Splendid Cycles Big Sale

Portland passes historic housing and parking reform policy

Posted by on August 12th, 2020 at 11:50 am

A fourplex in Montreal, often considered the most bike-friendly city in North America.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

How we build housing in our cities is directly linked to whether or not people will bike in them. As we’ve been saying around here for years, proximity is key to a bike-friendly future and housing policy and biking are closely intertwined.

That’s why the package of policies passed by Portland City Council this morning are so monumental.

By a vote of 3-1, Portland approved the Residential Infill Project after five grueling years of process. The Sightline Institute called it, “The most pro-housing reform to low-density zones in US history.”

Veteran BikePortland readers might recall a guest post we published in early 2015 from a local developer who saw the writing on the wall and called for, “Regulatory changes that would support traditional neighborhoods and simultaneously open the door for the creation of market-based affordable housing.”

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A rendering, by Alfred Twu, of the housing options Portland’s residential infill project would legalize. (Created for Sightline Institute.)

The RIP will allow more cottages, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), triplexes, fourplexes and other types of “missing middle” housing on existing residential lots. This will increase supply of housing and offer more — and more affordable — places to live that are closer to where most jobs and destinations are.

The ordinance passed today also includes a mandate to remove on-site parking requirements from more than 60% of Portland’s residential land. It also makes the construction of driveways optional. Currently even if a homeowner is carfree and/or plans to park on the street, city code requires a paved driveway to be built. This not only adds to the cost of the housing it takes up precious square footage that could be used for people instead of cars.

By allowing more types of dense housing in places currently zoned as single-family, RIP also helps us begin to reverse the racist exclusionary zoning laws that have hurt people of color for generations.

At council today, Commissioner Amanda Fritz railed against the RIP project. She repeated “The earth is on fire!” and issued dire warnings about how the construction of more housing on suburban lots far from essential services will increase driving and greenhouse gas emissions. She also expressed concerns that the new policies would enrich developers and hasten gentrification and displacement.

To learn more about RIP and what today’s vote means for Portland, read the statement from housing advocacy group Portland Neighbors Welcome and the excellent explainer from Sightline.org.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Eastsider
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Eastsider

I can’t wait for Amanda Fritz to be gone. Could she possibly be any more clueless?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Someone’s gotta represent the stodgy West Hills boomers.

Momo
Guest
Momo

So glad she’s on her way out! That’s a totally bonkers reaction.

Westsider
Guest
Westsider

Some who advocate for alternative transportation seem to have missed the main point of Amanda Fritz’s speech. Infill minus alternative transportation infrastructure equals more cars. This West Side boomer lives in a neighborhood with few sidewalks, no bike lanes and awful transit service in the City of Portland, and RIP does nothing to improve it. Instead, the Local Transportation Infrastructure Charge (LTIC) amendment to RIP that she noted in her speech today exempted residential infill of six units or less from building required street infrastructure. She said, those who live on gravel streets with no sidewalks will not see improvements built in our lifetime. In my SW Portland neighborhood the developers use LTIC as a much cheaper alternative to building the otherwise required street improvements. RIP pretty much guarantees more infill without infrastructure, and infill without Infrastructure to support the densities now allowed will only encourage more cars, including the proliferation of Uber and Lyft cars in neighborhoods without alternative transportation. The climate is on fire and you can’t zone your way out of increased vehicle miles traveled.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Still a flawed argument. Failure to implement RIP drives this development further out and increases VMT even more. Even without additional funding for transit, increased density absolutely will move people out of cars, because our surface streets have finite capacity. We add enough density, there will literally be nowhere to park the cars, and congestion will be so crippling, that alternatives like transit, cycling, and walking will be more attractive. This is not ideal, but the effect is real.

Fritz has been on the council for a long time. It took a new council member to bring the Rose Lane project forward. If the planet is on fire, why wasn’t Fritz pushing for this years ago? The Rose Lane project, combined with RIP, will increase transit ridership.

The “no-build” because of climate change argument has been thoroughly debunked.
https://la.curbed.com/2017/3/28/15098958/housing-density-climate-change-infill-development

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Good point — why didn’t Fritz do something like the Rose Lanes (which remains largely aspirational) when she was in charge of PBOT?

Westsider
Guest
Westsider

Fritz was never in charge of PBOT. Because of Portland’s Commission form of government, Commissioners rarely interfere with the management of other Commissioners’ bureaus.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Fair enough. It just seems suspicious to me that she only brings up the climate crisis when single-family zoning is threatened.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

If you think that, you haven’t been listening.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

People will bring up the climate crisis when they think it will validate their views, and ignore it when convenient.

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

To quote our former VP, “This is a big f-ing deal”

aboom
Subscriber
aboom

Thanks for the great reporting Jonathan! Do you (or anyone else) know more details on how the parking requirements are being amended? On the Portland Neighbors Welcome page it says removing the requirements for 60% of residential land. Do you know where it will still be in place? Was having trouble combing through the documents haha

maccoinnich
Subscriber

The project removes parking requirements entirely from the lowest density zones. The medium and high density zones still have parking requirements, but only theoretically. Any project that complies with inclusionary zoning, through building units on-site or off-site, has its parking requirements waived. In theory a project that pays the inclusionary housing fee-in-lieu has to provide parking, however there is only example to-date of a project paying in fee-in-lieu rather than building the units. That example is the Block 216 tower (Ritz Carlton) in downtown… which wouldn’t have been required to build parking anyway, because downtown hasn’t had parking requirements for decades.

