More housing choices win House approval, allowing mixes in Oregon’s single-family zoning

SALEM — Single-family homes have long dominated the housing market in Oregon.

But could a legislative proposal from one of Oregon’s most powerful lawmakers, which took a critical step forward Thursday, change that?

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, presided over the passage of one of her top priorities this year, House Bill 2001. The bill would effectively end single-family home zoning in more than 50 Oregon cities. It passed 43-16 with bipartisan backing, and now goes to the Senate.

If HB 2001 becomes law, by July 2021, cities with more than 10,000 residents will have to allow a duplex on any lot now limited to a single-family house. By July 2022, cities with more than 25,000 residents, as well as cities and counties in the Portland metro area, will have to allow triplexes, quadplexes, townhouses and cottage clusters in single-family residential neighborhoods.

Kotek’s goal is to foster what she calls “missing middle” housing, priced for working- and middle-class households.

“It’s going to be important to have more housing choice and more housing options in all of our community, and limiting new construction in residential areas to only single-family homes is not going to help us prepare for the future and provide more housing,” Kotek said Monday, June 10.

As of the last census, nearly two-thirds of Oregon’s homes were single-family houses, and rising real estate prices have many housing advocates worried about Oregonians being “priced out” of buying a home. Townhouses and condominiums are typically less expensive alternatives to standalone houses.

The bill doesn’t outlaw single-family homes or require existing homes to be torn down or converted into duplexes.

So far, Kotek’s plan has survived criticism from local governments that see it as infringing on their right to plan their own communities. The League of Oregon Cities has been lobbying against it.

“We feel like there’s been a lot of work to address the issues of local government,” Kotek said.

Cities can apply for an extension under the bill, giving them more time to change their land use rules, if needed.

Several Democrats split with Kotek and voted against HB 2001, including Reps. Paul Holvey and Nancy Nathanson of Eugene, whose city officials have been particularly critical of the bill.

“I would really like to see this proposal be more geared toward the arterial streets or closer to bus routes, those sorts of applications, than across all lots throughout a neighborhood,” Holvey said at a committee meeting Tuesday, June 18.

Another Eugene Democrat, Rep. Julie Fahey, spoke in favor of HB 2001 on Thursday.

“I represent the neighborhoods in Eugene that are most impacted by the housing crisis,” Fahey said, adding, “We need more housing, and more affordable housing options, in our community.”

Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, sat on the House committee that assisted in developing the proposal. He praised the bipartisan work that carried it through several rounds of revisions, which led him to sign on as a co-sponsor.

“This isn’t a silver bullet. It won’t fix our affordable housing crisis. But it is a heck of a tool to add these type of homes in our neighborhoods,” Zika said.

Reporter Mark Miller: [email protected]. Miller works for the Oregon Capital Bureau Bureau, a collaboration of EO Media Group, Pamplin Media Group, and Salem Reporter.

SUBSCRIBE TO HELP PRODUCE VITAL REPORTING — For $5 a month, you get breaking news alerts, emailed newsletters and around-the-clock access to our stories. We depend on subscribers to pay for in-depth, accurate news produced by a professional and highly trained staff. Help us grow and get better with your subscription. Sign up HERE.