One of the most important bills we’ve been tracking this legislative session is hanging in the balance.
House Bill 2001 would allow “missing middle” housing (a.k.a. multi-family dwellings) in places currently zoned for only single-family housing. It would have a vast impact on cycling because it would enable more people to live in closer proximity to jobs and other destinations — making a trip by bike more feasible.
According to advocates who support the bill, the time is now to press legislators to move the bill forward. Below is a message from southeast Portland resident Doug Klotz:
This is the crucial time to make your voice heard in Salem in support of House Bill 2001, Speaker Kotek’s bill to legalize duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes statewide. It would require cities overt 10,000 to allow duplexes everywhere in single-family zones, and triplexes and fourplexes somewhere in those zones as well.
Most Democrats [who hold a super-majority] wants to do the right thing, lift the ban on missing-middle housing and make affordable housing possible in every neighborhood. But they need to know, right now, that you’ve got their back on this. Can you take four minutes to find your state legislators here — you’ve got one senator, one rep — and ask them to support HB2001?
Those in Southeast Portland and Milwaukie should know that our Senator is Kathleen Taylor (503-986-1721), who is on the fence about it. You could also call Representative Rob Nosse (503-986-1442). I don’t know his position on it. If you’re in other districts, look up your legislator here.
Votes are being counted right now. There’s a hearing Tuesday and it could go either way. It won’t go to the floor unless there are enough votes counted among the members, even those who are not on the committee. Your call could make the difference.
For more information on this bill re-read our past coverage in the related posts below and check out PortlandForEveryone.org/hb2001.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
Never miss a story. Sign-up for the daily BP Headlines email.
BikePortland needs your support.
If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.
Today: push for density
Tomorrow: complain about congestion
Next day: complain about cost of living
Sorry, I left out the tax increases. Not sure how I could have forgotten those.
On the fourth day we can wonder how our neighborhoods lost their economic diversity.
Three days ago: bulldoze neighborhoods, build state roads and freeways.
Two days ago: restrict density.
Yesterday: complain about traffic congestion.
Tomorrow: wonder about how neighborhoods were lost, especially the economically diverse ones, as we furthered our climate disaster in exchange for quaint R5 single-homes and ample parking.
Adding more people is not the obvious recipe for reducing congestion.
The only way to reduce congestion is by getting rid of people. I don’t want to live in a dying city.
Getting rid of people, i.e., poor people, may become a reality. Some GOP politicians on the national level are proposing rounding up the homeless poor, put them in “sanctuaries”, and let attrition work its wonders. A solution for Portland? Stay tuned.
And how does the solution from the left help? Unfettered “immigration”, flooding the sanctuary cities, with people who drain our coffers of services and money. We aren’t taking care of our current homeless issue and yet we add to the number. Housing isn’t affordable so let’s add more taxes to property owners to pay for more programs, where the money doesn’t go where it is supposed to go. And government getting into the business of housing development and doing what government does, producing a less than optimal product at inflated prices. Of course let’s not forget stacking on regulations whereby the small landlord gives up, sells up and removes units from the rental market.
Bad governing is the problem and it comes from those who govern regardless of party.
Oh come on…let’s just do more of the same and hope for the best.
Yes more of the same like over regulation and rent control. It hasn’t worked in the past so why would it work now. This isn’t some new pixie dust that’s going to fix the problem. It’s repeating the same old government overreach that has made housing in New York, San Francisco out of reach for all but the well healed.
Adding more people is not an obvious solution for anything.
It is the primary cause of a litany of problems. Yet, finding anyone who sees growth as anything but a positive is near-impossible, especially within government.
Enough people are here.
The quality of life in Portland is eroding fast enough.
I cannot imagine how bad things are going to get when the gazillion apartment buildings under construction and near finished are filled up.
21 Ave Northeast is becoming a transportation nightmare now with zero planning for the hundreds of new residents between Broadway and Sandy now.
Just one of many formerly ridable corridors that is now just a dangerous urban tunnel.
Sorry, close the door.
Funny, I wasn’t aware that Portland had suddenly become the densest place on earth? What does “enough people” mean other than “more people than I want to live around”?
And these people are not coming here with bicycles either. Look at any of these new buildings and see what a congested parking nightmare the surrounding neighborhoods have become. The city in conjunction with greedy developers have unleashed hell.
Close the door? How? Please elaborate.
Plenty of cities have made low growth a priority for quality of life.
Santa Barbara, CA closed the door 30 years ago.
Why do the people of Portland need to lower our quality of life so people can move here?
Give me some good reasons….
You haven’t explained what you mean by “close the door.”
I won’t let your “decreased quality of life” assumption stand unchallenged – there are plenty of cities much denser than Portland with what many people think is great quality of life, such as Paris, Madrid, and (rent aside), San Francisco. It’s clearly a judgment call depending one’s priorities, and depending on how development in a city occurs, etc.
But, regardless of whether there actually *is* a quality of life reduction due to density for the average person (presuming the average person previously living in 2019 Portland can still afford it in the non-dense 2029 scenario), a good reason not to go the Santa Barbara route is that the resulting rent kicks out the poor.