TL;DR – when this comes into effect it will be possible to build housing anywhere in Portland without parking.

Momo
Guest
Momo

That is really incredible. Does Portland have the least minimum parking requirements in the country? Would be interesting to know if we have those bragging rights.

soren
Guest
soren

RIP effectively expands the old “R1” zone to lots that were previously zoned for single-family housing. Historically, the vast majority of new housing developed on R1 zoned lots was luxury single-family housing (e.g. McMansions). Why would anyone expect RIP re-zoned land to behave any differently from R1? Even worse, RIP includes anti-affordability poison-pill provisions that incentivize McMansion development (e.g. facilitating lot subdivision) and disincentivize multifamily housing (ridiculous limits on multiplex unit size).

I fully expect RIP to have a negligible impact on housing density in close-in Portland while accelerating the replacement of naturally-existing affordable housing in outer-Portland neighborhoods. I also expect that the vast majority of housing developed on RIP re-zoned land will be the same kind of luxury “owned” housing we see being built today (often on land previously occupied by naturally-affordable “plex” or shared rental housing).

Despite categorically disagreeing with Comm Fritz on almost every single social-economic issue, I find myself agreeing with her contention that RIP will “hasten gentrification and displacement”. Like many of the policies championed by upper-income YIMBY’s, it’s no coincidence that RIP is expressly designed to incentivize the expensive homes that upper-income folk find desirable.

PS: I support a transition away from low-density housing as well as upzoning for social housing so please don’t @ me about “density”.

PPS: The Sightline Institute is a private “think-tank” funded, in part, by real-estate developers.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

This isn’t an accurate summary. The Residential Infill Project quite explicitly seeks to prevent new McMansions, by placing a limit of the size of new single family houses that is a lot smaller than what’s allowed today. I don’t see any comparable provision in the old R1 zone.

The project also includes a “Deeper Affordability Bonus” that we’ve never had before in our low density zones. That was an idea that was brought to the city by the same people you’re disparaging.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

“A lot smaller than what’s allowed today” or “a lot smaller than what’s being built today”?

My understanding (perhaps wrong) was that most new R5 construction did not max out the allowable building envelope, and that these improvements are more theoretical than practical.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

It is both.

soren
Guest
soren

“a limit of the size of new single family houses that is a lot smaller than what’s allowed today”

Many of the new McMansions being built today fit within this size limit and those that don’t can simply be built with “unfinished basement or attics” that allows developers to bypass de facto limits. Those limits are a joke, IMO.

“The project also includes a “Deeper Affordability Bonus””

As a long-time proponent of market-rate real estate development you may be unaware that this provision was added at the last minute due to the efforts of tenant advocates. Moreover, I also know that you are well aware that “upzoning for social housing” (see my comment above) is something that I personally have been fighting for for many years as a tenant and tenant organizer.

“That was an idea that was brought to the city by the same people you’re disparaging.”

This is completely inaccurate. The idea was proposed by organizers from the Cully Housing Action Team. In fact, resistance from YIMBY organizers led to the weakening of this stronger anti-displacement proposal.

“…by the same people you’re disparaging”

I’m not disparaging people. I’m disparaging the idea that market-rate housing abundance will address the racism and classism embedded in Portland’s market-rate housing system.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

It’s absolutely true that members of Portland: Neighbors Welcome worked with a number of other organizations on the proposal for the Deeper Affordability Bonus. You can read a long list of them here. It’s also true that those people met with City Commissioners, their staff, and BPS staff numerous times. Members of P:NW worked with nonprofit affordable developers to craft the details of a proposal that would be useful to them. That worked included detailed proforma modelling that was then shown to City Council members. Members of P:NW turned out in force at City Council in support of that amendment, both in January (when it wasn’t even on the table yet) and again this summer.

If you want to ignore all that I guess you can, but you’re not painting an accurate picture here. The claim that there was some stronger anti-displacement policy that was killed by YIMBY organizers is just nonsense.

soren
Guest
soren

The original proposal from anti-displacement organizers would have limited duplexes in order to encourage development of larger plexes. This was dropped due to pushback from YIMBY organizers. There was also reticence from YIMBY organizers when it came to proposals to increase the unit allowance.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Ah, yes, YIMBY organizers, so famous for calling for limits on the ability to build apartments. smdh.

soren
Guest
soren

That’s funny Iain. I distinctly recall your fervent support for opening up Portland to “small” McMansions and luxury condo-duplexes for an earlier iteration of RIP. I opposed this meaningless reform as did many, if not, most tenant organizers.

