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: 387485

Reported Deaths: 5116
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah59768836
Washington41571393
Marion39592504
Clackamas32426376
Lane29856354
Jackson24672350
Deschutes23182185
Umatilla15087180
Linn14488178
Douglas13236286
Josephine10057240
Yamhill9665142
Klamath8979145
Polk813698
Benton605137
Malheur591586
Coos5573106
Columbia423855
Jefferson416865
Lincoln357252
Union336854
Crook330156
Wasco314846
Clatsop258335
Baker217531
Tillamook214345
Hood River211337
Morrow197025
Curry190136
Harney119332
Grant108314
Lake104016
Wallowa74713
Sherman1903
Gilliam1844
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5060048

Reported Deaths: 74129
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles152429427102
San Diego4047084319
Riverside3849455306
San Bernardino3718825944
Orange3329505675
Sacramento1674002423
Kern1565171781
Fresno1558992246
Santa Clara1511691922
Alameda1246581500
San Joaquin1070001833
Ventura1036461188
Contra Costa1032921045
Stanislaus912991413
Tulare856141082
San Francisco56614669
San Mateo56058629
Monterey52340625
Solano47422356
Santa Barbara47035548
Merced44807664
Sonoma42912412
Placer41881468
Imperial38128769
Kings35038358
San Luis Obispo31294358
Madera26005311
Shasta25917440
Butte25295309
Santa Cruz22028222
Yolo21451257
Marin18342248
El Dorado18166161
Sutter14494181
Napa13372104
Yuba1070088
Tehama10230129
Humboldt10043117
Nevada9914103
Mendocino848894
Lassen792355
San Benito775977
Tuolumne767790
Lake6990110
Amador573766
Siskiyou470954
Glenn455136
Calaveras435685
Del Norte371242
Colusa323519
Inyo254345
Plumas19127
Mono18294
Mariposa156718
Trinity98817
Modoc7475
Unassigned2430
Sierra2170
Alpine1060
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