Average apartment rent, Santa Barbara: $2,025
Average apartment rent, Portland: $1,458 (and apartments are slightly larger on average too.)
Oh, and Paris and Madrid have average rents of $1,500 and $1,100 respectively.
Rents are rising at a much faster pace here than in Santa Barbara… we will have the same housing costs with a much crappier standard of living in a few years.
Comparing present day developing American cities with Paris, etc, is pretty disingenuous don’t you think?
Unless you think the current pathetic boxes that are being built on every vacant lot here looks exotic Euro locales…
We have less density, I agree and you can get around easier in Madrid, Paris, SF than you can here.
Apple and oranges, we have no planning, just developers running roughshod over our tiny pathetic city commission…
There’s more at play here than housing availability. It would seem inconceivable that, say, Omaha would be able to get these rents no matter how much supply was constrained. In order to charge high rents, people need to be willing to pay them, which usually means demand is super high and rents will be high no matter what because you just can’t provide infinite supply to meet an (effectively) infinite demand.
Close the door? Seriously? That’s not an option. Anywhere. Ever.
Yes of course, it is the obligation of Portland residents to provide low cost housing
to anyone who wants to move here…
As a progressive, left-leaning Portlander, I know I’m supposed to be in favor of this “middle-housing” idea. But I’ve thought long and hard about it, and I’ve decided I’m against it.
This idea basically takes away your right to live in a neighborhood with single-family houses on single lots, which has proven to be, since the end of WW2, the overwhelmingly popular choice for Americans. The “middle housing ” idea says that if you like your house on your lot, now your neighbor gets to sell his lot to a developer, who will put up 4-5 units (houses, grannies, ADUs, etc) on it, making your life miserable.
The middle-housing idea hasn’t been tried anywhere else. So why is Portland (and Oregon) so desperate to go first? What makes much more sense is to build densely along arterial streets, for people who want more density, and leave less density away from the arterial streets, for people who want less density. That’s a model that has proven effective in every other American city. What Portland is trying to do is build crappy suburbs, like the really dense ones being built in California and other land-poor places. People move out of them as soon as they can afford to.
You can have true density, which is indeed good for cycling and transit. But Portland wants something in between, which will not really help cycling or transit.
Actually the middle housing idea has been tried, it was the way things worked in Portland until the missing middle was made illegal by zoning laws. The missing middle isn’t the experiment, forcing SFH in most residential neighborhoods is. Also this bill doesn’t require 4-plexes to be allowed everywhere in single family zoning, only that it be allowed in some places, it is highly unlikely that portland will move to a 4 plexes on every r5-r10 lot by right if this bill passes.
“This idea basically takes away your right to live in a neighborhood with single-family houses on single lots, which has proven to be, since the end of WW2, the overwhelmingly popular choice for Americans. ”
Those houses were the overwhelmingly popular choice for *middle class, white* Americans, who were the only ones who could afford — and in many cases were allowed — to live in them. And it’s not a “right.” Just because you think this is the norm doesn’t mean it’s normal. Suburban neighborhoods full of single family houses on single lots were the explicit product of white flight and freeway building that decimated American cities, including Portland, and ushered in an era of even more segregated communities and toxic car dependency, which are filling our air with pollution and killing us all.
My in-town neighborhood looks to be filled with single family homes on single lots, but it seems many (most?) houses in the neighborhood were duplexes at some point (some never converted back). My neighborhood had twice as many residents in the 1940s and 1950s. The current popularity of building legal and illegal ADUs and similar housing suggests people want more density, to house aging family members or guests or to rent out to maximize their income.
Michael Anderson has done quite a bit of writing on this topic. What this bill does is legalizes things that used to be legal. It’s making legal the way we used to build communities. Here’s some of what Michael has written: https://www.sightline.org/2019/01/10/oregon-missing-middle-homes-hb-2001/
I’d disagree with the idea that you can be progressive and left-leaning and not want to support higher density. Undoubtedly if you are willing to pay enough or drive enough for it, you’ll still be able to find mostly segregated neighborhoods with single family homes on large lot (Lake Oswego welcomes you!). But also… I think this bill probably does less than you are fearing. It’s greatly needed.
The idea that townhouses, duplexes, and small plexes serve as State Goal 10 “needed” housing is a complete fiction. Limiting residential zones to expensive low-density adu/plex condos is just replacing one form of economic segregation for another. And, despite claims to the contrary, there is absolutely no shortage of housing for folk who can afford a $500,000 plex/adu condo:
Moreover, the idea that this zoning reform will generate much new housing is dubious. A significant fraction of Portland’s low-density zoned lots (R1, R2, and R2.5) already allow plexes but have seen little plex development and an awful lot of single family home development. In fact, existing naturally afforable rental plexes in these zoned areas are increasingly redeveloped into single family housing. The proposed upzoning does nothing to change the “free market” dynamic than makes single family/owned homes profitable and rental plexes undesirable.
As someone who has organized around opening up Portland to dense affordable rental housing for many years, I view Portland’s proposed residential zoning reforms as a step backwards. Although these reforms technically allow 3 and 4-plexes they restrict the size of these units in a draconian fashion while still allowing 2000-2300 sq foot mini-mansions on many lots. And, even worse, these zoning reforms incentivize development of single family homes by making it easier to subdivide larger lots.
