Making way for middle housing
Housing construction has been a highly visible activity in Woodburn this summer, especially multifamily dwelling.
But its unclear yet what the complexion of housing construction will be in the near future when a legislative bill providing for denser housing in Oregon kicks in. The bill will require most Oregon cities to allow more housing to be built in single-family neighborhoods.
Woodburn City Council engaged a consultant who earlier this summer gave the panel an overview of what it might look like, and what the city may need to do to prepare and comply. In a nutshell, the bill aims to facilitate more "middle housing," which includes duplexes, triplexes, quadruplexes, townhouses and cottage clusters.
The city has prepared a comprehensive webpage so Woodburn residents can get an idea of what is coming down the pike. Changes will initially be hashed out through the Woodburn City Planning Commission and then through the city council.
"The project consultant presented to (city) staff and city council recommended changes to the Woodburn Comprehensive Plan and the Woodburn Development Ordinance regarding middle housing," city of Woodburn spokesman Tommy Moore said. "There aren't dates set for planning commission and city council to hold hearings and begin to adopt anything yet. Staff remains open to public comment; we would keep (public input) on file until we could present it to the commission and council.
"The latest that adoption of new regulations could occur to comply with state law about middle housing would be by end of June 2022."
Passed in 2019, the legislation requiring more housing density, House Bill 2001, was designed to give Oregonians more housing choices, especially affordable housing choices.
An Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development description of HB 2001 notes that "These housing types already exist in most cities but were outlawed for decades in many neighborhoods. These limitations contribute to increased housing costs and fewer choices. House Bill 2001 will require updates to local laws that currently limit the types of housing people can build."
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness:
"As of January 2020, Oregon had an estimated 14,655 experiencing homelessness on any given day, as reported by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Of that Total, 825 were family households, 1,329 were Veterans, 1,314 were unaccompanied young adults (aged 18-24), and 4,339 were individuals experiencing chronic homelessness."
Oregon Department of Education has been tracking homeless trends among k-12 students, and its data showed a steady increase over the past decade, reaching a high of 22,541 in 2016-17, up from 18,165 in 2012-13.
Many of those students from the peak year, 17,210, were sharing housing. Almost 2,000 were in shelters, another 1,124 were staying in motels and 2,515 were unsheltered.
The research group Oregon Values and Beliefs Center recently shared its findings after polling 1,400 adult Oregon residents in June about their thoughts on housing density regulation.
Overall, the OVB findings showed:
One-half of Oregonians (52%) support such housing increases in single-family neighborhoods, while 37% are opposed and 11% are unsure.
Oregonians ages 30-44 are more supportive of such housing increases than those ages 65 and older (58% vs. 40-50%).
The OVBC report surmised: "This may be a result of challenges Americans in this age group have faced on the path to homeownership, such as the Great Recession and student loan debt."
Oregonians making less than $50k per year are more supportive than higher earners (59% vs. 44-47%), which makes sense given the fact that one of the intended goals of changing the zoning regulations is to create more affordable housing options.
OVBC pollsters provided respondents with an open-ended option to explain their stands. They discovered supporters top reasons were lack of affordable housing, addressing population growth and alleviating homeless issues.
"In fact, the words 'homeless' and 'homelessness' showed up nearly 100 times in the responses in support of such housing increases," the report noted.
The report showed opposition centered around changes compromising neighborhoods, increased traffic, crowding and compromised property values.
The report also shared some direct comments from respondents.
A Clackamas County woman described as between the ages of 65 and 75 said: "Housing is so expensive in Oregon that many people aren't able to buy in top school districts. This would help a number of people to be able to purchase a home. Also, in cities like West Linn and Oregon City, it is difficult for seniors to downsize to a home of a smaller size and still stay in the community. This would be of help to them, too."
Other supporting voices shared:
"Because there isn't enough housing at the moment and there are a lot of homeless people out there that have good-paying jobs, yet no place to live" -- Tillamook County woman, 65-74.
"There is a housing crisis happening in our city. We have to build affordable housing for our community members" – Washington County man, 18 to 29.
"Because I know personally how hard it is finding affordable decent housing. Especially in cities like Portland. It has become impossible to raise a family with just a single income. The cost of living is just too much. I truly believe having more affordable housing would help a lot of people and their families in more ways than one" – Gilliam County woman, 30-44.
Opponents comments included a Marion County man, age 65-74 who said: "This results in increased parking and traffic problems, which are already bad enough at current densities. It is also likely to have impacts on schools, that again are already stressed."Other opposing thoughts included:
"I agree that we desperately need more housing, but I don't agree that it should come down to putting duplexes or apartments in single-family neighborhoods. It's a bummer to see neighborhoods radically changed. It lessens the relaxed and homey feel of some areas. It would increase the foot traffic and vehicles as well"—Lane county woman, 30-44."I"ve seen what overcrowding does in my neighborhood and I wouldn't support it in other neighborhoods. Overcrowded schools and too much traffic" – Lane County woman, 55-64."Don't bring down the value of my home by bringing lower-income housing into my neighborhood. The goal of a neighborhood should not be to cram as many low-income people in there as possible" – Clackamas County man, 30-44.
The city of Woodburn dedicated a webpage for information on middle housing and Oregon's housing density legislation. Visit: www.woodburn-or.gov/dev-planning/page/middle-housing
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