The Oregon Legislature is one vote away from passing a first-in-the-nation law ending exclusive single-family zoning in much of the state.
The landmark measure sailed through the state House on a bipartisan 43-16 vote and now moves to the Senate, where it could get tangled up by a walkout of Republican senators seeking to derail a major climate change bill.
House Bill 2001 would require larger cities to allow increased density in single-family neighborhoods, and in many cases it would include up to four units on a single lot.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, has made the bill one of her top priorities, and she put together a bipartisan coalition that overcame the opposition of many neighborhood activists and the League of Oregon Cities.
“Fundamentally, the status quo in Oregon is not working for housing supply,” Kotek said on the House floor. “Our crisis is statewide, we don’t have enough housing for our communities and these communities are expected to grow.”
Kotek worked throughout the session to make the bill more palatable to localities. Cities between 10,000 and 25,000 in population outside the Portland urban area would only have to allow duplexes. And other cities subject to the measure would have more flexibility in siting triplexes, fourplexes and cottage clusters.
This measure is the Legislature’s major attempt to increase housing supply as a way to help end price spikes that have increasingly made it hard to buy and rent homes in many parts of the state. Earlier in the session, the Legislature passed a bill capping the size of rent hikes, and lawmakers are also putting more money into affordable housing.
Nobody spoke against the bill during Monday’s debate. Opponents have said it reduces local control over housing, affect the character of neighborhoods and have little impact on affordability.
Kotek and others noted that affordable housing advocates back the bill as a way to free up more land for multi-family units that will be in the price range of a broader group of homeowners and renters. They say it will also help increase diversity and provide more housing in walkable neighborhoods close to jobs.