I continue to find it interesting that you and I approach this issue from such different perspectives, yet we’ve both arrived at the same conclusion about the flaws in addressing the structural problems in our housing system by using rezoning as the primary tool, and for largely similar reasons.
All of my immediate neighbors have built ADUs in their older houses. It is an awesome alternative to demolition and results in cheaper mortgages for the owners and cheaper rent for the ADU renters.
The revenue streams of the developers have had undue influence on policy. There is no way that tearing down and rebuilding all of the vintage housing stock financially benefits anyone but the developers.
It obviously benefits the people buying the rebuilt houses. Or are you going to argue that they are just burning money?
My neighbors have built ADUs and continued to own and live in their houses.
“Market”-based housing production created our chronic affordability crisis. The idea that doing “a little”* more of the same will trickle down – erm — filter down onto working class folk is laissez-faire economic kool-aid.
*The city’s own estimates of new housing production suggest that this kind of upzoning-lite will produce a trivial amount of new housing: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/article/711707.
Your comment sums up why I maintain friendships with conservative and liberal friends alike. I enjoy learning about their reasoning process and how they arrive at their conclusions. Generally, neither side is wrong – that is to say they can be consistent in their application of their values and the conclusion is a logical endpoint for their process. It makes sense within their framework and contexts applied.
Is there anything in the “free market” arena that you would support? Because, honestly, getting state funding for public housing at the necessary scale feels like unachievable right now.
What about something like, “All cities above X population must rezone at least 10% of what is currently single-family zoned land area to allow the construction of low-rise apartment buildings. This 10% must occur entirely in areas that have median income above the citywide median income. At least half of the 10% must be at least 200′ from arterial roads.” With some kind of value-windfall tax that I really can’t dream up specifics for now.
Massively expanding the land area available for privately-built true multifamily seems like it would be a win, even if it’s still capitalism?
* Meaningful limitations on the size of new house construction (good for affordability, climate, etc.)
* Limitations on short-term rentals (i.e. put all those small units back into the long-term rental pool)
* Allowing internal duplex conversion in all zones (not a new idea, but, I believe, an uncontroversial one)
* Measures to support and incentivize group living (not sure what these might look like, but someone else might)
* Specific targets for production of affordable housing that can flow through to developers (10% of all new units must be affordable across a developer’s entire portfolio, much like CAFE standards for fuel efficiency work)
* Support for true car-free apartments in exchange (where occupants can’t own a car) — that would limit rents due to inconvenience factor, and might actually stimulate use of other modes of transport (though possibly just Uber, not sure)
* Incentives to reuse existing structures rather than demolish them — this might lead to smaller/more creative use of space, possibly limiting price, good for climate, etc.
Some of these might not withstand scrutiny, but some certainly would. Feel free to add your own.
I support all of those, but unfortunately my rough guess is that they would only result in housing 1% more people in Portland in 2029 vs. the alternative, and maybe a 5% reduction in rent compared to the alternative (I’m guessing demand for housing is relatively inelastic). That seems entirely too small for the scale of the problem 🙁
I don’t think the goal should be “reduced rent”, but rather a increase in low cost units. You may be right that there is no good market based solution that will fix the problem.
The R1 multifamily zone has produced very little new housing even though plexes are allowed on these lots. Why would a hypothetical RIP zone that incentivizes small detached homes while disincentivizing triplexes and 4-plexes produce more housing than R1?
It might not — that depends on whether people would prefer to live in a detached house or a multiplex. If you are interested in increasing rental opportunity at the lower end of the income spectrum, neither option is going to help much. But to the extent that either policy incentivizes destruction of existing housing stock, they will hurt.
I’m not sure the white flight analogy works in Portland right now. The last report I saw showed a decline in diversity in inner Portland in the last ten years.
“I’d disagree with the idea that you can be progressive and left-leaning and not want to support higher density. ”
It’s unfortunate that Portland progressivism equals authoritarianism. Free thought not allowed.
We currently live in the aberrant and experimental housing situation promoting a lifestyle that is destructive to our climate. What’s more, your “right to live in a neighborhood with single-family houses on single lots” destroys others’ rights to live without owing a car.
The ironic thing is that what YIMBY-minded folk are calling missing middle is missing the vast majority of the middle. Many are enthusiastically supporting the “right” of developers to build small houses, detached ADUs (basically a small houses), duplexes (most often condos), and attached row houses (typically high-income owned units) while being conspicuously silent on opening up Portland to larger plexes, garden apartments, cottage apartments, and small apartment buildings.
I just called my legislator. Thanks for keeping your readers posted on missing middle housing developments.
Agreed – except that if my neighbors sell, the plot isn’t large enough for an apartment building, but it is for a plex house. (And that plex house will undoubtedly be taller than anything in the neighborhood, blotting out light and privacy.) So I’m not sure there really is a choice to made in most cases between the two.
I’m a neighbor for more neighbors.
Guess what housing choice means?
