Oregon has an affordable housing problem. But the answer is not, as lawmaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, apparently believes, a statewide requirement to allow four homes on what are now single-family housing lots in at least 61 Oregon cities.
Kotek, speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, is floating the idea of ending the concept of single-family zoning in all communities of 10,000 or more. In Central Oregon that includes Bend, Redmond and Prineville. All of us, like it or not, would have to allow four houses per lot.
Or at least most of all of us in those communities would be subject to the change. Homes purchased in some planned developments in all three communities presumably would be governed, as they are now, by legally binding covenants, conditions and restrictions established when the neighborhoods were designed.
In a state worried about the growing gap between haves and have-nots, we’d be hard pressed to find a better way to make the problem worse.
For now, Bend is in the midst of adopting something akin to what Kotek proposes, as it should. Housing is in particularly short supply here, and one city response has been to work to change the zoning laws to allow duplexes and triplexes in single-family neighborhoods.
That’s our choice, however, not a rule being imposed from Salem. Local communities, not the Legislature, know best about how to tailor housing solutions to our communities.
As for the Legislature, if its members are as concerned about Oregon’s housing problems as Kotek is, there’s an easy solution at hand. Give cities more freedom to expand their urban growth boundaries quickly.
That would serve to lower housing costs and up housing supplies far more equitably than a state-imposed zoning change could ever do.