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Eli Spevak gives an overview of the City’s zoning code before touring middle housing in Buckman neighborhood. From left to right: Pam Phan, 1000 Friends of Oregon; Zev Nicholson, Urban League; Tameka Taylor, Urban League; Commissioner Steve Novick, Portland City Council; Mary Kyle McCurdy, 1000 Friends of Oregon; Eli Spevak, Planning and Sustainability Commissioner; Alan Durning, Sightline Institute
Last Friday, Eli led our group through the Buckman neighborhood. Here’s a short video of Eli’s tour introduction:
In the two hours we spent in the neighborhood, I was delighted to learn that in Buckman, alone, you can get a glimpse of almost all of the housing types Daniel Parolek, the architect who coined the phrase “middle housing,” discusses on his website.
An example of a stacked duplex at the beginning of our tour. This house was originally built as a single family home, but because of the housing crisis during World War II, the City of Portland allowed houses like this to be internally subdivided, increasing available housing without building brand new structures.
Two stacked duplexes, side by side, that fit with, and contribute to, the character of the neighborhood.
Another stacked duplex, likely subdivided in the 1940s. These homes have a large fenced yard, in which they have built several shared gardens.
One door, but two mailboxes: an inconspicuous stacked duplex. This duplex is also the relatively rare example of newly constructed middle housing. A “For Rent” sign out front advertised high end features—the people in our group thought the monthly rent was high, especially considering our hope that middle housing would be more affordable than other housing options.
The tour group loved this example. While it appears to be a stacked duplex, the “mystery door” on the right side of the above photo (pictured below), suggests that this might be a stacked triplex.
Said mystery door.
These courtyard apartments were built on the equivalent of two single-family lots, and are fronted by a large shared dog run—making use of the extra space in a way that works for the families who live here.
This is another example of courtyard apartments. The entries to these homes are inside of a fenced in “courtyard,” giving the people who live here a greater sense of privacy.
Dan Valliere, Chief Executive Director of Reach CDC, stopped the group to discuss this multiplex owned by his organization and operated as low-income housing. The structure (the yellow building at the front of the photo) looks like a single family home, but Dan explained that there are several units inside. The meters on the side of the house (pictured above) are a handy hint at the number of units, making this structure a multiplex.
We encountered this structure towards the end of our tour, which is a more traditional example of a multiplex than the one owned by Reach CDC. Multiplexes typically have a wider footprint than a single-family home that was later subdivided and are characterized by five to 10 side-by-side or stacked units, which usually share one entry.
The tour group saw this unusual structure that might also be defined as a multiplex. It has two doors, but the five mailboxes suggest that there are many more than two units inside.
We wrapped up the tour at The Zipper micro restaurant and discussed what we saw and what Portland should be considering moving forward. While the current zoning code wouldn’t, in many cases, allow Buckman’s middle housing to be built there today, there are some upcoming projects that are worth noting:
New Policy after 5.5
Requested by: Novick, Saltzman, Hales
Middle Housing. Enable and encourage development of middle housing. This includes multi-unit or clustered residential buildings that provide relatively smaller, less expensive units; more units; and a scale transition between the core of the mixed use center and surrounding single family areas. Apply zoning that would allow this within a quarter mile of designated centers, where appropriate, and within the Inner Ring around the Central City.
More Portlanders deserve to live in areas with access to recreational amenities, transit, and jobs. Middle housing could provide access to these livable, walkable neighborhoods, offering more environmentally friendly housing choices, as well. When used in addition to other tools like inclusionary zoning and land banking, middle housing could get us one step closer to solving our City’s housing crisis. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on Council towards a solution.