West Linn to adopt middle housing code amendments June 13
At its meeting June 13, the West Linn City Council is set to adopt code amendments to comply with Oregon's House Bill 2001, also known as the "housing choices bill."
Like several other jurisdictions in the area, West Linn plans to adopt amendments that go slightly beyond the minimum requirements of the law to further incentivize the development of middle housing.
The Oregon Legislature passed HB 2001, along with a separate bill that required cities to examine housing needs, in 2019 to address the state's housing crisis.
HB2001 will require cities to allow middle housing like townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and cottage clusters in areas currently zoned for only single-family detached homes, which currently make up 70% of West Linn.
After two years of research and hearing from community members, the council received two separate recommended code amendment packages from the planning commission and a council-appointed working group that focused solely on middle housing code changes.
The recommendations are similar, though the working group recommendation allows slightly more flexibility to homebuilders than the commission's proposal.
In areas currently zoned R-10 and R-7 (allows single-family detached homes), the working group recommended increasing the maximum floor-to-area ratio from the current standard of 40% to 60% for duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes. The planning commission recommended increasing the floor-to-area ratio to 55% for duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in R-10 and R-7 zones.
The planning commission also recommended a maximum floor-to-area ratio of 60% while keeping a building's lot coverage maximum at 40% for middle housing types in R-5 and R-4.5 zones (currently allows single-family homes and duplexes).
The working group recommended no maximum floor-to-area ratio or lot coverage requirements for middle housing types in these zones. A floor-to-area ratio divides the total land area of the lot by the total habitable space of the home.
West Linn Planning Manager Darren Wyss explained to the council that there was not a large difference between the two proposals, but that the working group wanted to allow slightly bigger units and more flexibility for developers.
"Providing the additional flexibility to build a little bigger unit would help promote construction of plexes in some of these areas," Wyss said.
Both groups also recommended allowing detached duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in all zones and instituting no floor-to-area ratio or lot coverage maximums in R-3 and R-2.1 zones (currently allows single-family, duplexes and mult-family housing).
Sue Garner and Alex Dupey, consultants who were hired to work with West Linn and several other cities on HB 2001 compliance, told the council that the proposals are similar to code packages recently adopted or to be adopted by surrounding cities like Tualatin and Gladstone.
"The city of West Linn is pretty much on track with what other cities nearby and of similar sizes are doing," Garner said. "I think we did go a bit further in adjusting those FARs (floor-to-area ratio) … providing the opportunity for middle housing in smaller lots."
Only a handful of cities, like Tigard, Milwuakie and Hillsboro, are going even further to encourage more middle housing, Dupey said.
Mayor Jules Walters said that, the code amendments adopted next week no longer fit the city's needs 20 years down the road, a future council could make more amendments.
Wyss added that the state now requires cities to complete housing analyses every nine years, so the city would reexamine its housing needs in 2029.
According to the most recent analysis, the city is projected to need 1,000 more housing units, 20% of which should be middle housing, in the next 20 years.
According to Wyss, only 28 duplexes and no other middle or multi-family housing types have been built in West Linn in the past 10 years.
"There is adequate land available to meet 'middle-housing' need, but the construction of these housing types has not occurred recently," an information packet provided to the council stated.
The deadline to adopt the code amendments is June 30.
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