Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Portland Re-legalizes Middle Housing and Dumps Costly Parking Mandates

The Portland zoning reform for middle housing and small plexes passed Portland City Council today.

Portland removed costly mandated parking
and legalized middle housing citywide - via Sightline
For more see this written just before the vote, "Portland will pass the best low-density zoning reform in US history. The reform sets a new standard: up to four homes on almost any lot, or up to six homes for price-regulated projects."

Just as in 1926 Salem copied Portland's 1924 zoning laws, which codified exclusionary zoning, in Our Salem we should strongly follow this modern revival to re-legalize small plexes, eliminate costly parking mandates, and work towards more affordable and more inclusionary housing.

There will likely be more to say about the zoning reform, and the Sightline piece is a great place to start.

(Our chapter pointed out another recent Sightline article of interest, "Foresters Could Lead on Carbon Drawdown: Simple changes in management could double carbon stores in Pacific Northwest forests." It features the Deumling clan of Zena Forest and their more sustainable forestry practices, both harvesting timber as well as protecting water and wildlife at the same time. Well worth a read.)


Susann Kaltwasser said...

There are samples of what this could look like in Corvallis near OSU campus and even here in Salem as well. If you look at the area between State and Mission in the numbered streets and also in West Salem in the area we call the Edgewater District. You see cottage clusters from he early days and some apartments mixed into residential areas. What you do not see if lower prices or few cars, however.

The head of planning in Portland admitted way last year that this 'middle housing' was not intended to lower prices of houses, but only to increase density.

I am going to be interested how this works out. My prediction is that it won't work out as the hype suggests. Even if it is a good idea, people are not going to give up their cars unless there are many choices within walking distance and that includes jobs.

I have relatives that live in NYC where this has been forced on people over many generations. It does not just happen, because we make rules.

Evan said...

I love the areas you mention, Susann. I'm in favor of those!

The academic research on this is sparse (because reducing costly mandates is a more recent phenomenon), but generally finds the same thing - more parking mandates lead to somewhat more cars and more driving, thus more pollution. Does it mean "few" cars? Maybe not. But fewer than would otherwise be there.

That follows basic economic theory - hide the cost of something in other goods and people will consume more of it than they would if they pay for it marginally.

There's also the trap of but-for in the debate. Wherein those who boost more diverse housing choices end up reducing the cost of housing over where it would have been without that additional supply, but not from previous prices. So one side can say "these aren't cheaper" and others note "they're cheaper than housing would otherwise be."

New housing generally isn't cheap; that's the nature of the product -- used housing ends up filtering down and being more affordable.