The future of Portland housing depends on biking, and vice versa

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The bikeways in Montreal inspire people to give cycling a try; but it’s their proximity to ample and affordable residential housing that seals the deal.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

When BikePortland reported last week that the city may slash its goal for increasing biking, the eighth paragraph contained a twist.

The obstacle to advancing our city to 25 percent of trips by bike by 2030 wasn’t actually the biking, city staff said. It was real estate.

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Biking and walking advocates testify at inclusionary housing hearing

(Photos: City of Portland)
(Photos: City of Portland)

The first hearing for the City of Portland’s Inclusionary Housing Zoning Code Project took place at city council today and biking and walking advocates showed up to support the proposal and urge council to pass it.

As we’ve reported for years now, there’s a clear intersection between affordable housing policy and cycling: The most bike-friendly neighborhoods are also the ones where we’ve seen tremendous market pressure exerted — and many of them are now unaffordable to many low and even middle-income Portlanders. And according to the National Household Travel Survey, low-income households drive much less than those with high-incomes.

One way to make neighborhoods more affordable is to require developers to build affordable housing units in their new buildings. Otherwise they’ll sell the units at whatever price the market can bear — and that happens to be a lot of money in Portland’s red-hot housing market. The result is a sort of forced migration of people with lower incomes into neighborhoods further away from the city center.

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As state law passes, the fight for affordable proximity moves to City Hall


A rally last fall to better protect Portland tenants from displacement.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

After years of fighting, a “grand bargain” on affordable housing passed Oregon’s legislature this week. But it won’t begin shaping Portland’s bikeable neighborhoods until after the city council takes action of its own.

Representatives for Mayor Charlie Hales and his council colleague, Housing Commissioner Dan Saltzman, say that plans to do so are already underway.

Any city plan seems certain to include some level of “inclusionary zoning,” a measure that could require that up to 20 percent of units in some new buildings be sold and/or rented at discount prices to people who make less than 80 percent of the median income. (As of 2015, that 80 percent figure means that a family of three that makes less than $52,950 would qualify for the reduced-rate units.)

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Big shift in Salem: Realtors and some builders are open to housing price controls

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Milano apartments grand opening-1

Inclusionary zoning would let cities turn the voluntary agreements that have made the Pearl District relatively income-diverse into mandatory rules.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Oregon just got some powerful new voices in support of ending the state’s unusual ban on a type of zoning designed to preserve income-diverse neighborhoods.

It’s a development that could slowly add up to a significant number of new apartments and condos in bikeable, walkable parts of Portland being set aside for lower or middle-income people.

The news was reported late Wednesday by The Oregonian, whose reporter Denis Theriault covered a state Senate hearing in Salem about “inclusionary zoning,” as the policy is known.

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Democrats in state Senate join Republicans to kill neighborhood income diversity bill

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
se division pedicab

Though the bill would have affected only condos and other owner-occupied homes, some rallied around it as a seemingly achievable way to preserve income diversity in bike-friendly areas like Southeast Division Street.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A bill that would have let Oregon cities require some condominiums in some new housing projects to be sold for below-market prices reportedly died in the state Senate on Wednesday.

One leading advocate for inclusionary zoning, as such policies are known, said late Wednesday that Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Southeast Portland) had “opted against a final caucus on the bill, claiming that the votes aren’t there.”

“We believe otherwise,” added the advocate, Jonathan Ostar of Portland-based OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, in an email to supporters of House Bill 2564. “It’s beyond frustrating that the caucus won’t get to discuss this last amendment.”

The bill’s backers include the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Upstream Public Health and other groups looking for ways to keep Portland’s decade-long housing shortage from making it impossible for most people to afford homes in Portland’s bikeable, walkable neighborhoods.

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Oregon House likely to pass bill to preserve income-diverse neighborhoods

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
SE Division street scene - photo by Michael Andersen

SE Division Street: rapid infill but rapid price hikes.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Oregon seems to be nearing a series of party-line votes that would remove its statewide ban on inclusionary zoning.

IZ, as it’s sometimes known, is a type of zoning used in many U.S. cities that requires developers in certain areas to offer some housing units at below-market prices, usually to people with middle or low incomes.

House Bill 2564 is scheduled to hit the state House floor today, personally carried by House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-North Portland). After a party-line committee vote last week, a leading backer predicted Monday that the bill will pass the state House on another party-line vote, with every Democrat in favor and every Republican opposed.

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Guest post: A progressive Portland developer’s plan for an affordable infill policy

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Greenwood Avenue Cottages (Ross Chapin).
(Photos courtesy Eli Spevak)

This is a guest post by Eli Spevak of Orange Splot. Spevak, who the Portland Mercury once described as “the coolest condo developer ever,” develops small, often freestanding homes in single-family neighborhoods with a goal of increasing the city’s supply of housing that’s both affordable and environmentally low-impact.

Neighbors bemoan the demolition of older homes and the scale of new ones – and worry for the character of their neighborhoods.

Demographers see the trend toward more and smaller households – and wonder where they’ll be able to find enough right-sized and affordable homes.

Planners recognize that we can’t rely only on high density centers and corridors to accommodate all expected new residents; neighborhoods will need to play a role too.

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Housing and transportation advocates plan to pack hearing for affordability bill

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
SE Division street scene - photo by Michael Andersen

SE Division Street has a frequent bus, two parallel neighborhood greenways and many shops within walking distance — but prices in the area are so high that many residents own cars anyway.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

Oregon’s 20-year ban on a common affordable-housing policy could be headed for the dustbin, based on what happens after a hearing in Salem next Monday.

The policy, known as inclusionary zoning, would allow city governments to require that new buildings within certain areas include certain ratios of lower-rent housing units. Backers call it a useful tool for preventing desirable parts of town from becoming homogeneously wealthy.

Inclusionary zoning is entirely banned in two U.S. states: Oregon and Texas. House Bill 2564 would remove Oregon’s ban.

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Q&A: Can inclusionary zoning keep low-car neighborhoods diverse?

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Vivian Satterfield of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon and Justin Buri of Housing Land Advocates, two leaders in Oregon’s campaign for inclusionary zoning.
(Photos by M.Andersen)

First, Northwest 23rd. Then Southeast Hawthorne. Then Northeast Alberta. Then North Williams.

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One after another, Portland’s formerly affordable neighborhoods have seen the rising appeal of low-car life drive their mortgages and rents sky-high, at least by local standards. But what’s to be done?

Vivian Satterfield and Justin Buri say they’ve got a city-level policy suggestion that can help. Their main problem is that in Oregon, it’s banned by state law.

I sat down this month with the pair – Satterfield is associate director for OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Buri is a board member for Housing Land Advocates, and both get around largely by bicycle – to talk about a concept, inclusionary zoning, that might require all developers within certain areas to include lower-priced, income-restricted units in their new buildings.

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