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Supporters, Critics Pack 1st Oregon Hearing On Single Family Zoning

<p>A new triplex is pictured on the corner of Northeast Sixth Avenue and Northeast Ainsworth Street Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Portland, Ore. A bill in the state Legislature would change single-family zoning rules to allow more buildings like this in cities looking to grow more dense.</p>

Jeff Mapes

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A new triplex is pictured on the corner of Northeast Sixth Avenue and Northeast Ainsworth Street Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, in Portland, Ore. A bill in the state Legislature would change single-family zoning rules to allow more buildings like this in cities looking to grow more dense.

Supporters and opponents flocked to the first legislative hearing Monday on a bill that would require Oregon cities to allow denser housing in existing single-family neighborhoods.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and other supporters of the measure said it would play an important role in easing Oregon’s shortage of housing – particularly for homes that aren’t out of the financial reach of most residents.

But officials from numerous cities said the bill could over-burden local services and cause a number of unintended impacts.

“We are concerned that House Bill 2001 is a one-size-fits-all solution that won’t actually fit any,” said Erin Doyle, a lobbyist for the League of Oregon Cities.

Kotek’s measure would require cities of more than 10,000 and counties of more than 15,000 to allow a range of “missing middle” housing options in urban neighborhoods now zoned for single-family housing.  The bill says this could include attached housing of up to four units, small cottages around a central courtyard or rules making it easier to subdivide existing housing.

Multnomah County Commission Chair Deborah Kafoury was among a number of affordable housing advocates who strongly endorsed Kotek’s bill.

Kafoury, who lives in Portland’s Eastmoreland neighborhood, said she understands the desire to preserve neighborhoods like hers. “But it is time to accept that single-family zoning is a thing of the past,” she said.

Kotek said that she didn’t expect measures that encourage missing middle housing will rapidly change existing neighborhoods. But she did say it is an important piece of legislative efforts to produce more affordable housing.  She also took pains to assure critics that she expected the bill to be amended.

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

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Jeff Mapes is a senior political reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, Jeff covered state and national politics for The Oregonian for nearly 32 years. He has covered numerous presidential, congressional, gubernatorial and ballot measure campaigns, as well as many sessions of the Legislature, stretching back to 1985. Jeff graduated from San Jose State University with a B.A. in journalism.