And, despite, your derision it’s a fact that tenant organizers lobbied for a switch to FAR-based zoning for non-profit housing which would have allowed genuine apartment buildings on larger single family lots. I’m grateful that we got a very low-density non-profit bonus but I’m not at all happy about the many ways in which RIP intentionally preserves much of Portland’s legacy of racist and classist exclusionary zoning.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

I don’t know what idea you have of me in your head, but it’s a very strange one. As an adult I’ve only ever lived in multifamily housing. When RIP was getting started I lived in a small studio apartment. I now live in a one-bedroom. The idea that I would be a champion for McMansions is ridiculous.

It’s true I supported earlier iterations of the project, in that it was better than the existing code. The extent of that early support was to turn up at city council in 2016 and encourage them to legalize triplexes citywide—something that even wasn’t on the table at the time. My testimony explicitly told them to stop regulating the number of families that can live in a residential structure. I’m delighted that in the subsequent years the Planning and Sustainability Commission and the more recent iteration of City Council not only responded to testimony like mine, but went further.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

“Why would anyone expect RIP re-zoned land to behave any differently from R1?”
Because R1 is a tiny portion of the city in the most expensive neighborhoods, while RIP allows denser housing on a vast majority of signle-family zoned property citywide. Right now I watch modest single family homes be torn down to build 4000sf McMansions. Now, they’ll be limited to 2500sf, making that a much less profitable endeavor and therefore less likely to occur. Instead, multi-family will have an economic incentive. I don’t understand how you don’t see that as a win.

soren
Guest
soren

“Because R1 is a tiny portion of the city in the most expensive neighborhoods”

First of all, the R1 zone does not exist any more and I was one of the tenant organizers who participated in the process that led to its upzoning (RM2) and to the creation of a deeper affordability bonus. Secondly R1 was the largest single multi-family zone by area and was more common in less wealthy neighborhoods than in twee inner PDX (e.g. Montavilla and Cully).

“multi-family will have an economic incentive. I don’t understand how you don’t see that as a win.”

As I stated in my original comment, I see “upzoning for social housing” as a win (e.g. the deeper affordability bonus). However, given Portland’s record of racist and classist housing development policy I do not see policies the incentivize low-density market-rate housing as a win

soren
Guest
soren

“making that a much less profitable endeavor ”

Smaller homes sell at higher price per square foot than larger homes so this is very dubious.

RIP also enabled developers to subdivide lots (without review) in order to develop an additional detached single family home. If RIP were intended to encourage multi-family housing it would not have incentivized expensive detached housing (e.g. SFH and ADUs).

PS
Guest
PS

Most new construction is not 4,000 SF in any close in neighborhood, the vast majority is already around 2,500 SF or just over. This will not materially change the landscape for developers, though they may just build the same size house on a split lot. This plan seems to think there is just a ton of people with $100k downpayment burning a hole in their pocket to buy a new 1600 SF quadplex for $500,000 and all the current housing inventory at that price point doesn’t fit their needs even though it is in the same neighborhoods.

People want to act like developers are idiots and driven solely by profit. Some might be idiots, but they also look at certainty of sale and therefore profits. The market might be shallower, but the certainty of selling a $750k single family home is FAR greater than selling a less expensive attached home. Just look around at days on market data for attached homes vs. single family and this story is written for you.

Seller34
Guest
Seller34

While not in downtown, I just sold a less-expensive attached home (part of a duplex). The appraisal was difficult, because there were no comps in the market — like an attached home with 3 bedrooms and a yard is so rare that it’s almost one-of-a-kind among current inventory. It went on the market on a Thursday, and had the first offer, for 5% over asking, in less than 20 minutes. That’s an anecdote, but to say there’s no market for less-expensive attached homes just doesn’t mesh with anything I see in reality.

Joseph E
Guest
Joseph E

Re: “ridiculous limits on multiplex unit size”. What do you mean? Is there a limit on the minimum size or max size of units?

It appears that a 4-6 plex which includes 2 affordable units could have units as large as 1500 square feet – that’s the size of the 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath townhouse which I’m renting here in Cully. While other quadplexes would be limited to 800 square feet per unit, that’s big enough for a four 2-bd townhouses or flats.

I would have preferred to allow 4-plexes up to 5000 square feet for the market-rate buildings, since this would allow more affordable family-sized units even at market prices.

The main limitation seems to be not on unit size but on number: only 6 units are allowed even with below-market units included. The big demand in Portland is for 1 bedroom apartments for singles and couples, and then for studios and 2bd units after that.

If we really want affordability and stop people from being priced out, we need to see a bunch of 10k square foot buildings on 5k square foot lots, with 10 to 20 units each: that’s a 4 storey building on half the lot, with a bunch of 900 square foot 2bd apartments, or 500 square foot studios.

But hopefully if duplexes and quadplexes are legal everywhere, then it will be easier to up-zone some more areas for the smaller apartments too, and fewer people will be forced to share space with roommates or live with family when they would rather have their own place.

soren
Guest
soren

A single family home that is only affordable to an upper income household is allocated up to ~2500 square feet (plus unfinished basement/attic space).

A 4-plex market-rate unit that is only affordable to some middle class households is limited to ~800 square feet.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

How is 2500sqft a “McMansion”? Or did you miss that part?