– More options for people with different needs. About 28% of households are one person, and another 35% are two people. Lots of older people live alone and don’t want the old one-size-fits-all approach that’s not affordable. More middle housing almost always means more rentals, which are more an option for people with different incomes and wealth levels.
– More walkable neighborhoods. Neighborhood businesses require certain numbers of people to live near by to thrive. More neighbors = more places (coffee shops, restaurants, bars, grocery stores, etc.) to walk to and create community
– More local friends. As the social fabric frays, there’s nothing like talking to your neighbors to build a sense of happiness and get basic human needs met.
– Less pollution. If you care about the climate crisis, you’ve gotta love housing choices.
It is highly unlikely that new duplexes that will offer rents that will attract a demographically diverse group of residents. This bill will likely increase the amount of housing in neighborhoods (which is good for the reasons you list), at the cost of hastening the exit of lower income folks from attractive neighborhoods (which is not so good).
Maybe there’s a way to increase density with fewer side effects?
I’d bet is unlikely more smaller units won’t keep rents and the costs of ownership relatively lower over the long term simply because “preserving” neighborhoods where the vast majority of the housing is in exclusive single family homes will only serve the top end of the market in the long run. Of course we need other tools to lower housing costs and prevent the affects of passive real estate investors capturing unearned income and driving up land costs (e.g. a land value tax) but all things being equal allowing more duplexes, triplexes, and quads will keep housing costs lower.
Actually, I’d bet on lower housing costs over the long term even with out all other things not being exactly equal. If we apply all those other tools and design elements to create an affordable community we’ll be that farther ahead in making sure everyone has an affordable community and place to live.
I do agree that R1-style housing will be cheaper than a similarly situated and apportioned single family house because most people see it as an inferior choice, and will be willing to pay less for it.
However, comparing a new plex unit with an existing house is more complex — with the house you get the “superior” housing type, but that may come with the cramped kitchen and smaller living space and backlog of deferred maintenance, all of which makes newer construction more attractive.
So R1 housing may be cheaper, but compared to what?
What is the intended product this bill is supposed to produce?
Actual multifamily zoning (which this bill certainly is not promoting) produces apartments, which provide a dense housing product that is economically managed, reduces per unit land costs and can be affordably constructed. Duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes are not multifamily housing, they are very expensive to manage, still have relatively high land costs per unit and do not cost much less to build per unit than single family, therefore the rental rates are higher than similarly sized apartments and this price disparity limits the pool of investors which makes sales of these more difficult.
If the intent is for folks to buy these units, that route is even more fraught with problems. Triplexes and fourplexes are essentially condominiums and/or townhouses, built new, they will not only have market property tax rates (i.e. very high in Portland), but for the protection of the buyer, they should have an HOA and the resulting HOA dues. Of course HOA dues go toward maintenance and usually some utilities, but it is also counted toward the mortgage payment you can afford, since you can’t opt out of paying the dues. This dramatically reduces the affordability of a new condo relative to an older single family home.
I see the likely outcome in being the development of additional for-purchase duplexes. They sell like single family homes, though at a slight discount to single family homes and short of the shared wall, provide many of the benefits of a single family home (small yard, garage, natural light, etc.). Further, they do not have an HOA and associated dues and can also be constructed easily on a typical mid-block 5,000 sf lot unlike triplexes and fourplexes.
Tldr; the real goal of this legislation is to have more new development of any kind as a way for the counties to have additional property at market tax rates, not artificial measure 5 rates. As detailed above, there are market forces outside of simplistic supply/demand that make the reduction in prices difficult.
“The real goal of this legislation is to have more new development of any kind as a way for the counties to have additional property at market tax rates, not artificial measure 5 rates.”
How do you know this? I hear this sort of speculative claim all the time but never with any evidence to suggest the counties or cities are actually so sophisticated in their plotting to use zoning to increase tax revenue. I have never heard a public official even speculate that zoning policy will increase property tax revenue. I think this conspiracy theory is a total myth.
But more importantly, even if it were true, why would it be a bad thing? Cities and Counties do need more revenue to deal with the mounting social and environmental problems the federal government has washed its hands of. State and local governments have been saddled with a host of new burdens resulting from the federal government’s divestment in the social safety net and policies that have let self-enriching Wall Street investors commodify housing to the detriment of the most vulnerable. The federal government is also hamstringing local communities by preempting a host of policy and revenue tools that force them to compete with each other in the global race to the bottom. Local communities have been left to their own devices by these federal policies that mostly serve the well-to-do, including many of those now complaining about making single family zoning a little less exclusive.
The changes from HB2001 won’t be as big in the near term as opponents or and perhaps some proponents suggest. But HB2001 is an important, modest step in providing, over the longterm, more housing choices and the opportunities for smaller more affordable units in mixed income neighborhoods. It will also help ensure all communities share in the burden and the benefits of growth.
Wow Jim, I am a conspiracy theorist, but you think this change in zoning will produce housing that is more affordable than what is currently available today?
Not not trying to create a false dichotomy, but I’d rather have a developer build a big duplex or triplex next door than a McMansion. Ultimately the same impact on my “privacy” and “views”, but I would likely prefer the new neighbors a duplex brings.
