Housing Supply: a critical piece of the housing puzzle

Mary Kyle McCurdy
Tue, 12/26/2017 - 12:30pm

Oregon’s towns and cities have not been building housing at nearly the pace the population has been growing and changing, and therefore we now have both a housing supply and a choice of housing types that is significantly out of step with need.  This is a major contributor to our statewide housing shortage and unaffordability.  Now the Oregon State Office of Economic Analysis (OEA) has put numbers to this - Why Housing Supply Matters, by Josh Lehner, Oregon State Economist, December 14, 2017. 

Previously, the State OEA estimated that Oregon needs over 100,000 more housing units for middle-income households, and 110, 000 more for lower income households. About 2/3 of all households in Oregon, and nationally, consist of 1-2 people; yet, most of the state’s residential land is zoned for detached single-family housing on separate lots. The result is a lack of housing supply, and a lack of the types of housing more and more Oregonians need as family sizes change and as we age– duplexes, townhouses, rowhouses, cottages, and other smaller, less expensive types of homes.

Based on research being conducted by the consulting firm ECONorthwest, the State OEA concludes: “The upshot of the research is Oregon has probably under-built housing even more than we think we have.”  This means that to adequately and affordably house all Oregonians, “Oregon [needs] to build 30,000 new housing units per year.”  We are not doing that.

The State OEA describes with numbers and charts how the amount of housing we build (or do not build) today influences, for decades and decades, housing affordability. Even if it starts out as expensive:  “[H] ousing does filter. New construction is always expensive and always aimed at the upper third or so of the market. That said, over time as housing depreciates, it does become more affordable. This filtering does not happen overnight. It is a long-run process. Filtering is also the major way to provide reasonably priced workforce housing for those making in and around the median family income.”

Oregon statewide land use Goal 10 is all about housing – among other things, it requires every city and town to ensure it has enough land zoned to meet the residential needs of its current and future residents. It also requires that the zoning allow a diversity of housing types to support affordability and meet the needs of people. 1000 Friends will continue to focus our efforts on the power of the land use program to ensure that cities and towns comply with Goal 10. In the last legislative session, we did this by working hard to gain passage of SB 1051, a bill focused on housing inside urban growth boundaries.  SB 1051 streamlines the processes to build more housing, especially affordable housing, and makes sure that if land is zoned for housing, a builder can actually build to the zoned level.

1000 Friends is continuing our work to ensure that Goal 10’s promise of enough housing at prices people can afford in our towns and cities is delivered. This work has been core to our mission from the earliest days of 1000 Friends. We are collaborating with individuals, organizations, and elected officials around the state to change zoning to allow “missing middle” housing types, like duplexes, cottages, and townhouses. We are supporting efforts to build affordable housing on surplus publicly-owned land inside UGBs. We are advocating for adoption of policies to prevent involuntary economic displacement from existing homes and to preserve existing lower-income housing. In the upcoming legislative sessions, we will continue working with diverse legislators who share a common goal:  to ensure that all Oregonians have a welcoming place to call home, with convenient access for walking, bicycling, or transit to schools, work, shopping, and more.

There are many pieces to our housing puzzle, and many players working on various aspects of it. 1000 Friends’ role is one that targets a long-range view. Zoning and land use issues often see results decades later. Creating rules that allow for more housing will help address affordability for the next generation, and provide continued high levels of livability. Immediate housing actions are also necessary, and led by many of our partner organizations such as Proud Ground, Hacienda, Oregon Opportunity Network, Northwest Housing Alternatives, Rose Community Development, and many more. For many of these groups, their future ability to provide affordable housing solutions is contingent on our work today to establish fair, equitable, and progressive strategies that allow diverse housing in our communities. We all have a part to play. We invite you to join us in supporting abundant, diverse, and affordable housing options now and for the future. 


Photo: Nob Hill Row Houses, Portland. Eric Fisher, Creative Commons