Clark County sees new residents, new development

Affordability and a slower pace draw people to Clark County. Its rapid growth has brought some new problems to the area, but leaders see a bright future.

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Once an industrial area, home to paper mills and contaminated water, the Vancouver Waterfront is now quite the tourist destination. One park offers views of the Columbia River, where new restaurants, shopping, and hotels are rapidly opening.

On a beautiful summer afternoon, the area was packed with families and people enjoying the great outdoors. Over time, the sidewalks will see even more visitors as the city continues to grow.

On average, 14 new people move to Vancouver every day.

“People usually come to the Pacific Northwest for Portland and then discover Vancouver,” said Giovanni Cafso, a real estate agent who works in both cities. “What we’ve seen is this big shift where Vancouver is becoming a destination in its own right.”

The median price for a home in Portland is currently around $550,000, which averages out to about $388 per square foot. In Vancouver, the median house price is about $495,000, averaging $288 per square foot, according to statistics from

“What customers really like about Vancouver is the affordability. Things are generally cheaper here than in Portland. The second factor is value. We see you can get a lot more for your money here,” Cafso said.

“It’s quieter,” said Greg Cowan. He grew up in northeast Portland and moved to Vancouver with his wife in 2016. Similar homes then cost half what they did in Portland, and the tax climate was better by the time he finally sold his business. But mostly, Cowan said, they moved for the quiet.

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“We’re lucky that we have a bit more plots around us. We used to joke that when we come home from work it’s like our country house. Downtown has improved, so the restaurant scene has improved. There is less traffic. But basically just a bit slower and quieter.”

Another thing that’s slow – commuting in and out of Portland. An average of 70,000 people cross the Columbia River every day; That’s one of the many reasons people try to build a new bridge.

With growth comes growing pains, which the city is working to solve. Crime has risen and the homeless crisis has worsened.

“Yes, we have people stealing catalytic converters. Yes, we have people stealing cars. Yes, we have homelessness. We have the same problems,” said Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Vancouver Mayor. “We might solve it another way. We have other funding options that Oregon does not have. Our sales tax [revenue] went way up during the pandemic. Everyone stayed at home, didn’t drive across the bridge, bought things and VAT went up. So we just have different avenues that we use to solve our problems.”

McEnerny-Ogle said the city is poised for even more growth, with 10,000 homes in the pipeline and plans for the city’s largest commercial building at 366,000 square feet.

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Leaders are also working hard to make the city a cultural destination.

“We found out about Portland’s [outdoor dining program] where restaurants can take to the sidewalk and street to serve food. And so we adopted it and people love it. So we’re learning from each other,” McEnerny-Ogle said.

What’s next? Clark County’s growth plan includes where the city of Vancouver will one day expand. There are no timetables as to when that would happen, but city planners are considering it. Vancouver has a welcoming attitude to developers and businesses, and the city is growing rapidly.

“Every year 5,000 people move here — many of them from Multnomah County, but they also come from elsewhere, attracted by good schools, maybe a friendlier tax structure,” said Rebecca Kennedy of the City of Vancouver. So we have to think very carefully about where these people are going to go. How will they get around, where will they work? How will they access the things they need to be successful here?” Clark County sees new residents, new development

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