First Advisor

Carl Abbott

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Urban Studies (M.U.S.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Real covenants -- Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

3, v, 115 leaves: plans 28 cm.


Restrictive covenants (RCs) consist of legal language that is put in a land parcel deed by the subdivider of a subdivision at the time it is platted. The restrictions usually limit land use and require that the house constructed on the lot be of a certain cost. This thesis addresses four research questions: 1. Is the restrictive covenant (RC) minimum house cost amount directly related to the size of the housing? 2. Do differences in housing size translate into social status differences? 3. Do RCs create homogeneous areas of social status? 4. Are subdivisions with RCs less likely to decline in social status over time than subdivisions without RCs? The goal is to establish whether development limitations placed on residential land translate into a differentiated built environment and then into a differentiated social structure. I chose the area of SE Portland, Oregon from SE 20th-39th Avenues, SE Hawthorne Blvd to Harrison Street to test my hypothesis. First Multnomah County deed records were used to find out which subdivisions in the study area have Res and what their restrictions are. After that was completed I grouped the subdivisions or their respective blocks into five RC groups based on the range of minimum house costs found in their deeds. Data was collected once every ten years during the 1940- 80 period from the US Census was used to get the mean owner estimated value of houses and the percent owner occupied. The Polk Portland City Directory was also used to get the percent owner occupied as well as to get the occupation of each household sampled in the same years as the census. The occupation of each household head sampled was converted to a Duncan SES index score which was then compiled by RC group for every sample year. Finally data from the Multnomah County Assessor's office assessment roll was obtained for every house in the study area for such things as house size, year built, and the assessed value. Sales data from the study area over the last year was also analyzed to see how the different RC areas were priced. The results of the analysis of the study area support my basic hypothesis that RCs affect the built environment of residential areas which in turn influences social status. The size of the houses followed the anticipated pattern (the High RC group had the largest houses, the Low the smallest, etc.) as well as the assessed valuation, the estimated value from the census, and the sales data. The percent owner occupied was lower in the lower RC groups although the percentages stayed relatively constant over time. This indicates that, at least in this study area, RCs do not effect neighborhood decline by stabilizing owner occupancy rates. The final and most important indicator, social status, showed the same pattern as the other data did. Social status does indeed get less as the minimum cost requirements in the did so RCs influence the social structure of residential areas. Other residential areas need to be studied in Portland and other cities to see if these findings can be applied elsewhere. The methods I used in this thesis can provide, along with an examination of the actors involved in the subdivision process, important insights into the social differentiation of urban space.


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