Leaders in Bend have decided that denser neighborhoods are one answer to rising housing prices.

After more than a year of work, the Bend City Council voted to allow duplexes and triplexes on smaller lots in some residential neighborhoods and to waive architectural standards for this type of construction.

City planners said the idea is to encourage middle-income housing to fill in older neighborhoods, instead of sprawling out to new subdivisions. Portland has been working to pass a similar project for years.

According to Bend Senior Code Planner Pauline Hardie, the city’s land use plan was restricting density to the point where, in practice, only people with really large lots could build duplexes, let alone triplexes in the most common residential zone designation.

“Instead of looking at density on a lot-by-lot basis, we’re proposing to look at density on a citywide scale,” Hardie told the council. 

She said filling in Bend neighborhoods dominated by single family homes still puts the city under target density, and dropping the consideration from multi-plex building permits effectively cuts the minimum lot size in half. That opens up more neighborhoods to infill development.

A lengthy public process didn’t quell opposition and anxiety before the unanimous final vote. Some people worried about parking, traffic congestion or how their neighborhoods might change without standards requiring architectural elements, such as windows, eaves and paneling, match nearby houses.

“We’ve built our homes according to the codes that were there,” homeowner Kim Campbell said, urging the council to define and ensure compatibility standards. 

Meanwhile, the Central Oregon Builders Association advocated for throwing out the standards the council did keep in place, such as regulating square footage relative to lot size, and the layout of front doors and garages.