If I’m a developer working a 5000sqft lot in Laurelhurst. I’m going to tear down the single family house and build two high-end 2500sqft houses. Building a single 2500sqft house would not be profitable.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

The “McMansion” part might have been a slight exaggeration, but I understand the point about gentrification and displacement. I don’t know what would be considered “affordable” housing at this point, especially with new developments. I had to pay nearly $300k three years ago for my little 15 year-old 1100sqft house in north Gresham (we weren’t even the highest bid, just finally found someone that wanted to sell to a veteran). Even sharing a wall, a new 2500sqft house in Laurelhurst has to be around $600k+. I don’t see how that helps lower-income folks in that area.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

It isn’t realistic to expect brand-new single-family homes in a close-in neighborhood to be “affordable”. New, nice things that are in high demand rarely are. This will, however, increase the housing stock, which will reduce pressure and allow for “affordable” housing elsewhere in the city.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

“New, nice things that are in high demand rarely are [affordable]”

I get that, I was speaking to Soren’s point about gentrification and displacement.

“allow for “affordable” housing elsewhere in the city”

soren
Guest
soren

This 2200 sq foot “Renaissance Homes” McMansion and two adjacent 2600 sq foot McMansions were built on a large lot that previously had an 8 household shared-unit rental:

https://www.zillow.com/b/2812-SE-Belmont-St-Portland-OR/45.516244,-122.636652_ll/

RIP specifically incentivizes this kind of redevelopment.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Density as measured in persons per acre often decreases with this sort of development, even as lot coverage increases. Is this actually a win? For developers and upper income buyers, it probably is. For everyone else, maybe not.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

Didn’t they build 4 of those homes on the lot? I’m not at all disputing the broader point that people were displaced by the demolition of the larger single building and the construction of the new homes. But I think we should be accurate.

902, 908, and 914 SE 28th as well as 2812 SE Belmont

That does bring up a point about tracking lost housing. I can get a bunch of info, size, taxes, permits, etc., about current homes on portlandmaps.com but does anyone have similar info on recently (or historic) demolished units?

I do a bit of research about old buildings in Portland and I find the “Historic Plumbing” permits on PortlandMaps.com as well as various Sanborn Insurance maps very helpful. But again, with Portlandmaps I can only find stuff for the current subdivided lots and new structures.

I also wonder if the building that was replaced was originally a huge single family home or purpose built as separate units? I know a bunch of homes were converted to temporary apartments during WWII. Some were converted back but isn’t that the YIMBY argument, that todays mansion will be tomorrows subdivided lower cost student/worker housing?

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Here’s a link to the BDS map of demolitions since 2015. There was previously one house on that entire site, which was nearly 5,000 sq ft in size. You can see it here on the old Google Streetview.

I would have preferred that an apartment building go up on that site, given it’s location right on Belmont, but I don’t think that was allowed by the zoning that was on that site at the time.

soren
Guest
soren

It was a multi-household shared-rental, an SRO effectively. And, yes, this naturally existing affordable housing is exactly the kind of housing that RIP targets.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

It was a single house on a 10,000 sq ft lot on a main street within two miles of downtown. Far from being a typical situation, that’s a pretty unusual situation.

SERider
Guest
SERider

Household size does matter too though. 8 bedrooms in a shared house are really only going to house 8-10 people total. But 4 SFHs could house 4-20 people. So maybe there are less “households” but more residents can be housed in the new development.

Hello, Kitty
Guest
Hello Kitty

Anecdotally, shared housing seems to be more densely populated (people want low rent, and more people = lower rent) than single family housing, which seems to attract professional single people or couples who are motivated by things other than low rent. With minimal yard, this type of housing might not appeal to families with both money and children, further reducing density.

So, theoretically, more houses can house more people, but I’m not sure that’s how things play out in practice.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

RIP specifically incentivizes this kind of redevelopment.

It literally doesn’t. That would be about the maximum size of a house that could be built on a 5,000 sq ft lot. That house is sitting on a 2,262 sq ft, and therefore comes in at an FAR of 1:1—twice the allowance that RIP has in the R5 zone.

So let’s check what could actually be built under RIP. Before those four houses were built that was a 10,000 sq ft lot with one house on it. That site isn’t affected by RIP one way or the other, but assuming RIP were in place, and the site were zoned R5, it could be developed with:

• Two 2,500 sq ft detached houses
• Two 3,500 sq ft duplexes (average unit size of 1,750 sq ft)
• Two 4,000 sq ft triplexes (average unit size of 1,333 sq ft)
• Two 4,000 sq ft fourplexes (average unit size of 1,000 sq ft)
• Two 6,000 sq ft sixplexes (average unit size of 1,000 sq ft)

In no scenario do we wind up with the four ~ 2,200 sq ft houses that were built.

soren
Guest
soren

“Two 6,000 sq ft sixplexes (average unit size of 1,000 sq ft)”

Nice truthiness. RIP does not allow the development of a six-plex on any lot. In fact, if RIP had opened up all of Portland to six-plexes I’d have viewed it a little more charitably.

“In no scenario do we wind up with the four ~ 2,200 sq ft houses that were built.”

