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We all know there is a housing crisis in Portland. An estimated 1,700 people sleep on our streets each night. Renters are being evicted and priced out in record numbers. First-time home buyers are being outbid by cash offers, and the average home price now tops $400,000.


As longtime homeowners, we are worried that our city will become a place where only the wealthy can afford to live. We want our adult children to be able to purchase a home and start their families in Portland. And we want to ensure that Portland has housing that is affordable for seniors, people with disabilities and people of all races and incomes.

As Hillsdale residents working in the affordable housing arena, we know it will take many different tools and strategies to reduce homelessness, increase the supply of reasonably priced apartments and create more “starter homes” for first-time buyers. At the same time, as a city we need to tackle the backlog of needed street repairs, sidewalks, stormwater management and other public infrastructure.

What can all of us do to help? One piece of the solution, we firmly believe, is to support the Residential Infill zoning changes that are coming to City Council this fall. This proposal would bring back the kinds of small-scale housing that Portland used to allow, but that our zoning code currently prohibits in the 45 percent of the city that is zoned for single-dwelling residences.

The Residential Infill proposal will update single-dwelling residential zoning to better accommodate “missing middle” types of homes, such as duplexes and cottage-style developments. At the same time, it will reduce the allowable size of new homes to stop the spread of “McMansions” and help discourage demolition of existing homes. The proposal also will make it easier for homeowners to add an “ADU” or granny flat on their property, whether for rental income or for their parents or themselves to age in place.

Contrary to the misleading and inflammatory statements made in an op-ed in last month’s Connection (“Infill Project Breaches Trust,” Aug. 1), this proposal does not introduce multi-family zoning into single-family areas. What it will do is allow for smaller, diverse and more affordable housing options that will make it possible for more people of all income levels, and all ages and stages of life, to live in our Portland neighborhoods.

These types of housing used to be allowed in Portland. When you walk around our older neighborhoods in Southeast and Northeast, you see lots of duplexes, lovely old homes that have been discreetly subdivided into small apartments and “garden apartments” that are totally compatible with the rest of the neighborhood. These housing types and the resulting density have enabled walkable, transit-supported neighborhoods that also support vibrant local business districts.

Let’s stop the scare tactics and the “not-in-my-backyard” isolationism. Instead, let’s support common-sense approaches like the Residential Infill proposal, so that all of us share in the benefits and the burdens of growth in our community.

We’re all in this together. Portland is growing, and we need to make room for more homes and more people. Let’s support “gentle infill” in all Portland neighborhoods and allow for smaller, flexible, more affordable types of homes that expand access to opportunity in all neighborhoods. It’s the right thing to do for our city and for our children’s future.

Ruth Adkins lives in Hillsdale and works for Oregon Opportunity Network. Sheila Fink lives in Hillsdale and works for the Community Housing Fund. 

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