I live in Sellwood and we have been dealing with redevelopment of small house into big houses for a long time. It feels inevitable because the small houses that were originally built in the neighbor simply do not satisfy the desires of modern higher income people moving into the neighborhood. I can complain all I want, but that won’t change this decade-old trend.
Therefore, I’d rather at least give the developers an opportunity to make a choice; one big single family house or a multifamily house that may be worth more.
Why not disincentivize demolitions and limit the size of new construction in order to slow the loss of smaller houses? Or allow a second small house be built on a lot if the existing house is preserved? There’s lots of ways to help preserve smaller (i.e. more affordable) houses rather than just tearing them down.
I agree that there are lots of ways that we can improve housing regulations to encourage the type of development we want. Like I said, I don’t want to create a false dichotomy. I think all of your suggestions should be considered along with this “missing middle” bill. I am merely speaking on my own experience in sellwood where small houses are routinely torn down and replaced with big houses mostly due to the economic forces and real estate market at play in the area. In my non-expert opinion, those issues can’t easily be changed, but I think this bill at least gives more choices.
I don’t know why I would say that. Perhaps it is the ineffable whims of my subconscious combined with my actual experience with the passive aggressive neighbors who built a giant house behind me that makes me prefer the hypothetical new neighbors of a duplex. I certainly have architectural tastes that lean away from the house in your link, but I can’t control what other people build. Interestingly, the house next door to the house in your link (the green one) is of a design that is copied 4 times in two blocks of my neighborhood. While it is a “craftsman” design that fits more with the neighborhood, it is still very big. I find it marginally more tasteful than your example.
“I would likely prefer the new neighbors a duplex brings.”
Why do you say that? What is it about the people who live in this duplex (both sold for more than a million dollars) that you prefer over a single house? https://bit.ly/2wLkfrU
Currently these cubes are only allowed on corners, but under the so-called “housing choice” bill they will be permitted pretty much everywhere.
I don’t really care where the new duplexes are built. But, let’s all be very clear that these duplexes are solely being marketed to the wealthy.
Virtually all of these high-end “duplex” condos are being built on R1 and R2 zoned lots. Existing R1 and R2 zones are very similar to HB2001’s proposed market-based upzoning and give a good snapshot of the kind of housing this bill will encourage. IMO, HB2001 is intended to discourage future affordability-based zoning and to reward the real-estate interests that donate so much money to Democratic legislators in Oregon.
R1 and R2 lots already allow developers to build duplexes and triplexes but these lots have largely been used to build McMansions. Given that HB 2001 and the proposed residential infill reforms seek to create similar zoned lots why would these lots suddenly see different types of housing after many decades of high-end owned housing production on R1 and R2?
The endeavor is premised on the idea that there is a high demand for what amounts to single family housing with a wall shared with a neighbor. I am not sure this is true.
here’s the testimony i submitted. Feel free to crib any of it you’d like. I’ll also say to the bikeportland audience that duplexes/triplexes/fourplexes mean more population density, which makes biking all the more alluring; it’s easier to get our mode share up when a larger percentage of portlanders live within a 2-4 mile (instead of 4-8) mile commute.
My name is Aaron Brown, and I am a tenant living in the St Johns neighborhood of North Portland. I’m writing you to voice my loud support for Speaker Kotek’s House Bill 2001, which would legalize “missing middle” housing across the state of Oregon.
As a millennial, I spend an enormous amount of time deeply frustrated with the impacts our local housing shortage and our global climate crisis. I can’t begin to articulate the enormous exhaustion I and my peers face trying to find places to rent, let alone scrapping together enough money for a down payment. I fully acknowledge I’m one of the few lucky ones that will be able to count on the assistance of intergenerational wealth when I get around to finally attempting to buy a house. Many Oregonians, especially those systemically disenfranchised due to decades of racist housing policies, will not be able to count on that assistance, and that will directly influence who my neighbors will be, whether we work to eradicate systemic segregation of our neighborhoods and schools, and whether the pathway to middle class stability that homeownership provides is afforded to a larger or smaller number of Oregonians.
I similarly can’t begin to articulate the anxiety, the sleepless nights that come from recognizing we have eleven years to stave off the worst dystopian impacts of climate change. The fires, floods, droughts, and storms are only going to get worse – the existential crisis facing young Oregonians at the moment means I have honest, grim conversations with my friends about whether or not its moral to consider having children. Nothing short of using policy mechanisms to fundamentally reshape our communities to deeply decarbonize our daily way of life is needed at this moment, and anything that perpetuates the status quo is nothing short of intergenerational theft.
House Bill 2001 is the excellent sort of legislation that addresses each of these two interlinked problems. By instituting policy levers to demand municipalities allow the construction of denser housing in our urban cores, we are encouraging the development of a larger supply of housing in neighborhoods where Oregonians can walk, bike, and take transit. on transportation alone, the per capital energy usage in these dense neighborhoods are significantly reduced, to say nothing of reduced energy costs due to the inherent energy conservation from attached units. 40% of Oregon’s carbon emissions come from transportation – shaping our existing communities to house more Oregonians in walkable, dense neighborhoods connected by robust transit is crucial, and it brings a myriad of public health benefits through cleaner air and increased physical activity.
