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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Housing Opportunity Initiative

2 small houses in front with 2 new buildings behind

Something we can all agree on: Lack of housing is the most pressing problem our community faces. But Portland is not unique. Cities all over the country – and the world – are struggling to create enough housing for all incomes. We can lead in this effort – and we can learn from others.

We are on pace to add 260,000 more people and 123,000 more households by 2035, which increases the need for more housing. And as Portland households change due to growth and our aging population, the urgency to create more housing choices becomes more acute.

The purpose of the Housing Opportunity Initiative is to respond to growth and change while mitigating displacement and maintaining the vibrancy of our neighborhoods.

More and better housing choices for people

The City of Portland and Bureau of Planning and Sustainability’s newly formed Housing Opportunity Initiative bundles together two residential code update projects and an anti-displacement action plan for a more powerful and coordinated response to the housing crisis.

With changes to Portland’s single-dwelling and multi-dwelling zones, we can create more opportunities for homebuilders and developers to meet the needs of our growing and increasingly diverse population. But we need to ensure that displacement is not an unintended consequence of these planning efforts.

The new Anti-displacement Action Plan will create a community-led task force to provide leadership on the implementation of anti-displacement policies. Building on the previous work of community organizations, the effort will develop a toolkit of strategies and accountability measures to address the root causes of displacement to inform decision-making and action. The result will be an action plan and formal agreement between City bureaus and community partners that holds us all accountable for positive results as the city continues to grow.

Multi-family housing

We know we need more multi-unit housing. These buildings and our mixed-use corridors will accommodate most of the population growth over the next two decades. And they’ll be housing not just single millennials – but families with children and a higher proportion of people of color. We need to design multi-unit buildings with them in mind. And Better Housing by Design begins to do that.

The Better Housing by Design Project ensures that new multi-family construction will provide more comfortable, healthy and family-friendly units with diverse housing options, safe and attractive outdoor spaces, as well as better pedestrian connections to neighbors and streets. An affordable housing bonus provides an incentive to create even more housing for Portland’s lower income households.

Single-dwelling neighborhoods

In order to meet the demands of our growing city and ensure that future generations of Portlanders can live and thrive here, we need to take advantage of our entire housing area.  Single-family zones make up 43% of our housing land supply while multi-dwelling zones cover 8%. Our single-family neighborhoods can provide housing options that improve the quality of life for current and future residents – our teachers, bus drivers, retail clerks, construction workers and students. We believe that RIP is one tool to achieve that vision.

The Residential Infill Project has been amended by the Planning and Sustainability Commission to deliver even more smaller scale, less expensive housing in Portland’s single-family neighborhoods. By offering homeowners and home builders the opportunity to create up to four units on a single-dwelling lot (at a smaller scale and height than is currently allowed), the Residential Infill Project allows the return of attractive, popular and more affordable middle housing types to Portland’s residential neighborhoods.

Addressing displacement

Perhaps the greatest benefit of these code changes, however, is the reduction in displacement in most of Portland’s single-dwelling zones. By decreasing the incentive to demolish existing houses, more households can stay in place rather than be forced out of their homes.

But just to be sure, the newly forming Anti-displacement Action Plan will act as a safeguard for Portland’s most at-risk residents with a bigger toolbox of actions and programs to address all types of displacement: housing, commercial and cultural displacement. As the “North Star” of the Housing Opportunity Initiative, the ADAP will guide the City’s work with housing and anti-displacement and renter advocates, small business owners, communities of color, affordable housing providers and others to ensure negative impacts on vulnerable Portlanders are avoided and/or minimized. That’s the floor.

The ceiling – our goal – is well-designed, healthy, secure housing that meets the needs of all Portlanders. Whether middle class or poor; black, white or brown; native born or immigrant; young, old or in between; able bodied or differently abled. More and better housing for all. That’s what the Housing Opportunity Initiative is about.

Other outcomes

The HOI – particularly the Residential Infill Project – also gets us to nearly full compliance with the recently passed HB2001 legislation (middle housing in single-dwelling zones), which requires up to fourplexes on single-dwelling lots. Staff are still analyzing the gaps between RIP and HB2001, but aside from applying the new state regulations to R10 and R20 lots, we’re almost there – and nearly three years before the state deadline (June 30, 2022). That means we can move forward on other initiatives to create a more prosperous, equitable and resilient city.

Also largely addressed by the Residential Infill Project is SB534 (the narrow lot bill). Most  requirements of that legislation are already met by RIP. But, as with HB2001, additional amendments will be required to fully comply with the new law. The deadline for that compliance is March 2020. 

What’s next?

August 27 – PSC briefing on HOI

September 3 – City Council work session on HOI

Better Housing by Design @ City Council

September 10 – Council work session

October 2 – Public hearing

Residential Infill Project @ City Council

Council work session; public hearings – December 2019

Anti-displacement Action Plan

  • Inventory and tracking for accountability of City anti-displacement programs/actions
  • Creation of community/City task force
  • Exploration of potential additional programs/actions
  • Engagement with households affected by displacement

Starts August 2019; staff to report to City Council in March 2020.