This was an R1 lot (see my original comment) and was used as an example of the kind of luxury single family housing that RIP incentivizes via its deregulation of lot subdivision.

Isn’t it odd that prominent YIMBY organizers pushed for a policy that allows larger lots to be subdivided for more luxury single family housing while pretending to favor more affordable rental housing. It’s almost as if the real focus of PDX YIMBY advocacy is to open up Portland to the kind of housing well-off people desire (e.g. $650,000 “small” houses and $500,000 ADUs).

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

As-amended Draft (July 2020) – Volume 2: Zoning Code, Comprehensive Plan, and Title 30 Amendments

33.110.265.F Affordable four-plexes and multi-dwelling structures. “Density. A maximum of six dwelling units are allowed. More than six dwelling units are
prohibited.”

There are restriction based on affordability % of units, but doesn’t this say that up to 6 units could be built?

soren
Guest
soren

This is a restriction on density given that non-profit development represents a tiny fraction of low-density housing production. As I wrote above, I personally lobbied for higher density limits for market-rate housing and for more permissive FAR-based zoning for deeply affordable/non-profit housing.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

I don’t even know where to begin with this. The Residential Infill Project does allow sixplexes, when at least half the units are affordable. That’s the whole point of the Deeper Affordability Bonus that I and others pushed for. In no way does the policy make it easier to divide large lots for luxury housing; it makes it harder.

And yes, I’m aware that the lot was zoned R1, as referenced in the comment that you’re replying to.

soren
Guest
soren

4-plex: allowed on all lots
6-plex: only allowed on lots that pencil in for a non-profit (and few non-profits develop at this density)

Iain, considering that we’ve debated land use policy on social media multiple times and that I was involved in the BHD process that developed the “deeper affordability bonus”, the pretense that I’m not aware of this is in very bad faith.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

Sixplexes are allowed on any lot where fourplexes are allowed. It’s far from bad faith to point that out.

Yes, they have to meet an affordability requirement, which is literally the entire point of the Deeper Affordability Bonus. Are you now arguing that there should be no affordability restriction? Because that seems pretty contradictory to everything you’ve said here so far.

soren
Guest
soren

I support allowing deeply affordable multi-story apartment buildings on any lot of sufficient size (e.g. a much denser FAR-based designation). The idea that much non-profit rental housing will be built at the 4- or 6-plex scale is incredibly dubious. I also support higher density housing for market-rate lots because I don’t expect many 4-plexes to be built based on the history of the R1 and R2 zones. IMO, there was a an opportunity to allow “deeply affordable” apartment buildings on single family zones but this was squandered by the willingness of owned-house-centric advocates to view a few more single family homes/ADUs as a win.

maccoinnich
Subscriber

This morning you called me a liar for saying that sixplexes are allowed; now you seem to be walking that back by saying you just don’t think many will be built.

In any case, where we got started with this was the claim that “RIP specifically incentivizes” the kind of development that Renaissance Homes did at 28th & Belmont. As I explained, it doesn’t. Under the regulations there’s a range outcomes for a similar site, but none of them result in four ~2,200 sq ft houses.

soren
Guest
soren

“you called me a liar for saying that sixplexes are allowed; now you seem to be walking that back by saying you just don’t think many will be built.”

It cracks me up that you think this is a contradiction. As I explained above, I believe that RIP will result in negligible housing production in twee inner PDX AND will target naturally affordable “buildable lots” (largely rental housing) in outlying areas. And it’s not as if I’m the only person to come with these crazy ideas given that the city of Portland’s own displacement analyses came to a similar conclusion:

  • https://www.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2019-12/vol_3_appendix_b_displacement_risk_and_mitigation.pdf
  • “As I explained,”

    RIP legalized flag lot subdivision for the construction of single-family homes (e.g. $700,000 “skinny” homes for the rich). The R1 lot I mentioned above was subdivided for the construction of this same type of housing. As someone who supports far higher levels of density than the typical “YIMBY”, it’s my experience that YIMBY’s will show up in force to support $700,000 skinny housing and $550,000 ADUs but are largely disinterested in zoning reform that would fill their twee inner PDX neighborhoods with rent-controlled non-market housing.

    maccoinnich
    Subscriber

    Soren: you’ve made up an enemy in your head that bears no relation to me, or indeed anyone I’ve been organizing with. I was one of the signatories to a letter saying that the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability should do a remapping exercise to apply more multifamily zoning in close-in affluent areas. I hope that project gets funded an implemented soon. I’ve actively fought efforts to downzone the Alphabet District and halt construction of affordable housing there. Meanwhile I’ve never turned up to support $700,000 skinny houses, nor have I even heard of such an event taking place, let alone it being attended by YIMBYs “in force”.

    RE: 28th and Belmont — the fact that the site was divided so each house sits on its own doesn’t affect the calculation I did above. FAR is a ratio, so if you make the site smaller the buildable area on each site shrinks with it.

    soren
    Guest
    soren

    “to apply more multifamily zoning in close-in affluent areas”

    This is something that we definitely agree on. What we don’t agree on is whether RIP is an aggregate improvement when it comes to reversing Portland’s legacy of housing inequity.
    To reiterate, I believe that RIP will produce insufficient housing in wealthy resource-rich neighborhoods while concentrating development and resulting displacement in some of Portland’s most vulnerable neighborhoods (see the link above).