These are also the neighborhoods into which a larger share of Oregonians are wishing to move. By increasing the number of units built in these desirable walkable neighborhoods, we are making more homes available for a larger number of Oregonians. These walkable neighborhoods are great for senior citizens who can no longer drive, individuals who can’t afford an automobile, starter homes for new families, and anyone else who is otherwise unable to afford the escalating housing costs not only in the Portland region but across the state.
I ask that you please support House Bill 2001 (and Speaker Kotek, as a constituent, thank you for your leadership on this bill!) and move this out to a vote. My generation simply cannot wait for action on climate and for action on housing affordability. HB 2001 represents an opportunity to tackle both problems with one policy mechanism, and I ask that it move forward this legislative session. Thank you so much for your time.
First of all, there is increasing evidence that the market-based upzoning encouraged by HB2001 reduces affordability by increasing land value — even prior to development! IMO, the idea that we should rely on “the market” to fix the affordability crisis (it helped create) is just as short-sighted as relying on “the market” to address the climate crisis.
Secondly, there is increasing evidence that the kind of high-end “owned” housing incentivized by HB2001 is likely to worsen green house gas emissions.
Honest question, should these sort of up-zoning bills be paired up with a progressive Land Value Tax? Would that help address these issues you mention?
A land value tax would definitely be one way to address possible speculative gains from upzoning. In a similar, vein a windfall profit tax that would limit speculative gains would also address this issue.
And apart from taxation, regulation that incentivizes rental housing production — and especially affordable rental housing production — would also help.
If the idea is to have less housing built, but have those houses be more expensive, that’s a legit plan.
Not sure I follow. The current property tax system taxes land+ improvements but limits re-assessments to 3% annually. It effectively creates a disincentive to improve the property (as an example, building an ADU.) Further, if the value of the underlying land increases (via a state-wide upzoning or by a new transit amenity built nearby) the tax bill is (effectively) unchanged. It creates a (fairly arbitrary) system of winners and losers which ends up being an incubator for speculative interests.
Nothing is ever so cut/dry, but it feels like tying tax rates to land value rather than improved value would stimulate higher density land uses? Land value goes up? Might want to try and squeeze more yield out of the 1/3 acre of land. At a minimum, a land value tax would remove a barrier to improving the property.
Anyway, I’m not exactly an expert on this, just pondering it.
Did you read the Freemark paper that you linked to?
This is an excellent letter, and contains three fundamental premises:
1. Rezoning will lead to lower cost housing (and increased diversity).
2. Building more new R1-style housing will represent a notable decrease in CO2 emissions compared to leaving existing housing stock intact.
3. More R1-style housing will decrease auto/Uber/taxi use.
I am not sure that any of these are generally true (though all may be true in some cases).
All of these seem to be testable hypotheses (we could examine who is moving into new plex units and how much they cost; we could conduct a lifecycle and operational analysis of new construction and compare it to existing buildings; we can compare travel habits of people in different parts of the city with different housing mixes).
According to the Bureau of the Census, residential building starts with 2 to 4 units comprise only about 3 percent of building starts. Single-family dwellings account for about 2/3 of the new building starts; buildings with 5 or more units about 1/3 of new building starts. It varies a bit in different parts of the country.
Regardless of whether this particular bill passes, duplexes and tri-plexes are probably not going to have much effect on the housing market; they are not very popular.
One of the problems with building a duplex or tri-plex involves the financing. I’m not sure of all the complications, but if you are going to occupy one side as the owner, the other side is a rental, which means at least part of the project doesn’t qualify for an owner-occupied mortgage. That may be a tough issue.
Also, the only part of a duplex project that costs less is the land cost. All other elements, (e.g. building fees, systems development charges, building materials and labor) will be pretty much the same as for a single-family dwelling of the same size.
By the way, when I first moved to Oregon, I lived in a complex of about 80 duplexes.
This bill (or the concept of allowing duplexes everywhere) is not a magic solution.
No one is claiming this is a magic solution.
But opponents need to choose one reality:
(1) No one wants this stuff! So this bill will do little or nothing (so why care?)
(2) Huge numbers of people want this stuff that is outlawed and therefore it will get built everywhere and “ruin” exclusionary neighborhoods.
Perhaps instead of a bill that caters to upper-income folk who want a few more townhomes and “small houses” built in twee inner Portland, we could demand reforms that genuinely address our chronic lack of working-class housing by incentivizing rental housing.
I agree we need to encourage rental housing with a variety of tools. Unfortunately, actions taken at the state level (rent control) and city level (landlord-paid relocation fees and restricting a landlord’s screening criteria) move us in exactly the opposite direction. Small time landlords are definitely exiting the market.
I think its quite likely that a few landlords who are unwilling to be held accountable will sell to landlords who are willing to be subject to minimal regulation (e.g. limiting annual rent increases to 10-12% and not being able to evict on a whim).
