Oregon Governor Brown signed House Bill 2001 into law on August 8, 2019. While many local, state and national news articles have falsely sensationalized that this bill bans single-family zoning, this bill actually provides cities throughout Oregon (not just Portland) with more housing flexibility because it legalizes missing middle housing. As the below diagram shows, missing middle housing is a residential typology spanning the range of densities between single-family detached homes and mid-rise to high-rise apartment buildings. Missing middle housing types were common in the US through the first half of the 20th century but have largely disappeared from development over the past 70 years.
Unfortunately, House Bill 2001 does not require cities to prioritize dense housing near transit, biking, and walking corridors. Due to this, I was hoping Senate Bill 10 would also pass because it would have legalized more dense housing near transit corridors and removed mandatory parking minimums within a half-mile of rail and frequent bus service statewide. The below map shows where zoning would have been impacted in the Portland region.
While I am disappointed that this bill did not pass, my friend, Michael Andersen, reported in this Sightline Institute article that House Bill 2001 is the “first law of its kind in the United States or Canada”. Since cities like Minneapolis have legalized missing middle housing, it is important to note that Oregon is the first state to legalize it statewide in “all cities with more than 10,000 residents and all urban lots in the Portland metro area.”
Cities Need to Prioritize Missing Middle Housing in Transit, Biking, and Walking Corridors
While House Bill 2001 does not require cities to prioritize dense housing near transit, biking, and walking corridors, advocates like myself are working with cities to amend land-use regulations and the comprehensive plan to prioritize dense housing near transit, biking, and walking corridors. I had a meeting yesterday with Laura Terway, who is Community Development Director for the City of Oregon City, to discuss where the City needs to prioritize dense housing in Oregon City. We reviewed the below zoning map. I only took a screenshot of the legend because the map was not legible until zooming in. We found plenty of single-family housing near TriMet’s frequent bus service. We plan to review whether to upzone this single-family housing to transit-oriented development (TOD). House Bill 2001 requires the City to allow missing middle housing in most areas that are currently zoned for single-family housing, but the Oregon Legislature decided to allow local jurisdictions to decide where and how to design the missing middle housing. Since we want the public to be educated about their housing and transportation choices, I shared this 2015 missing middle housing report that a PSU Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) team created for the City of Tacoma, WA.
I am a transportation planner and specialized in transportation planning at PSU, so I am out of my comfort zone advocating for housing and land-use changes. Since I consider myself a lifelong learner, I am excited to learn more about land-use planning and zoning through my new advocacy work.
Potential Political and Public Resistance to Missing Middle Housing
I am aware that I likely have a minority viewpoint in Oregon City. While most of my Portland friends are YIMBYs (Yes In My Back Yard), I have met few YIMBYs in Oregon City. I believe most Oregon City residents are NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard). Even though HB 2001 requires Oregon City to allow missing middle housing, it does not require Oregon City to amend land-use regulations and the comprehensive plan to prioritize dense housing near transit, biking, and walking corridors. While there are many PSU MURP alumni on the planning staff for the City that agree with my YIMBY perspective, we expect to encounter political and public resistance when we try to implement amendments to land-use regulations and the comprehensive plan.
Since I know companies are biased to their viewpoint, I was hesitant to share Redfin’s June 2019 housing density survey results. Redfin commissioned a survey of 2,929 US residents who bought or sold a primary residence in the last year or plan to in the next year. 71.5% or 2,095 of the respondents identified as White or Caucasian, 345 identified as black or African American, 206 identified as East Asian or Asian American and 283 identified as Latinx or Hispanic American. According to the survey results,
53 percent of total respondents oppose housing density near where they live; 27 percent support policies that enable it.
Redfin filtered the survey results by race. Before I share these results, I want you to remember that Oregon City is mostly White. As of the 2010 Census, Oregon City was 91.1% White.
56% of White respondents oppose housing density near where they live; 23% of White respondents support housing density near where they live.
Since I am trying to connect with other YIMBYs in Oregon City, the below survey results confirm what I already expected. Younger homebuyers and sellers are more likely to support housing density near where they live than older homebuyers and sellers.
I plan to publish future blog posts to update you on my experience advocating for missing middle housing near transit, biking, and walking corridors. Is there anything specific that you would like me to blog about?