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More affordable housing options encouraged under Oregon bill

Oregon hopes to build its way out of its housing crisis under first-in-the-nation state legislation signed by Gov. Kate Brown Thursday meant to encourage local cities to construct denser, more affordable housing options.

Posted: Aug 8, 2019 4:14 PM
Updated: Aug 8, 2019 4:24 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon hopes to build its way out of its housing crisis under first-in-the-nation state legislation signed by Gov. Kate Brown Thursday meant to encourage local cities to construct denser, more affordable housing options.

Housing bills signed on Thursday:

  • SB 5512 - Budget for Oregon Housing and Community Services Department.
  • HB 2001 - Allows for increased density in traditionally single-family neighborhoods.
  • HB 2003 - Directive for state agencies to assess housing needs and production strategies.
  • HB 2006 - Resources for low-income families and survivors or domestic/sexual violence to find housing.

The law targets a century-old practice known as "exclusionary single family zoning," where local city governments only allow for the construction of single family home. The zoning often prohibits multi-family residences including duplexes, triplexes and others that are often more inexpensive. Critics say the practice has acted as a form of economic and racial segregation.

"If a community is filled with only large and expensive homes, that often restricts who can move there," said Robert Silverman, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Buffalo. "Couple that with the other historical barriers that have prevented minorities from homeownership and this all works to perpetuate segregation in communities."

Under the new law, cities with more than 10,000 residents must now allow for the construction of some type of what's known as "missing middle housing," or housing types that are somewhere between high-rise apartments and single family homes.

The move comes months after the governor signed the nation's first rent control law, limiting rent increases to about 10% annually.

"States across the country should pay attention to what Oregon is doing on housing," said David Morely, a senior research associate with the American Planning Association. "Oregon has taken incredible first steps in addressing its housing crisis."

It's estimated that nearly 2.8 million people live in cities affected by the law, which was inspired by a Minneapolis city ordinance.

A lack of affordable housing is part of the reason behind soaring rents, experts suggest. From 2000-2016, Oregon produced only 89 houses for every 100 families, according to state data. The period following the Great Recession saw some of the lowest growth, with only 63 units produced for every 100 households from 2010-2016.

Thousands of people have poured into the state for jobs and in some cases, for a lower cost of living.

One in three renters pays more than 50% of their income on rent. That's far higher than the Congressional-set definition of housing affordability, which suggests setting aside 30% toward housing costs.

Across the United States, over 11 million people spent put more than half their income toward rent in 2016, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University.

Damian Syrnyk, a regional planner in the fast-growing city of Bend, praised the Oregon bill for addressing housing affordability in a way that still allows for local control. But he cautioned that there's nothing in the law requiring new construction.

"The amount of impact this law has is entirely dependent on developers," he said. "I have no idea how many people will come in to submit permits to build new types of housing, or if housing developers will even want to build more affordable units."

Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, the Portland Democrat behind the bill, acknowledged its limitations but said affordable housing developers, including Habitat for Humanity, have listed zoning restrictions as a major barrier to planned development.

"This bill alone won't guarantee that we'll meet our housing supply goals," she told lawmakers on the floor last month. "However, every single home makes a difference to someone and relieves pressure in tight housing markets."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 156287

Reported Deaths: 2252
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah31935542
Washington21311212
Marion18541285
Clackamas13426183
Lane10325129
Jackson8489114
Umatilla767882
Deschutes597561
Yamhill379168
Linn360157
Malheur335358
Polk307343
Klamath279855
Douglas252755
Josephine236553
Benton234817
Jefferson196628
Coos152420
Union129519
Columbia127421
Wasco122126
Lincoln113620
Hood River106929
Morrow104914
Clatsop7776
Crook77618
Baker6639
Curry4296
Tillamook4212
Lake3786
Harney2776
Grant2251
Wallowa1425
Gilliam541
Sherman530
Wheeler221
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3582320

Reported Deaths: 53083
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles119601721676
Riverside2904983849
San Bernardino2870552959
Orange2617983966
San Diego2613533342
Santa Clara1110761798
Kern103756915
Fresno957851451
Sacramento937901498
Alameda809501271
Ventura77952870
San Joaquin671231150
Contra Costa62931695
Stanislaus56433953
Tulare48114768
Monterey42335329
San Mateo39148521
San Francisco34387422
Santa Barbara32147420
Solano30216165
Merced29264407
Sonoma28261301
Imperial26926638
Kings22091220
Placer19911232
San Luis Obispo19751238
Madera15523214
Santa Cruz14736183
Marin13285198
Yolo12867185
Shasta11054179
Butte11007167
El Dorado9195100
Napa908072
Sutter889998
Yuba577638
San Benito577061
Lassen562324
Tehama510452
Nevada398874
Tuolumne396659
Mendocino382643
Amador347441
Humboldt323033
Lake316941
Glenn223223
Colusa214013
Calaveras191849
Siskiyou178414
Inyo132137
Mono12144
Del Norte10085
Plumas6536
Modoc4604
Mariposa3957
Trinity3735
Sierra1000
Alpine820
Unassigned00
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