Even if a higher percentage of small-time landlords than big-time landlords naturally show mercy and compassion to their tenants, I’d still much rather have the *highest* percentage: 100% of tenants covered by sensible, compassionate regulation. This gives more vulnerable people protection. And, it makes that protection way stronger and dependable than relying on one’s landlord’s good will – what if the formerly compassionate small-time landlord dies, or sells, or gets stressed & decides to take care of #1 first?
If regulations mean more concentration of rental property wealth in the hands of large landlords, I’m OK with that negative consequence in order to give all renters more protection. Policymaking requires tradeoffs, and this one seems like a pretty easy one to me.
I too favor increased renter protections, but am also aware that these measures often have unintended side effects on both the quality and quantity of rental property available.
No kidding. Owning a rental is now so much more exposure to risk than a small landlord could financially weather.
Conversely, there were so many tenant abuses in the last few years too. The backlash to these abuses is going to cause a ton of hurt to the rental market in coming years, though.
Experience suggests that (1) is closer to the reality, but those aren’t the only two options. A third is that not many people want R1 housing, so developers use this as an opportunity to replace small houses with two larger, more expensive, more consumptive single family houses. Would that be a win?
There’s this interesting thing that happens in the debate over housing choices.
Kind of naturally (it’s the easiest thing mentally) people look singularly the property that might change. “This [nice, old, affordable] house got torn down and replaced by two [expensive, ugly, big] houses.”
But that’s really incomplete.
What’s happening is the market is gaining more houses overall, and there are impacts on houses that aren’t on the subject lot.
So, yes, it is generally a gain when one house gets replaced with two. Because what happens with the two is that means another family who isn’t competing for another house. Sightline did a video about it using the analogy of musical chairs. Adding new housing stock means you have more chairs, and aren’t left falling to the ground.
In housing economics, it’s called filtering (that is, newer housing stock gradually ages and becomes more affordable to others ‘filtering.’)
If it’s easier to think about, imagine a dating pool. Ten people, and you get second pick. A new most fabulous person enters the room, and you don’t get to date that person. But you now get to get to date your former first pick.
Despite the cute “youtube” video from the developer-funded “think tank”, there really isn’t much evidence that free-market “trickle-down” economics will address Portland’s chronic affordable housing crisis. In fact, one of the largest studies of the impact of supply on housing cost found that increased market rate housing was associated with higher housing costs over the medium-term and never decreased housing costs over the long-term in high-demand urban areas (e.g. Portland).
So why is it that “trickle down” filtering is a quasi-religious belief among a certain class of “progressive”. IMO, it all comes down to socioeconomic self-interest. College-educated mostly-white people with higher-income (or higher-income potential) want Portland to build more of the housing they can see themselves living in.
That study you cite notes new housing production reduces displacement. I encourage people to read the study.
Decent summary of the research here:
But please share your solutions. More supply is part of the solution, not all of it.
And yes, the musical chairs analogy is oversimplified. But even if you add more people it’s helpful to add more chairs.
First of all, the report I cited was a direct response to free-market Joe (and others’) propagandist interpretation of Berkeley IGS data. Moreover, the authors were crystal clear in their recommendations:
Secondly, and I repeat, the authors of that study were very clear in pointing out that they found little evidence of “filtering” in high-demand urban areas.
In fact, as my citations above suggest there is increasing evidence that market-rate upzoning increases housing costs for low-income folk.
You know who I am and you know that I have been fighting for more multifamily housing for many years. In fact, one of my chief criticisms of HB2001 and PSC RIP is that both continue to favor attached or detached low-density housing.
Unlike many “progressive” YIMBYs, I’m not willing to call million dollar “duplexes” a win. I believe we should disincentivize all low-density housing (including “small” homes, detached ADUs, row houses, and condo duplexes) and focus on building State Goal 10 needed multifamily housing via a variety of mechanism (both regulatory and direct).
I think that’s a distortion of what the authors said.
Here’s from the authors:
“This research brief adds to the discussion by providing a nuanced analysis of the relationship between housing production, affordability, and displacement in the San Francisco Bay Area, finding that:
• At the regional level, both market-rate and subsidized housing reduce displacement pressures, but subsidized housing has over double the impact of market-rate units.
• Market-rate production is associated with higher housing cost burden for low-income households, but lower median rents in subsequent decades.
• At the local, block group level in San Francisco, neither market-rate nor subsidized housing production has the protective power they do at the regional scale, likely due to the extreme mismatch between demand and supply.
Although more detailed analysis is needed to clarify the complex relationship between development, affordability, and displacement at the local scale, this research implies the
importance of not only increasing production of subsidized and market-rate housing in California’s coastal communities, but also investing in the preservation of housing affordability and stabilizing vulnerable communities.”
The filtering conversation is much more nuanced and complicated… They write:
“the pace at which units filter down to lower-income households for the Bay Area’s rental
market is estimated at roughly 1.5% per year. Yet, Rosenthal finds that rents decline by only 0.3% per year, indicating that units become occupied by lower-income households at a faster rate than rents are falling, which could result in heightened housing cost burden. Furthermore, if we were to assume that developers are building housing for people at the median income, then it would take approximately 15 years before those units filtered down to people at 80% of the median income and closer to 50 years for households earning 50% of the median income. Again, however, this does not mean that such units are actually affordable to the low-income households occupying them.”
