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Oregon Legislature steps into controversial zoning issue, and most cities must comply

PMG FILE PHOTO - The 2019 Orego Legislature said most cities must allow missing middle housing.Oregon is about to become the first state in the country to effectively eliminate single-family zoning in all midsize and large cities. The impact will be greatest in the Portland metropolitan region.

Here, most cities will have to allow up to four homes and each lot in existing single-family neighborhoods.

Those are among the major provisions of House Bill 2001, which passed on the final day of the 2019 Oregon Legislature. Sponsored and championed by Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland, it is intended to increase housing availability and options.

"It's going to be important to have more housing choice and more housing options in all of our community, and limiting new construction in residential areas to only single-family homes is not going to help us prepare for the future and provide more housing," Kotek said before the final vote on June 30.

The City of Portland is already moving in that direction with the Residential Infill Project. The City Council was expected to consider similar recommendations approved by the Planning and Sustainability Commission this summer. Hearings on it have been postponed until fall for city planners to include related requirements approved by the Legislature for so-called narrow lots.

The proposals were controversial both in Portland and at the Legislature. They were supported by a coalition of housing advocates and home builders who argued the additional units will reduce housing costs, allow more people to live in desirable neighborhoods, and fight climate change by creating more homes near employment centers. But the proposals were opposed by some homeowners and neighborhood activists — especially in Portland — who countered that many lower-priced existing houses will be demolished for the new units, destroying the character of existing neighborhoods that most people still might not be able to afford.

"The governor has 30 days to sign or veto the bill. Hopefully there is a legal challenge or an initiative filed," said Jim Peterson, chair of the Multnomah Neighborhood Association, which has filed a lawsuit to block Portland's RIP proposals.

The bill was also opposed at the Legislature by the League of Oregon Cities, which lobbies on behalf of the state's cities and opposed the state overriding local zoning decisions. Portland did not take a position on the HB 2001 but proposed changes to make it more workable.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign HB 2001 into law. Once she does, all cities in the state with more than 10,000 people will be required to amend the comprehensive land use plans to allow "missing housing" in all residential zones. The bill defines missing housing to include duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, townhouses and cottage clusters, which means groups of no fewer than four detached homes per acre with a common courtyard.

The bill says that includes all cities with more than 10,000 people within the boundaries of Metro, the elected regional government in the Portland area. Outside of Metro, cities between 10,000 and 25,000 people are only required to allow duplexes on practically all residential lots. Cities with more than 25,000 are required to allow all forms of missing housing.

New construction allowed under the bill will not happen immediately. Cities with between 10,000 and 25,000 residents have until July 30, 2021, to amend their comp plans. Cities with more than 25,000 residents have until July 30, 2022.

Portland planners now intend to bring the Residential Infill Project recommendation to the council along with two other measures. One would implement an anti-displacement policy approved by the council to mitigate under-represented communities from being forced out of their historic neighborhoods by the missing housing construction. The other, called Better Housing by Design, sets design standards for residential projects in multifamily zones.

Together, planners are calling the three measures the Housing Opportunity Initiative.

Cities within Metro that must allow all forms of missing housing include Portland, Beaverton, Cornelius, Forest Grove, Gladstone, Gresham, Happy Valley, Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Sherwood, Tigard, Troutdale, Tualatin, West Linn, and Wilsonville. Cities within the boundary with few that 10,000 residents include Boring, Fairview, Johnson City, King City, Maywood Park, Rivergrove, and Wood Village.

The unincorporated areas of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties within Metro must also comply with HB 2001.


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