    “I’ve never turned up to support $700,000 skinny houses.”

    Given that I believe that RIP favors un-affordable skinny houses and ADUs (versus market-rate rental units) we will have to agree to disagree. I will also add that there is absolutely no housing deficit in Portland for people who can afford expensive “owned” housing. After all, the well-off still have many, many empty class A apartments to choose from.

    “FAR is a ratio”

    I only used the R1 lot as an example of the type of market-rate housing that has been traditionally built in RIP-like zones. Which begs the question of why we are recreating failed market-rate land-use policy.

    SERider
    Guest
    SERider

    2200 ft^2 is a “McMansion”? Seems like you’re just calling ANYTHING that’s newly built a “McMansion”.
    That is called a “skinny” house” by most people’s standards.

    Momo
    Guest
    Momo

    A 2,500 square foot house is just a normal house, not a “McMansion”. And that house will be more affordable as a result. So even if someone decides to build a one-unit house, this will be good for affordability. If they decide to build multiple units, even better.

    Joseph E
    Guest
    Joseph E

    That’s a good point. In fact, the US Census reports that the median size of a newly constructed single-family house was 2301 square feet in 2019 – and the mean (average) size is larger (it was over 2600 square feet in 2016: https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/new-us-homes-today-are-1000-square-feet-larger-than-in-1973-and-living-space-per-person-has-nearly-doubled/)

    While many of us in Portland would think that’s a ton of space, people moving here from other parts of the country are going to expect to find 1500 to 3000 square foot houses as the “normal” size for new construction. And if construction costs are kept down to about $100 a square foot (standard in most of the USA), even 2300 square feet can be affordable to a household with average income.

    Hello, Kitty
    Guest
    Hello, Kitty

    Construction costs do NOT determine sales price. Market conditions do.

    drs
    Guest
    drs

    Yes, but the sale price has to exceed the construction cost or no one will ever build anything.

    Hello, Kitty
    Subscriber
    Hello, Kitty

    Well, the expected sales price has to exceed construction costs, but yes. But the old line about parking making housing more expensive is only as true as people’s willingness to pay more to have parking with their housing. It is not connected to the cost of building the parking itself (except, where you note, the cost is higher than the value, which it isn’t in Portland).

    Cheaper construction costs means more developer profit.

    drs
    Guest
    drs

    I think that may be debatable. You have to factor in the space that parking occupies on a site into the cost of building vehicle parking and/or the cost of the structure that houses the parking. There’s definitely an opportunity cost associated with including parking in a development, at the very least.

    A lot of the historic bungalows in inner Portland neighborhoods were built on tiny lots that could not accommodate a driveway or off street parking. If you do tuck under parking, you’re sacrificing building floor area for car storage. Many people choose to park vehicles in driveways or on the street instead of putting them inside purpose built garages. If you aren’t using a garage for the intended purpose of storing a vehicle, the space could be better used as an additional room, or you could just shrink the building to save construction costs.

    Hello, Kitty
    Subscriber
    Hello, Kitty

    The goal of the developer is to make money, so they’re going to set the price at market value, regardless of their cost.

    When you’re talking about a different pool of amenities (more living space vs garage), it complicates the picture, but two equally situated and equivalent structures will be offered at the same price, even if one was much less expensive to build.

    drs
    Guest
    drs

    Sure. Equivalent structures with similar designs and building materials in functionally similar locations should, on average, sell for the same price in a given market ata given time. That price should be dependant on market forces and it should have little to do with the cost of construction or the cost of materials.

    Matt S.
    Guest
    Matt S.

    $100 sq foot when the property is free. Not going to find a parcel of land west of 82nd for less than $300k. So your $230k home now goes for $530.

    soren
    Guest
    soren

    Smaller housing tends to cost more per square foot. In dense urban markets, like Portland, there are also high-levels of price compression for differently-sized “McMansions”. Now that a developer can build two homes on a RIP lot, they are likely to reap far higher profits than building one slightly larger home on R5 (or a 4-plex on a RIP-zone).

    Stephen Keller
    Guest
    Stephen Keller

    2500 sf was a mc-mansion in all of human history bar the last 60 years or so. The problem with new development is that it is built according modern sensebilities of constant growth and improvement. None of which is typically affordable. What we need is a new and reduced sense of what is necessary.

    Joseph E
    Guest
    Joseph E

    How do the ADU limits work? If the existing house is already 2000 square feet, does that mean it’s not possible to add both 800 square foot ADUs, since that would be 3600 square feet (one would have to be only 700 sqft)? Or could you have a 2500 square foot main house and still add 1 or 2 ADUs?

    What if the existing house is already over the new limit? Lot’s of big old houses in Portland are 3500 square feet. Is it not allowed to add an ADU then, unless it’s splitting off the basement or top floor of the exist house? Or would you have to create 2 new units from an existing 3500 square foot house to be allowed?

