Portland has a uniqueness for a city of its size. It is a city with a multiplicity of well-established single-family home neighborhoods with big mature trees and green yards. That could all go away if developers have their way. So, too, if the Legislature agrees.
House Bill 2007 threatens and undermines the single-family home type of urban environment that Portland and other Oregon cities have protected for decades with zoning. If passed, the overreach of HB2007 will take away local control by gutting single-family zoning restrictions. It would require cities and counties to allow multi-family development in every and all single-family zones. It also threatens protections and allows for the redevelopment of historic districts and structures.
HB2007 is being steamrolled through the Legislature by the Oregon Home Builders Association under the disguise that by tearing down existing single-family homes with yards and replacing them with a larger footprint structure or multiple units it will lower the cost of housing because it increases the overall supply of housing. In actuality, the push for this runaround pre-emptive smokescreen is in play because the home builders along with the 1000 Friends of Oregon — now the defacto 1000 enemies of single-family home neighborhoods — did not get all they wanted through Portland's Comprehensive Plan, the Residential Infill Project (RIPSAC) and the public processes.
First-time buyer and starter homes already are being demolished at an alarming rate. Replacement housing nearly always has a higher price tag. The term "Rip City" could be quantified with a new meaning. The impacts of HB2007 will likely accelerate teardowns with developers taking advantage of any opportunity where they can use what, in effect, could be called "bulldozers on steroids" to rip apart neighborhoods and maximize profits. The effects of lost green yards, mature trees and open space will be forever lasting.
If passed, HB2007 will not only destroy the sanctity of single-family-home neighborhoods, but also significantly increase the cost of all urban housing over the long term. With single-family homes already in short supply, the American dream of homeownership in Oregon will become only available to the top percentile of income earners. More and more middle-income earners will have no choice and be forced to become renters. Senior citizens on fixed incomes likely will be victimized into selling their homes so developers can demolish them. Low-income housing, for the most part, will likely be limited to subsidized units in the concrete jungle of heat island developments managed by large corporate and landlord interests.
The overreach of HB2007 generates skepticism and distrust of any governmental and public process. It overrides and pre-empts the decisions the Portland City Council made as a result of the nearly yearlong RIPSAC process. Without delay, homeowners and renters alike need to rally against, contact legislators and object to this sneaky and divisive legislation
Terry Parker is a resident of Northeast Portland.