Can't Afford to Ignore: Facing Affordability Issues, Oregon State Legislators Propose Bold Changes to Land Use and Housing

By Damian Syrnyk, AICP and Catherine Corliss, AICP

Housing has received a lot of attention from the Oregon legislature in recent years.  Senate Bill (SB) 1051 passed in 2017 and is currently being implemented by local governments.  It required residential permits for affordable housing to be issued in less time and directs cities to allow accessory dwelling units (ADUs) where single-family homes are allowed. In the current 2019 legislative session, three bills related to housing and how communities plan for housing appear to be gaining traction (and may be law by the time this article is published).

Wilder Cottage Cluster Development in Newport, OR (Credit: Andrew Parish, AICP)

Wilder Cottage Cluster Development in Newport, OR (Credit: Andrew Parish, AICP)

Mandated Middle Housing.  House Bill 2001, introduced by House Speaker Tina Kotek, proposes a statewide mandate that larger cities allow “middle housing” types where single-family dwellings are allowed.  Middle housing in this context includes duplexes, triplexes, quad/four plexes, townhomes, and cottage clusters. Cities over 10,000 are required to allow duplexes in all residential zones and cities over 25,000 are required to allow all the identified middle housing types. HB 2001 includes timelines for amending local codes to comply, provides funding to the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) for development of model codes, provides funding for cities to develop infrastructure plans to support these housing types, and provides for state enforcement.  

Required Housing Strategy.  House Bill 2003, also introduced by House Speaker Kotek, is a broader bill that addresses how cities comply with Statewide Planning Goal 10 (Housing), including the types of housing to address in a Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) prepared by local jurisdictions. This bill requires local jurisdictions to prepare and adopt a housing strategy to support the development of needed housing. HB 2003 proposes collaboration at the state level between the Office of Economic Analysis, DLCD, and the Department of Housing and Community Services to develop and evaluate a potential methodology for regional housing needs analyses.  

Minimum Densities in Transit Corridors.  Senate Bill 10, introduced by Senate Speaker Peter Courtney, establishes housing density requirements for areas zoned to allow residential development and adjacent to transportation corridors where a high level of transit service is provided in cities with more than 10,000 population or within metropolitan service districts.

To learn more about the potential impact of this legislation and how it might affect residential development in Oregon, I spoke with Damian Syrnyk, Chair of the Oregon Chapter of APA’s Legislative and Policy Affairs Committee.


Q. Housing is a hot issue for the Oregon legislature. Local governments are currently implementing statute changes from 2017 and 2018 that require that cities streamline development review, allow accessory dwelling units, and take actions if they are a rent-burdened community.  The effects of those changes haven’t been seen yet, and now there are additional housing bills. What are the 2019 bills intended to do?

A:  House Speaker Tina Kotek has introduced several of these bills aimed at ensuring local governments, particularly cities, are doing all they can to ensure they are not impeding the development of all types of housing.  SB 1051 (passed in 2017) required permits to be issued in less time and directed cities over 2,500 in population to allow ADU’s in all areas zoned for detached single‐family dwellings subject to “reasonable local regulations relating to siting and design.” For example, ADU’s may be required to comply with a jurisdictions setback and lot coverage standards, along with design standards that are clear and objective. In 2019, Speaker Kotek has submitted two housing bills with land use components that focus on allowing missing middle housing (HB 2001) where single family dwellings are allowed and planning for housing through a regional housing needs analysis framework (HB 2003).  HB 2003 further proposes a new housing production strategy that cities would need to prepare that would detail what actions a city would take to support the development of housing in their community.  

Tiny Home and RV Park Development in Unincorporated Lincoln County, OR (Credit: Andrew Parish, AICP)

Tiny Home and RV Park Development in Unincorporated Lincoln County, OR (Credit: Andrew Parish, AICP)

In the Senate, SB 10 has been introduced by Senate Speaker Peter Courtney.  SB 10 would require cities with a certain population to increase the maximum residential density limits along certain priority transit corridors. The required maximum densities vary by city size, location within a metropolitan service district, and distance from a priority transportation corridor, e.g. one-half or one-quarter mile.  


Q. How have the bills proposed to address regional and urban/rural differences?

A: Good question.  HB 2001 varies requirements for what types of middle housing cities must allow based on population size.   The bill does not apply to cities for a population of 1,000 or fewer. Cities with a population greater than 25,000 must permit the development of missing middle housing types in areas that are zoned for residential use and allow for detached single family dwellings.  Cities with a population greater than 10,000 and less than 25,000 outside of a metropolitan service district must allow the development of a duplex on each lot in an area zoned for residential use that also allows for the development of a single family dwelling.  

