Housing for all Oregonians: Our Values

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 3:45pm

Everyone deserves to have a safe, affordable home. Housing people is a metric of a community’s livability and health. Oregonians share this value and have always prided our state on its livability. We now face an outsized challenge in housing. It’s been a long-time brewing, and has now boiled over. Costs are rising because there are not enough homes to go around.

Since our founding, 1000 Friends of Oregon has prioritized housing for all. So did the creators of Oregon’s land use laws, which is why meeting housing needs for families of all sizes and incomes is enshrined as a main tenant of our land use goals.

Tom McCall famously noted that "Quality of life is the sum total of the fairness of our tax structure; the caliber of our homes; the cleanliness of our air and water; and the provision of affirmative assistance to those who cannot assist themselves. True quality is absent if we allow social suffering to abide in an otherwise pristine environment." (1973 Address to the Legislature)

Oregonians are spending more than ever on housing. Some towns are finding it hard to build economic stability because would-be workers cannot afford to live there. In larger cities like Portland and Eugene, people are forced to move farther and farther away from what matters most - their friends and family, their centers of worship, their jobs, schools, and hobbies. People who are looking to downsize from a larger home, first-time homebuyers, and smaller families are being excluded from accessing the housing they need in their own neighborhoods. When people are spending more and more on housing; when they are priced out of their communities as costs soar; when children switch schools and parents lose jobs; when some end up on the street, we are allowing social suffering. And it hurts the very core of what makes Oregon great - our spirit.

We need to make sure that we are keeping the door open for people to live, work, and play in our neighborhoods as our population grows. We can’t throw up a wall around the state, and we can’t abide by people being pushed out of their communities. We can and must welcome all Oregonians.

Housing in Oregon is a big challenge. The good news is that this challenge is not insurmountable. It will, however, take ALL of us to find and embrace solutions. This is why 1000 Friends of Oregon invites everyone to support creating more housing with options that fit within our existing communities to meet the needs of Oregon families now, and into the future.

House Bill 2007, introduced by Speaker Rep. Tina Kotek, is working its way through the Legislature right now. While the bill is being clarified further, 1000 Friends continues to listen and work with partners and the community to ensure people’s voices are heard in this process. We believe this bill will help introduce housing that is needed and wanted, in existing communities, in ways that are compatible with our neighborhoods; housing like ADUs and duplexes. It will clarify standards for approving housing proposals. It should introduce higher levels of transparency in the historic designation process and close loopholes that circumvent public participation.  

Two-thirds of Oregon households have up to 2 people total. This means smaller housing options like ADUs and duplexes meet the needs for most Oregonians at some point in their lives. This ‘missing middle’ style housing easily fits into our current neighborhoods. 1000 Friends advocates for this kind of housing because it helps people find options that work for them in the communities where they want to live. Smaller, more diverse housing options ensure that our teachers, nurses, firefighters, store clerks, service people, and more can live in the communities they work in. It also prevents us from creating sprawling development patterns that pave over our farms and forests, force people into their cars for longer and longer commutes, and costs taxpayers dearly for new infrastructure. 

Why can’t we build out in sprawling developments? It’s not fair. It’s not fair to the folks who would have to live so far from economic, social, and educational opportunities. It’s not fair to our farmers who work the land that would be built on. It’s not fair to our environment because we’d be adding so many emissions from extended car trips and the destruction of natural resource lands. It’s not fair to future generations that we didn’t think to conserve our lands and create affordable housing options for them. It’s not fair to Oregonians to fail to meet the goals of our land use system – a system that has provided our state so much of its livability.

The components of HB 2007 are part of the solution, but meeting our housing needs requires multiple tools. This bill offers tools to keep our communities connected, support additional needed housing, and keep us from sprawling outward. That’s why we support it. We can help address the housing needs of all Oregon families, if we can embrace the solutions.