The White House shows how to say "YES in my Backyard!"

Mary Kyle McCurdy
Tue, 10/25/2016 - 1:30pm

Yes in my Backyard is what we need to make Oregon housing accessible for every resident. 

Portland and other cities in Oregon and across the country are facing significant affordable housing affordability challenges.  While the causes of this are many, how we plan our communities plays a significant role in meeting the housing needs of all. The White House recently published its Housing Development Toolkit, which describes:

Over the past three decades, local barriers to housing development have intensified, particularly in the high-growth metropolitan areas *** The accumulation of such barriers – including zoning, other land use regulations, and lengthy development approval processes – has reduced the ability of many housing markets to respond to   growing demand. The growing severity of under-supplied housing markets is jeopardizing housing affordability for working families, increasing 

income inequality by reducing less-skilled workers’ access to high-wage labor markets *** By modernizing their approaches to housing development regulation, states and localities can restrain unchecked housing cost growth, protect homeowners, and strengthen their economies.

The Toolkit goes on to describe in detail these barriers to housing and their consequences, including long commutes, adversely impacting the well-being of families;  increased climate-polluting emissions; sprawl;  and higher costs to families for their transportation needs.

The Toolkit then lays out the actions our cities and state governments can take to create more healthy and affordable housing in all high-opportunity housing markets, including:

  • Allow accessory dwelling units
  • Streamline permitting processes and timelines
  • Eliminate or reduce off-street parking requirements
  • Establish density bonuses
  • Make vacant land available to non-profit housing developers
  • Allow more medium and higher density housing choices
  • Allow inclusionary zoning  
  • Establish development tax or value capture incentives
  • Use property tax abatement

In Oregon, we have a head-start in that our land use planning program requires every city to zone residential land – with sufficient capacity, diversity of housing types, and in the right locations - to meet the needs of all Oregonians of all income levels.  But the Toolkit also demonstrates that while Portland and many Oregon cities are on the right track, we can do more. Statewide, our opportunity for inclusionary zoning is very limited, only after a mixed legislative victory in the 2016 short session. A key take-away from this report is that Oregon can and should do more to expand inclusionary zoning options for every community.

The report also goes further on parking minimums, which have been a real sticking point in our larger cities. Removing off-site minimum parking requirements can help keep costs down as we expand our housing stock. Both of these elements are critical to helping meet Oregon’s housing needs.

Finally, allowing accessory dwelling units and other ‘missing middle’ type housing in all residential areas is an option we should have. More diverse housing can support more diverse incomes and family types. That is why 1000 Friends has been working in Portland neighborhoods to encourage this exact kind of zoning change through Portland for Everyone.   

1000 Friends has been a leader in ensuring all communities provide housing for all, including in our Portland for Everyone Project, our support and advocacy for inclusionary zoning, and in our work to improve DLCD’s implementation of statewide land use planning Goal 10, Housing.

Photo: President Obama; Cottage Cluster by Ross Chapin