Q. How are these legislative efforts designed to address housing choices and housing costs?

A:  HB 2001 focuses on housing choices by requiring cities to allow middle housing types in areas where single family dwellings can be developed.  This is intended to require more housing choices in areas that were traditionally zoned to allow single family dwellings. HB 2003 focuses more on planning for housing by considering a regional housing needs analysis along with requiring cities to develop housing production strategies.  The housing production strategy is a new tool that would require a city to consider what actions it could take to encourage the development of more housing, such as easing code requirements or streamlining permit processes.  


Q. Has the Oregon APA Chapter been involved in drafting this legislation?

A:   The short answer is no.  OAPA was not involved in drafting any of this legislation.  Our legislative committee’s efforts have focused on providing constructive feedback to the Speaker’s office and reviewing proposed amendments to HB 2001 and HB 2003.  No amendments have been posted yet for SB 10. Several city planning directors have raised this issue with the Speaker; soliciting input from cities and their planners on HB 2001 and HB 2003 would have addressed a number of the issues raised in testimony.  In addition, this input could also have led to different bills being introduced.  


Q. What interest groups are advocating for these bills? What are their interests?

A:  We understand that 1000 Friends of Oregon is advocating for HB 2001 as a means of requiring all cities, particularly those that have not allowed the development of many types of missing middle housing, to allow these types of housing in more neighborhoods.  We also understand a number of housing advocacy groups are supporting HB 2001 for similar reasons.  


Q. Has there been active opposition? From whom and what are their concerns?

A:  There has been active opposition from a number of cities and from the League of Oregon Cities.  One of the primary concerns raised in opposition to HB 2001 is the bills’ direction of local zoning decisions from the Legislature.  Right now, cities understand that updates and amendments to their comprehensive plans are subject to state law, and review for compliance by Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD).   The opposition to HB 2001 has not been about the policy direction of the bill, but to the approach of using the authority of the Legislature to mandate certain zoning decisions. Some cities have already amended their codes to allow for more middle types of housing, and these cities have expressed the concern of whether they would need to go back to amend previously adopted code amendments and start over under HB 2001.  SB 10 has also faced opposition from cities because of the concern that the required maximum densities may not be achievable in certain communities, especially those that have a transit system that is not as robust as those in the Portland metro region or Willamette Valley cities.  


Q. These bills would create further planning mandates through Oregon’s statewide planning program for local governments.  How might these bills impact the community conversation on housing issues?  

A:  Interesting question.  Since 1973, Oregon has maintained a strong statewide program for land use planning. Citizen Involvement is Goal 1 of the Statewide Planning Goals. However, there is a natural tension between local decision-making and other statewide planning goals, such as Goal 10, Housing.  Starting with the 2017 Legislative Session, the Legislature has taken a more active role in requiring cities to take certain actions that are intended to support the development of more types of affordable housing. One part of this conversation is whether this legislation is a reflection of the severity of the housing crisis, or does this signal a trend where each session we should expect that key housing bills and state mandates will be introduced.  Another part of this conversation is to what extent the Legislature is taking action because they are not seeing the desired results through the approach taken from the DLCD and its Commission to enforce cities to comply with Statewide Planning Goal 10, Housing.  


Q. Local jurisdictions will need to implement any new housing legislation. How are local governments responding to the legislative programs related to housing?

A:  The reception by local governments has been mixed.  Cities of various sizes, including the city of Bend, came out in opposition to the original versions of HB 2001, HB 2003, and SB 10.  Both HB 2001 and HB 2003 have passed out of their respective committees with substantial amendments, several of which have appeared to reduce the opposition to more neutral stances on the bills.  SB 10 has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee for further work, and amendments to SB 10 are expected to be forthcoming.  


Q. SB 10 links the location of transit to minimum residential densities.  While transit corridors are often desirable locations for higher density residential uses, what are some of the challenges with the approach taken in this bill? 

A:  SB 10 simply requires that zoning be applied to property within certain distances of certain transit corridors.  One of the challenges in implementing this bill is the lack of direction and discretion in determining whether the market would respond by building multi-story housing.  The direction to zone land within a certain distance of a transit corridor to allow for higher residential densities is not tied to or supported by some form of feasibility analysis to determine whether the market would respond to building multistory residential buildings if the density limits were increased.  SB 10 does not allow a city to consider whether infrastructure is adequate (e.g. water, sewer collection) to support this development.  


About the authors:

  • Damian Syrnyk, AICP, is a Senior Planner with the City of Bend Growth Management Department. He has over 30 years of experience in local government land use planning. He also serves as the Chair of the Legislative and Policy Affairs Committee for the Oregon Chapter of the American Planning Association. You can find OAPA’s testimony on the bills discussed in this article at www.oregonapa.org.

  • Catherine Corliss, AICP, is a Principal with the Angelo Planning Group. She has over twenty-five years of experience in growth management, land use, transportation, and environmental planning in the public and private sectors. She also serves on The Western Planner Editorial Board.