Portland, Ore., fares better than many metros in ‘Great Recession’

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Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, at least according to Leo Tolstoy, who probably knew a few things about unhappy marriages. I hate to crib from the great writer, but all unhappy cities are unhappy in their own way, too. And living in Mesa, Ariz., I know a few things about unhappy cities where housing prices drove off a cliff. This brings me to Portland, Ore., an unhappy city that is unhappy in its own way. In my state of Arizona, for example, builders severely overbuilt, so when the housing bubble burst we were stuck with a lot of empty residences. Portland didn't have that problem, thanks to urban-growth boundaries that strictly limit unmitigated housing expansion as seen in places like Miami, and, yes, Phoenix and its surrounding cities such as Mesa. Portland's problems were almost purely economic -- industry reduction and lost jobs, which caused the city's unemployment rate to top 11 percent at peak. "We got hit harder...