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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Northwest Mirrors National Shift Away From Single-Family Homes

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New housing starts are a key economic indicator. But not all new houses are created the same.

A new report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau Friday shows that Oregon and Washington are following a national shift away from single-family homes toward more apartment complexes.

Multi-family buildings are defined as those with five housing units or more. That type of building makes up more than a third of new residential construction in both Oregon and Washington. That portion has nearly doubled over the past decade.

Chris Fick, from the League of Oregon Cities, says the trend is a mixed blessing for local governments. It's a way to grow without extending a city's boundaries. But Fick says Oregon's property tax on multi-family buildings is proportionally lower than single-family homes.

"The people who are residing in that house will have the same needs for transportation, public safety, parks and libraries and schools as anybody else," says Fick."But local governments aren't recouping an equal amount of money."

Fick says it's not clear whether the shift toward more apartments and condos is temporary or reflects a long-term trend. He says one theory is that millennials are less likely to buy single-family homes due to uncertainty in the job market.