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Advocate! Tell the city how to change residential infill rules

Posted by on December 18th, 2015 at 1:57 pm

2314-16 se salmon duplex built 1927

Built in 1927, illegal to build today.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Whether you hate demolitions, love garages, yearn to live in a duplex or just think the rent is too damn high, now’s your chance to let the city know.

All this year, the Real Estate Beat has been writing about the ways that Portland could increase the supply of homes in its bikeable areas without totally transforming its understandably beloved residential neighborhoods.

In March, we shared local microdeveloper Eli Spevak’s prescription for affordable infill, which drew praise from neighborhood association organizers. In April, we explored one of those ideas: charging lower development fees for smaller homes. In June, we looked at 11 medium-density buildings built before Portland’s 1959 zoning reform and asked why they should be illegal.

Further back, we compared the growth patterns of 19 different metro areas since 1990 and concluded that the main difference between affordable and expensive metro areas wasn’t so much about whether they built skyscrapers downtown, but whether they allowed other areas to add housing at all.

And of course we’ve written many times about mandatory parking, including the requirement that almost every new single-family house in Portland have enough space for two cars.

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Not all BikePortland readers agree with our general perspective that it’s very important to increase the supply of homes in parts of the city that are currently bikeable, walkable and close to good transit.

But whatever it is that you believe, a city survey out until Jan. 12 wants to know your opinion:

infill survey

This effort was prompted by a wave of concern about changes to Portland neighborhoods as our 10-year housing shortage has developed into a citywide surge in housing prices.

The advisory committee that’s handling the effort includes a variety of perspectives — including that of Spevak, who Mayor Charlie Hales recently appointed to the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission.

“I think there’s potentially a deal to be made where we rein in somewhat the massing of homes in infill locations in exchange for a whole lot more flexibility on what happens inside them,” Spevak said Friday. “I think that’s a potential compromise point that can get us some more affordable housing.”

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Alex Reed
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Alex Reed

Done! Thanks for highlighting this opportunity!

Endo
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Endo

People seem pretty upset about the increase in home prices, and also replacing old homes with new homes. The truth is that both of those things bring more tax revenue to the city, who can the spend that additional money on better bike infrastructure. Is that really a bad thing?

chris
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chris

I’m going to tell them that within the greater downtown area and in inner SE and Northeast, I’d like to see zoning changed to permit high-density mixed-use commercial/residential, with no height limits, setback requirements or parking minimums. That’s not going to happen, of course, but sometimes you have to make extreme requests in order to get medium results.

AMA
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AMA

Ugh. Question 2 is just a list of NIMBY complaints.

Pete
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Pete

I gotta ask, was it built as a duplex in 1927?

dan
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dan

Alex Reed
No, *that* is not a bad thing, but poor people being priced out of the inner parts of the city, and increasingly out of the city period, is a bad thing.Recommended 5

I’m curious, what percentage of their rent would Portlanders be willing to pay in order to subsidize below market rate housing so poor people can stay in the popular neighborhoods? What % additional taxes for home owners?

Dead Salmon
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Dead Salmon

So the poor should be able to stay in popular neighborhoods? Should they also be able to stay in rich neighborhoods and live in mansions?

Is it OK to add fees and taxes to rent and property taxes to the point that some people who worked hard and made good life choices are forced to move out of their apartment or home so that people who made bad life choices can have their apartment or home as subsidized housing? I don’t think so but that is exactly what would occur.

How many bike shops, or other businesses, need higher property taxes? How many college students need higher rents?

Adam
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There should be a rule that no demolition can occur unless it increases density. A good example of this is at 41st and Clinton, where one house on a double lot was demo’d, and the lot split into three. Now there will be three houses where there previously was one.

This can also help with affordability, since smaller houses are usually cheaper. Plus, the developer can make more money selling three houses instead of one, so it benefits the seller, the buyer, and the neighborhood.

SE
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SE

I thot this was a bike blog site ?

Hello, Kitty
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Hello, Kitty

I think the “illegal house” pictured could, in fact, be built in R2.5 (or denser, which is what a lot of inner SE is zoned, not sure about other areas of the city). If so, I think the caption is misleading.

Maybe a better caption would be “illegal to build in certain zones”.

mark
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mark

SE
I thot this was a bike blog site ?Recommended 2

Interesting. I am guessing you are being sarcastic? Just in case not, the two are interconnected. Urban infill equals more walking and biking.

That said, these are all nice..but the reality is..until true infill housing is built, there will be no reduction in housing cost.

Dead Salmon
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Dead Salmon

Wonder how this will affect the cost of rentals? Says it will increase property values. Doesn’t say much about cost of renting.
http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-20/obama-abruptly-waives-1980-foreign-investment-real-property-tax-act

Mark
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Mark

Let’s not kid ourselves here. It’s not as if affordable housing is going to pop up in popular neighborhoods regardless of building codes. That land is perceived as valuable per sqaure foot. Unless the city is willing to pay millions for people to live in these trendy places…it ain’t happening. Even if they tripled the housing in these trendy areas…people would just move in from out of state to take up residence in those areas. Portland and Seattle currently have that cool reputation and they are both cheaper than NYC.

