Housing key to making West Linn more inclusive
Though a relatively new resident in West Linn, I have lived here long enough to notice something that concerns me. I chose to live here due to the closeness of the natural environment, walking trails, parks and the river. Retired, I had the income to at least be able to purchase a condominium. I soon observed a lack of a "mixed population," racially and income-wise. I joined a group with the same concerns, The West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community (WLA), which has goals similar to mine: to help make West Linn a city where all people are welcome, a community of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Recently, WLA hosted a meeting with a member of the West Linn City Planning Department. The presenter was thorough in her representation of the city's recent progress for considering new code changes following action at the state level (HB2001), but the planning emphasis is on smaller homes as opposed to more entry-level housing such as duplexes, and apartments. This neglects the goal of HB2001, to provide Oregonians with housing choices more people can afford.
There is a legislative history behind HB2001. A 2019 Oregon Legislature bill expanded the ability of property owners to build certain traditional housing types, like duplexes, in residential zones. Sadly, these housing types were outlawed for decades in many neighborhoods, for specific reasons, often racially based, thus, eliminating ethnically and racially diverse neighborhoods. Increased housing costs and fewer choices for people with lowe incomes does not produce an "inclusive community." There are people who work in West Linn who cannot afford to live here.
The solution is two-fold: one, residents of West Linn need to voice concern to the City Planning Commission and express their desire to have a more inclusive community by allowing the building of more entry-level housing choices, and two, builders and developers need to be more sensitive to these needs creating dwellings individuals and families with lower incomes can afford. In the end, we will all benefit with a more equitable and diverse community.
Sher Davidson is a resident of West Linn.
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