlords are charging whatever they think the population will support. Some renters have seen increases of 15% or more from year-to-year.

When you add in the construction backlog in the city, strict boundaries for urban growth, and other challenges in the real estate market, there is a real need for affordable housing. Portland had to declare a state of emergency because of this disadvantage.

Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Portland, Oregon

Portland is a beautiful city that provides you with numerous opportunities to go exploring. You’ve got the mountains and the beach within close reach, national parks you can explore, and plenty of fresh seafood to enjoy.

There are some problems that you can find here in the city just as you can with other communities of a similar size. Homelessness is the most visible issue with the state of rent and real estate prices, which means you can see families sleeping in parks, medians, and even doorways.

The pros and cons of living in Portland then depend on the neighborhood you choose. There are five primary quadrants available, which makes getting around the city pretty easily. Each one has its own character, so find one that matches your own to have a great time.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.