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Pamplin Media co-sponsors the free public talk as part of Portland Housing Month on Wednesday, Oct. 7.

CONTRIBUTED - Randy Shaw says more housing needs to be built much faster.Nationally recognized affordable housing advocate Randy Shaw will highlight Portland Housing Month with a free online presentation on Wednesday, Oct. 7. He is best known for arguing that cities should encourage the construction of as much new housing as fast as possible to bring down skyrocketing rents and home prices.

"I'm going to talk about the need to build more housing and how to make the case for it," said Shaw, an attorney, author and activist who lives in Berkeley, California.

Shaw also is the author of the 2018 book "Generation Priced Out: Who Will Live in the New Urban America?" It includes studies of progressive cities — including Portland — whose housing policies have nevertheless caused rents and home costs to increase to the point that most lower-income and minority residents no longer can afford to live in them. Millennials are especially vulnerable to being priced out, the book argues.

A 2018 ECONorthwest study commissioned by the Up for Growth advocacy organization found that Oregon produced only 0.89 new housing units for every new household between 2000 and 2016, creating a supply shortage that is helping to drive up home costs. Without additional construction, the problem will get worse in Portland, which is projected to grow by more than 100,000 households by 2035.

Shaw's book challenges the cities to reverse the trend with new policies, including allowing the construction of multifamily housing in single-family neighborhoods. That concept was embraced by the 2018 Oregon Legislature and amplified by Portland City Council with the passage of the Residential Infill Project on Aug. 12. It allows the construction of up to four units on virtually every residential lot in the city — and up to six if some of them are affordable to households earning less than the area median family income.

"The overall Portland plan is now the most ambitious land use reform in the country," said Shaw, who noted that news of its passage was largely overlooked by the media because of the pandemic, recession, protests and wildfires.

The project was supported by many affordable housing advocates, environmentalists and community-based organizations, It was opposed by some neighborhood activists and preservations who argued it will encourage the demolition of older homes without guaranteeing that many Portlanders will be able to afford the new housing.

Shaw said he understands the resistance to change, but argues older homes already were being demolished and replaced with larger single family homes. He says each new unit will be less expensive than any older home they replace.

Shaw also calls for cities, including Portland, to reform their "glacial" permitting systems and to forgo design reviews on proposed projects that meet zoning and code requirements.

"Design review is a problem everywhere. I'm amazed builders stay in the field with all the obstacles they have to overcome," Shaw said.

Shaw's presentation is co-sponsored by the Pamplin Media Group and 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Shaw is the executive director of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, a non-profit affordable housing provider in San Francisco that he co-founded in 1980. He also has co-founded and is on the board of directors of Uptown Tenderloin Inc., a nonprofit organization that spearheaded the creation of the national Uptown Tenderloin Historic District in 2009. He also is the editor of BeyondChron, a blog about development issues in the San Francisco area, and has written six books on activism.

Portland Housing Month is a month-long series of events in October sponsored by the Homebuilders Association of Metro Portland. It features socially distance in-person and online events that are free and open to the public. They are intended to support homebuilders and connect them to consumers. The events include Home Tours, a Home & Garden Show in Your Neighborhood, and online expert presentations, such as Shaw's presentation.

Portland Housing Month was created for the first time after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the association to cancel its three annual signature events, the Tour of Remodeled Homes, the Street of Dreams, and Home & Garden Show at the Portland Expo Center.

Readers can learn more about Portland Housing Month and register for its events at www.housingmonthpdx.com.


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