    I’m curious what sort of work will cause the new limits to be enforced on old buildings which are too large. It seems like one unintended consequence could be to increase the value of houses which are larger than 2500 square feet, if these are no longer possible to build in most of Portland without selling part of it as a separate unit.

    One work-around will be building a single family home which has a finished basement apartment and an attached ADU over the garage or in place of a garage – that could allow you to build a 3500 sqft structure, with flexibility to rent out 2 units, or use them for family or guests.

    Chris
    Guest
    Chris

    It would be nice if they spelled out the affordability requirement. The HUD median income for the Portland metro region is $87,900. I’m assuming the rents for the affordable units would be based on 60% of that, so an income of $52,740.

    casual observer
    Guest
    casual observer

    Be kind, I’m not that informed on the ins and outs of the RIP or the reasoning behind it. I can’t see how this will make living more affordable over time. In the short term maybe, but the cities I picture around the world with high density and great transit, buses and biking are all super expensive, even with 8+ million people. Look at London, Tokyo, New York, Paris, etc. How is Portland not on this same path? If affordability is really the goal, its the sprawled out cities in the south that are better examples of affordable places to live. Look at Houston, Atlanta, and Birmingham. Now they have their own problems for sure, but finding a cheap place to rent or buy is not one of them. Seems like the RIP might help with driving and commute times, but it seems like wishful thinking to believe this will have a long term impact on affordability. What am I missing.

    rick
    Guest
    rick

    check “Houston More Expensive Than New York? Not So Fast” by Planetizen. NYC has far more public transit and access to walkable services than the Houston metro area.

    David Hampsten
    Guest
    David Hampsten

    NYC has also been far bigger than Houston for a very long time – it’s a lot like comparing Portland to San Diego – they’re both large West Coast cities, why not compare them? Aside from both being in the USA, they really have nothing in common.

    Any city you live in has trade-offs. I lived in Portland for 17+ years, I appreciated the book stores, the volcanoes, all the bicycles, etc, plus its affordability when I first moved there in 1997. But by the time I left in 2015, it was no longer affordable for me. I have since moved to a medium-sized city in the Deep South well-known for its mediocrity in government, high poverty rate (over 25% even before the recent downturn), and being numero uno as rated by Waze for being the most car-friendly city in America for cities over 250,000. As an unemployed city planner who never learned to drive, why would I even consider moving out here to Greensboro NC? Well, I can rent an 800 sq ft townhome with a/c d/w w/d 1.5 bath 2 bed for under $800/month; my first $10,000 income is tax-free for both state and feds; and residents here are just so darn friendly! While the public bus service here kinda sucks, I have two trains a day to DC, with local Uber, Bird and Lime service in most local cities. Bike facilities are bad here, but car drivers here are much more friendly and patient with bicyclists, and bike theft involves residents leaving their bikes unlocked on the front lawn for weeks before anyone takes it.

    I do miss the well-informed and well-reasoned public discourse on zoning I’ve seen in the discussions above, far better than the public open houses they have here that no one shows up for, and the total lack of public testimony or debate on housing or transportation issues at city council meetings here (but lots about the latest police brutality cases.) On the other hand, I don’t miss the total lack of meaningful progress on those issues on the ground in Portland, especially in SW and East Portland – Portland is the city that meets (but doesn’t get anywhere beyond great planning…)

    The South does have sprawl, a lot of it, Greensboro is as bad as any. But so do northern cities, including the NYC metro area into NJ, CT, PA, and western Mass. The city of Minneapolis is very progressive, but its metro sprawl is terrible. Ditto with Chicago, Seattle, Pittsburgh, etc etc. Portland wouldn’t be able to have its compact metro without the huge sprawl it has in Clark County WA. Even Vancouver BC has sprawl – in Delta, Burnaby, Surrey, and Abbotsford. European cities have sprawl issues, with bedroom communities in the city outskirts connected by rail to the city, with oversize McMansions (and some real palaces) in the burbs. The reality is that if you are looking for out-of-control sprawl, pretty much every city worldwide has it. We build where land is cheapest and regulations are most lax.

    Chris I
    Guest
    Chris I

    You’re missing transportation costs. Most affordability indexes don’t factor that in.

    Joseph E
    Guest
    Joseph E

    Houston is cheap because there is very little zoning and building codes are simpler. You can get a new townhouse or apartment building approved in just a few weeks.

    Tokyo actually has surprisingly affordable housing, even though it is by far the largest city in the world. Rents for median apartments in desirable central Tokyo neighborhoods are only about twice as high as the median for the whole country, because the high price of land is balanced by high density construction and lots of it. You can get a 2 bedroom apartment in some neighborhoods of Tokyo municipality (not even the suburb) for only $800 a month in 2019: https://blog.gaijinpot.com/how-much-is-the-average-rent-in-tokyo-in-2019/

    Tokyo achieves this by building lots of new apartments and houses every year, with no parking requirements. There are almost no buildings older than the 1950s, and the average apartment was built in the past 20 to 30 years (Japan likes to tear down older buildings rather than remodeling).

    Hello, Kitty
    Guest
    Hello, Kitty

    Each of those two bedrooms is the size of a postage stamp.

    dan
    Guest
    dan

    But Seattle micro-apartments start at $950 for 225 square feet: https://cubixapartments.com/floor-plans/. The Tokyo 2 bedroom is both bigger and cheaper.