I lived at 39th and glisan for a few years a decade ago for 550 bucks a month. Now that area is far…far more. It was pretty cool before the cool people moved in. We moved out…bought a house. We moved on. Should the city pay for folks to live there?

Build more housing. Lots of it. But…it will only blunt the cost a little bit. The price per square foot will change only a little.

So…as long as Portland is uber cool… The price per square foot will go up. And…portland taxpayers will pay more to.subsidize the coolness they fostered. It isn’t sustainable.

All his adu talk is about enriching owners and investors. I am all for it. Let’s just call it what it is.

mark
Guest
mark

Hello, Kitty
When those new houses are built and on the market, please report back if they fit your definition of “cheaper”. And if they use the same crappy design /shoddy materials that many builders are using, I’m not sure it will be a win for the neighborhood.But we’ll see!Recommended 2

Do you need to use a massive amount of raw material, as older housing did, to accomplish an energy efficient design?

Lenny Anderson
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Lenny Anderson

Welcome to the downside of prosperity and popularity! Lack of affordable housing. Its universal. In ’85 we had considered moving back to my old stomping grounds in San Francisco, Potrero Hill, but already rents were beyond reach, twice what Portland’s turned out to be.

And when we returned to PDX in 1986 at the tail end of the Regan Recession here, there was no lack of one bedroom apartments for rent at little over $300 per month in NW. I had no job, just a CA unemployment claim, but no problem!
A few years later when we decided to buy a house, NW was out of our modest range, so we looked on the eastside and moved “beyond the pale” to SE 46th and Salmon to keep well under our $100K limit. That was ’92.
Now we were on the wave, sold that place four years later for almost twice what we paid for it and bought our place in inner NE. And then things really took off! with barely a pause for the Dot Com Recession or the Bush Great Recession of 2008-9. Of course, we could not afford our place now! True for many folks in the old close in neighborhoods.

OK, get to the point! If you don’t want to be priced out of a successful and attractive place, find something to buy/own, otherwise unless your income is heading up, you will have to move to new, cheaper territory…and in the process help transform that neighborhood into something “cool” with cafes, bike shops, better schools, transit, bikeways, etc.

There is really no stopping this, short of another Great Depression or the collapse of Capitalism!…more or less the same thing. Meanwhile every vacant lot, every parking lot on every transit corridor (and a full block on either side? right?) must be built up asap with as many rental and for sale units as can be squeezed in, mostly with private money that is looking to make a profit. Put SDCs on these units to help fund affordable housing as well as for parks and transportation, and get inclusionary zoning going.

This will be great for transit, for walking, for local retail, for biking, for everyone, in short, but commuters who foolishly insist on driving through from further out. And forget more parking. It adds cost, attracts more cars and is ugly to boot. Let’s celebrate the success of the city! and the coming end of the motor age! but do our best to help everyone join in as much as possible in the celebration.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

Actually the lesson in my tale, is when you are priced out look elsewhere and buy low, get involved and make change (not money!). I helped “gentrify” Potrero Hill in SF and Northwest in PDX, and then finally caught the wave in what was in ’92 “outer SE.” And then there is luck.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Yes, I think R2 or R1 in a good chunk of the eastside combined with parking reform would have large benefits for the City:
*Housing affordability.
*More customers able to support more commercial nodes, meaning more grocery stores, banks, medical offices, and other essential services could be supported, meaning people could bike/walk/transit to their daily needs more easily, meaning people would be healthier and happier.
*More frequent transit, and a few more lines, would be supported by ridership.
*I also suspect that the additional services the residents would require would cost less than the additional tax revenue the residents would bring in. This because the infrastructure to serve them is largely built out. This would help city finances.

dan
Guest
dan

Alex Reed
I agree that it’s politically unlikely – single-family homeowners are a formidable political force because we are numerous, on average wealthier than the average Portlander, and pretty much every politician tends to be a single-family homeowner too.But – I think “40-story complexes” in what is now single-family areas is not necessary, in fact given that the tallest building currently standing in Portland’s downtown is 41 stories, I’d call it extreme hyperbole. Simply allowing two-to-three-story garden apartments, courtyard apartments, rowhomes, plexes, etc. in what are now single-family areas would drive down prices tremendously.Recommended 0

Can you cite any data that would back up your claim that “homeowners… on average (are) wealthier than the average Portlander”? I’d be curious to see how that breaks down.

Dead Salmon
Guest
Dead Salmon

One of the drivers of high rents is the fallout from the housing bubble: millions were forced to foreclose on their homes. The had to rent. Now, the lending standards are higher, their credit is still trashed, and there are millions of additional young people just getting to be old enough to rent. Lots of demand for rentals, plus limited supply of rentals, equals high prices.