Controversial housing option bill approved by Legislature
SALEM — Single-family homes have long dominated the housing market in Oregon.
But a bill passed on the last day of the 2019 Oregon Legislature could change that.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, presided over the passage of one of her top priorities this year, House Bill 2001. The bill, which was approved by the Oregon Senate on June 30 and is now headed to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown for her signature, would effectively end single-family home zoning in more than 50 Oregon cities. It passed with bipartisan support in both chambers.
If Brown signs the bill as expected, by July 2021, cities with more than 10,000 residents will have to allow a duplex on any lot now limited to a single-family house. By July 2022, cities with more than 25,000 residents — as well as cities and counties in the Portland area — will have to allow triplexes, quadplexes, townhouses and cottage clusters in single-family residential neighborhoods.
No other state has yet ended single-family zoning in so many cities. The bill was opposed by many neighborhood activists in Portland, who said it would destroy neighborhood character, and the League of Oregon Cities, which argued it overrules the ability of cities to determine where growth should occur.
"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 been fighting the Residential Infill Project being proposed by the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to do the same thing.
Kotek's goal is to foster what she calls "missing middle" housing, priced for working- and middle-class households. "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 bill passed.
As of the last census, nearly two-thirds of Oregon's homes were single-family houses, and rising real estate prices have many housing advocates worried about Oregonians being "priced out" of buying a home. Townhouses and condominiums are typically less expensive alternatives to standalone houses. The bill doesn't outlaw single-family homes or require existing homes to be torn down or converted into duplexes.
Cities can apply for an extension under the bill, giving them more time to change their land-use rules, if needed.
Several Democrats split with Kotek and voted against the bill in the House, including Reps. Paul Holvey and Nancy Nathanson of Eugene, whose city officials had been particularly critical of the bill.
"I would really like to see this proposal be more geared toward the arterial streets or closer to bus routes, those sorts of applications, then across all lots throughout a neighborhood," Holvey said at a committee meeting Tuesday, June 18.
Another Eugene Democrat, Rep. Julie Fahey, spoke in favor of HB 2001 on Thursday.
"I represent the neighborhoods in Eugene that are most impacted by the housing crisis," Fahey said. "We need more housing, and more affordable housing options, in our community."
Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, sat on the House committee that assisted in developing the proposal. He praised the bipartisan work that carried it through several rounds of revisions, which led him to sign on as a co-sponsor. "This isn't a silver bullet. It won't fix our affordable housing crisis. But it is a heck of a tool to add these type of homes in our neighborhoods," Zika said.
The bill passed the Senate with no debate because the deadline to adjourn was rapidly approaching after Republicans walked out to prevent passage of the cap-and-trade legislation that died on the final day.