    Hello, Kitty
    Guest
    Hello, Kitty

    It’s not surprising that a 2BR would be bigger than a studio. In my friend’s Tokyo studio, she had to fold up her bed to eat breakfast
    (sitting on the floor — no room for chairs), and the shower was right over the toilet. Compared that that, these Seattle apartments are gargantuan (and are much nicer in terms of materials and finishes than most Tokyo apartments I’ve seen).

    That’s mostly to say that the Japanese have a very different standard of living than we do (not necessarily better or worse, just different). The Tokyo strategy for keeping rents low would probably work less well in most American cities. A falling population probably also helps.

    dan
    Guest
    dan

    My comment was about cost per square foot, not your feelings about wet bathrooms or (heavens to Betsy!) sitting on tatami. There are apartments of comparable size to that Seattle pod in Tokyo for less than half the rent: https://tokyoapartment.com/en/rent/view/737307

    The point is that Japan may have something to teach us about policies that keep housing affordable…though the way they approach zoning sucks in my opinion.

    Hello, Kitty
    Subscriber
    Hello, Kitty

    The question might be what do they have to teach us?

    One lesson might be that high-rise buildings filled with tiny apartments which few Americans would accept can be rented cheaply (or not… Hong Kong presents a compelling counter-example).

    Another might be that a declining population can impact prices.

    What are the lessons you would draw?

    Alex Reedin
    Guest
    Alex Reedin

    Tokyo has a rising population. Japan has a falling population. We’ve been over this before and you are still repeating a fact in a misleading way – without mentioning that it is for the entire country rather than the housing market in question.

    Hello, Kitty
    Guest
    Hello Kitty

    You are right; I looked up the population before making my comment, and probably ended up seeing national population. This site (https://worldpopulationreview.com/world-cities/tokyo-population) suggests Tokyo population has grown a tich in the past decade, and is probably peaking this year.

    Alex Reedin
    Guest
    Alex Reedin

    I will note that I noted the truth to you on this exact matter two years ago. Perhaps some introspection on why you didn’t correct your mental version of the world at that point is in order? https://bikeportland.org/2018/05/08/portlands-proposal-to-re-legalize-duplexes-hits-the-planning-commission-tonight-280379

    Slabtownie
    Guest
    Slabtownie

    Supply and demand, this increases the possibility for supply.

    bob steets
    Guest
    bob steets

    Developers live above you, not next to you.
    Maybe you never noticed that, (which would explain alot).

    aboom
    Subscriber
    aboom

    Does anyone know if the bundling of the cost of parking with home prices is still a thing, and if so if this bill addresses that to any extent where parking spaces are still built?

    Middle of the Road Guy
    Guest
    Middle of the Road Guy

    I’m so glad I have a driveway.

    furry
    Guest
    furry

    The RIP is a joke. Still way too spread out and low-density. Try visiting a real city like NYC or Chicago and you’ll see what real “missing middle” neighborhoods look like. Even in neighborhoods zoned for single-dwelling housing, you’ll still see plenty of two and three flats, and large apartment buildings interspersed throughout the neighborhood. The RIP is far too single-family focused (most it allows is four units in a 50 foot wide lot, Thats equivalent to two two-flats on Chicago’s 25’ lots and that’s considered low density here). Portland will never grow up from its exclusionary-by-design spread out environment, even with this half-assed RIP passing.

    Hello, Kitty
    Guest
    Hello, Kitty

    My sense is that most people in Portland don’t want it to be New York or Chicago.

    Chris I
    Guest
    Chris I

    I guess we’ll see what people want in the next few years. I like RIP because it gives property owners more freedom to build what they want.

    Hello, Kitty
    Guest
    Hello Kitty

    If you wanted to know what people wanted, you should ask them — take a survey or hold a vote on the question. The claim that giving developers free hand to build willy-nilly will somehow reveal the true preferences of Portlanders about changing zoning rules is… flawed.

    Alex
    Guest
    Alex

    Are folks who buy (or rent) houses/ADUs/etc with no, or minimal, parking going to be prohibited from registering car(s)? If not, will they be charged a “street storage fee”? What about for existing structures? The RIP is providing a shortsighted and incomplete solution. The assumed transition to reduced automobile usage will not be rapid and the city should address this with economic disincentive (fees) to address the obvious street-parking-mayhem. We see this already with the no-parking apartments that have been permitted in town.

    Hello, Kitty
    Guest
    Hello, Kitty

    I’m not sure people will be returning to transit any time soon. It’s going to take a few years for the psychological toll of covid to wear off. Until it does, I’d bet auto use will go up, especially as downtown offices start to reopen.

    And anyways RIP pretty much abandons the strategy of concentrating density along transit lines, so even without covid, I would expect transit use to fall a bit as RIP housing starts getting built on the larger lots further out.

    I’m really not sure how all this will shake out.

    Chris I
    Guest
    Chris I

    If you own a car and park it on the street, you are part of the problem. Maybe the city should stop giving away free real estate for private property storage?