Owning a home can be a “we made it” moment for families. It’s a space for them to call their own. It can create stability. It can help a family create wealth. It can help strengthen a community.
But in Central Oregon and across the state, what can be missing are starter homes for first-time buyers. State Sens. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, and Lou Frederick, D-Portland, joined together as chief sponsors on a bill to make that easier: Senate Bill 458. The bill was also sponsored by state Reps. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, and Jack Zika, R-Redmond.
The bill will provide more opportunities to build what’s called middle housing — such as duplexes.
Oregon already took a big step in that direction in 2019 with House Bill 2001. It allowed middle housing in neighborhoods that were previously restricted to single family-detached homes. That wasn’t greeted with welcome everywhere. People worried it would mean the character of neighborhoods would be upended with more housing. Some people don’t want greater density. But Oregon does have a problem with housing supply. And as Knopp has said: “The best way to bring down the cost of housing is to increase the stock of housing built at affordable cost.”
SB 458 was introduced at the request of Habitat for Humanity of Oregon. It takes HB 2001 a step further. It allows lots to be created for new middle housing units as long as they meet the local development code on the parent lot. It essentially reduces the regulatory barriers to selling both units of a duplex as two individual homes when the real property was not previously subdivided or partitioned.
This bill has its detractors, as well. The reasons are similar to those brought against HB 2001. But if you believe owning a home is a good thing for Oregonians and if you believe Oregon must do more to ensure more people can own homes, this bill helps get Oregon there. And it’s not every day you see Knopp and Frederick — usually on different ends of the partisan spectrum — take the joint lead on a bill.
The bill has passed both houses of the Legislature and its next stop is Gov. Kate Brown’s desk.