Clackamas County commissioners on Wednesday, Oct. 6, unanimously approved new incentives for multifamily developers to build affordable housing units in unincorporated areas.
Approval of the land-use amendment is an early milestone in the county's Land Use Housing Strategies project, calling for 10 strategies to support housing development in urban unincorporated Clackamas County.
The newly approved amendment, which entitles developers to increased height and capacity in exchange for building affordable housing, was one of three amendments considered by the board on Wednesday at the suggestion of the Housing Affordability and Homelessness Task Force.
Commissioners unanimously voted to table the two remaining amendments until a future land-use hearing, but were in agreement that incentivizing multifamily developers was an appropriate first step in mitigating an affordable housing shortage causing a "crisis" in the county.
Chair Tootie Smith said she stood "fully in support" of the added incentives, a sentiment shared by the three other commissioners in attendance as demonstrated by their 4-0 vote in favor of approval. Commissioner Martha Schrader was not in attendance on Wednesday and did not vote on the matter.
Multiple commissioners expressed concern about potential ramifications to implementing the remaining two amendments proposed by staff, specifically voicing apprehension about an amendment to reduce the minimum parking requirement for all multifamily housing units.
County staff suggested the amendment due to data showing that the oft-expensive development of parking capacity can affect the affordability of housing. They recommended that the need for parking be reduced depending on a number of factors including proximity to a light-rail station.
The board's main issue with the amendment, however, was that it proposes extending those reduced parking requirements to housing units that are not income restricted alongside affordable housing units, which commissioners feared would cause an overflow of residents parking in residential neighborhoods multiple blocks away from their home, potentially decreasing the livability of county neighborhoods.
"I think the lower parking allowances on housing that does not have an affordable housing component to it is way too restrictive," Smith said, adding that more work was needed to tailor parking requirement reductions to the affordability of the housing units on a case-by-case basis.
"This is Clackamas County. This is not Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland. This is not Sellwood. People come to Clackamas County for livability," Smith said. "I don't believe the livability quotient has been addressed in our zeal to provide affordable housing units."
"What we do here should not be at the detriment of others," said Commissioner Paul Savas, who said he viewed the continued discussion on parking capacity an opportunity to address the nuances of the issue with greater care.
Commissioners also requested further deliberation on a suggestion build additional housing in certain commercial zones, with Smith and Savas, who both have personal experience running businesses, expressing concern that the amendment would take parking capacity away from Clackamas County businesses, driving away potential customers.
The two amendments tabled by commissioners will be revisited at a Nov. 3 hearing.
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