So one could argue lots of things given that data. I’m inclined to note incomes have not risen quickly enough (in part because of the decline of organized labor) to match the rents, and that there has been insufficient supply, holding rents artificially high.
These are definitely complex issues with lots of variables; having looked at the research I remain convinced boosting housing choices is good for the community.
Joining me in support: The Housing Alliance, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, the President of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Sunrise Movement PDX, Habitat for Humanity, Oregon Law Center, Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service, and many others.
First of all, I stated explicitly that the least evidence for filtering was in high-demand areas. (Although the effects were very small elsewhere too.)
I hope you can agree that Portland is the epitome of a high-demand urban areas.
With all due respect, that’s obfuscation. Let me respond by highlighting the argument in the last sentence of your excerpt:
“Again, however, this does not mean that such units are actually affordable to the low-income households occupying them.”
Portland does not have an “upper-middle-class” housing crisis — it has a chronic and continuing low-income household housing crisis. I’m unapologetic about my criticism of HB 2001 and RIP for not being sufficiently inclusive of rental housing — and especially low-income rental housing.
And please do watch the testimony from yesterday’s hearing, which showed much more diversity racially and economically from proponents than opponents (or BikePortland readers).
Fair points, but in your analogies the musical chairs game should include new players being added to the game every single round (and new players who often have more money than the players in the previous round).
Portland is definitely not a static population right now.
To be frank, I think many YIMBYs do view more expensive single family homes as a positive.
For example, when I decried the tear-down of a massive multi-tenant shared home:
And its replacement by McMansions:
I was shocked at how many of my YIMBY friends viewed this phenomenon as a positive.
In buying a multifamily property to occupy as your residence, the bank will count ~80% of the expected rent from the other units in their calculation of the cost to income. So it largely pencils out.
On the other hand, that’s not the case for an ADU. In purchasing a house with an ADU, you’re on the hook to show your normal (non-rental) income can cover the full monthly payment. That ADU will probably add around 100k to the purchase price, so it’s very tough to finance.
As to land cost. Yes, that is pretty much the only difference. That’s a very big difference.
Forget economics. We aren’t experts, and it seems even the experts are often wrong.
Instead, I’d urge everyone to view this through the lens of economic segregation. The question is: Should neighborhoods be composed of families from roughly the same income group, or should they include families from widely varying income groups? If the former, why? And what actions should be taken to make sure poor neighborhoods/schools don’t get left behind?
If you believe, like me, that economic diversity is a good thing, what actions should we take to promote it? I’m open to any and all suggestions, but I have trouble believing anything will work until we have significant variations in lot sizes and unit square footage. Remember, we’re not talking about opening up Laurelhurst to the lowest income bracket. That’s just not going to happen. We’re talking about opening up Laurelhurst to a middle class family that values location more than lot size. This takes pressure of FoPo, giving a lower middle class family a shot at moving into that neighborhood.
As a side note, we should also support this bill from a simple aesthetics and livability standpoint. Your average neighborhood in Beaverton is nowhere near dense enough to support a neighborhood coffee shop. With this bill, though, maybe someday they could!
To anyone who remains unconvinced, I invite you to come visit me in the hellhole known as NW Portland. Fourplexes, duplexes, charming old mansions, 3-story brick buildings full of studios, brand new glass boxes, we have it all, all jumbled together in a monument to chaos and anarchy. And it’s beautiful. That’s why I support this bill.
“Your average neighborhood in Beaverton is nowhere near dense enough to support a neighborhood coffee shop.”
“As a side note, we should also support this bill from a simple aesthetics and livability standpoint.”
“And it’s beautiful.”
Gentrification is not beautiful. It has an ugly history in Portland.
There is no surer way to guarantee current renters will be priced out of their neighborhood than failing to build new housing in that neighborhood. Is that not self-evident? The laws of supply and demand aren’t perfect, granted. There are transaction costs, general bureaucracy, all kinds of friction, etc. But you’re arguing that the market is so warped the laws are working backwards. That’s the equivalent of arguing that an obstacle placed in a river will cause the water to flow uphill.
It is not self evident. There are several housing markets overlayed on one another, and the one most in need of additional supply is the one that is the least attractive to build for because why build for the bottom when you could make tons more money building for the top? No one is going to build a 4-plex for folks at 50% MFI in Eastmoreland, or, really, anywhere, regardless of the zoning. It’s not a zoning problem, it’s a money problem.
The thing is that in Eastmoreland, Laurelhurst, Irvington, etc how many people who live there are below median income? The average home value in Eastmoreland is 732k, which calculates at $3300 in PITI and probably similar or more in rent……………..
It could be worse. Many US cities are leveling abandoned homes wholesale as their tax bases diminish along with population. Supplying potable water to taps is a challenge for more municipalities than you might reasonably expect in 2019. Debating how to best manage growing pains is a real privilege.
If I paid for and lived in a single dwelling house I’d be pushed if a trashy duplex was added.
A lot of privileged white people on this thread seem to be fighting against more sense housing. With big words and concepts no less. Hmmm…sound familiar?
Indeed. It sounds like the privileged white people arguing for their preferred housing types.