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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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What effect will the Residential Infill Project have on the affordability of housing?

Alone, a zoning change won’t solve our housing crisis. But the rules that govern what types of housing are allowed in our neighborhoods affect not just how they look and feel – but who can live in them as well. Together, these new rules will help to restore diversity to our residential neighborhoods by allowing more families and households to live in them, while at the same time limiting the construction of massive new homes.

This project will allow for more housing choices and slight increases in the number of housing units in Portland’s most complete neighborhoods. Since the recession, the price of homes has increased significantly while the supply of new houses has not kept pace with demand. This has been more problematic for single-family than multi-family housing, as the number of people moving to Portland continues to grow.

One way to curb the sharp rise in housing prices is to add more supply. Another way is to add smaller houses that are proportionately less expensive than their larger counterparts.

The idea that the homes being demolished offer smaller, less expensive home choices is true, in some cases. However, preserving older, smaller homes is not a long-term solution to housing affordability for two reasons. The first is supply, and the second is demand.

The available supply of existing homes is fixed (meaning no one is building “old” homes today), and the supply of land for new homes without removing older ones is very limited. Meanwhile, on the demand side, Portland and the region are increasingly attractive, and more people are moving here — often with incomes or savings higher than those of many long-term residents. As demand continues to grow and supply remains fixed, even the smaller, less expensive homes will increase in value and become out of reach for more people. Over the long term, the implications are that single-dwelling neighborhoods will become more exclusive and less diverse.

By allowing more opportunities to add smaller units in single-dwelling zones, the diversity of housing types, sizes and price points increases, offering residents greater flexibility in where they live. For example, someone who can afford to pay more than their apartment rent but less than the cost of a house, could afford to live in a duplex unit, an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) or a small unit in a cottage cluster. Likewise, an aging adult who wants to downsize may find it helpful to have these options in their current and familiar neighborhood.