First Advisor

Margaret B. Neal

Date of Publication

Winter 3-8-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies and Planning


Urban Studies and Planning




Sustainable urban development -- Oregon -- Portland, Older people -- Housing -- Oregon -- Portland, Housing policy -- Oregon -- Portland, City planning -- Oregon -- Portland



Physical Description

1 online resource (xii, 371 pages)


Portland, Oregon, is considered to be a leader in sustainable development. Government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses have been innovators in policymaking and practice that is aimed at creating a more sustainable city. Despite population aging, little is known about how or whether planners and developers consider older persons in terms of sustainable development. Thus, this study examined the case of sustainable, affordable housing developed for low-income adults aged 55 and older. Interviews with 31 key informants were conducted in order to answer three research questions: What is the meaning of sustainable development in Portland, Oregon, as it pertains to affordable housing for an aging society? How and why has sustainable, affordable housing for older adults been developed in Portland? What are the policies that affect the availability and appropriateness of sustainable, affordable housing for older adults in Portland? The sample included individuals who influenced the creation of senior housing (e.g., urban planners, architects, nonprofit directors) and who were identified either because of their roles within local housing development or through snowball sampling. Six Portland-area developments provided the context for studying how and why sustainable, affordable housing for older adults was planned and created in the city. The findings suggested that introducing the topic of aging into the discourse of sustainable development will lead to a more robust meaning of the concept, which can aid future research, policy, and practice. Five elements characterizing sustainable housing for older adults were identified: physical accessibility; proximity to community services; infrastructure that connects housing with services; healthy living environments; and high-quality social spaces in and near housing developments. The findings also pointed to the need for sustainable development practices to pay attention to social equity and the equitable distribution of affordable housing, including housing for older adults. Several insights into how sustainable, affordable housing for older adults developed in Portland were gained (e.g., using government subsidies; involving aging experts in integrated design processes; intersectoral partnerships that led to the city becoming an early adopter in greening its affordable housing), as well as why such housing was completed (e.g., there was a collective public-sector response to meet the need for creating sustainable, affordable housing; an emerging culture of sustainable development in Portland; urban and regional planning efforts have begun to address population aging). However, the amount of sustainable, affordable housing remains insufficient to meet Portland's aging population. Reasons identified include: the absence of specific housing policy attuned to the needs of older adults in Portland; disconnects between housing and health care and supportive services; and lack of integration of older adults in the planning, design, and development processes. Room for innovation and improvement exists in regard to healthy, accessible, green, and affordable housing policies and the development of new models of housing for an aging population. Based on this research, 10 guiding principles of sustainable development for an aging society were proposed to inform future research, as well as planning and development efforts.


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