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City officials disagree on bill aimed at boosting housing availability

Monday, February 11, 2019

Article Courtesy of The Statesman Journal
By Connor Radnovich
Feb. 11, 2019

A bill geared toward increasing the supply of available “middle housing” came up for its first hearing in committee Monday, with some Oregon city officials celebrating the bill, and others asking for significant changes.

The legislation’s chief sponsor, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said House Bill 2001 in its current form should be viewed the “opening conversation” about one way to address the state’s worsening housing crisis.

“We want to make sure that more communities have more types of housing,” Kotek said. “It should be a very interesting conversation.”

The bill is one of several major pieces of legislation written to combat insufficient housing and growing homelessness, as Gov. Kate Brown made that one of her 2019 legislative goals.

Another bill, on a statewide rent control plan, will be up for a vote on the Senate floor Tuesday. Staff and lawmakers expect a long debate on Senate Bill 608 with many questions coming from Republicans on the bill’s merits.

Lawmakers already taking stands

Legislative leadership made it clear from even before session began that they would not be considering amendments on SB 608.

HB 2001 is in the opposite position.

Kotek said Monday that she expects changes to the bill, and she already knows of at least one wording mistake that will require an amendment.

The crux of the bill is to allow for the development of so-called “middle housing” on lots in residential areas zoned for single-family homes. Middle housing, as defined in the bill, includes duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and cottage clusters.

Kotek estimated that in order to make up for the current dearth of housing and build for the future, Oregon needs to construct 30,000 units per year.

According to a study from national housing affordability nonprofit Up for Growth, from the year 2000 to 2015, Oregon under-produced housing by about 155,000 units.

“The reality is, what we have in exclusively single-family zoned areas is that we’re just not building enough housing and different types of housing,” Kotek said. “If we’re going to grow as a state, we need to change that.”

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