Oregon Legislature Bans Single-Family Zoning

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A contentious bill from the start, new tensions around HB 2001 are rising as local governments grapple with putting the law into effect. The law essentially ends single-family zoning in many Oregon cities.

The intent of the bill is to address the housing shortage throughout the state. The law requires cities and counties to allow certain types of “middle housing” on urban land zoned for residential use that allows detached single-family dwellings. Middle housing includes a variety of multi-family dwellings such as duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, cottage clusters and townhouses.

Whether a city is required to allow any, all, or some types of middle housing depends on the city’s population. Cities with a population over 25,000 are required to adopt regulations by June 30, 2021, allowing all types of middle housing in areas zoned for residential use that allow detached single-family dwellings. Both Bend and Redmond meet this population requirement.

Cities with a population between 10,000 and 25,000 are required to adopt regulations by June 30, 2022, allowing duplexes in areas zoned for residential use that allow detached single-family dwellings. Prineville is the only city in Central Oregon that has a population falling within this range. Although cities within this range are only required to allow duplexes in applicable zones, the law does not prohibit a city from allowing other types of middle housing if they choose.

As many Oregonians know first-hand, the housing shortage is driving up rental prices and can be a serious impediment to buying a home. Supporters of the bill believe another step towards solving this problem is changing how local governments consider their housing need. In an effort to alleviate this issue, the law provides local governments with more direction for the type of information they should consider when estimating their housing needs. Some of the factors to be considered are household sizes, demographics, incomes, vacancy rates and housing costs.

The new law, however, does not come without opposition. Critics raise concerns that the law robs local governments of their power to develop their own zoning rules. Detached homes with garages and their own green lawns has been an iconic part of the American dream for decades. Many of those who bought single-family homes in neighborhoods with similar houses expected their neighborhoods to remain in essentially the same condition. Allowing middle housing types within these existing neighborhoods brings unexpected change and, with it, strife among landowners.

For real estate developers, new opportunities may be created as the law is implemented. For homeowners, the new law may lead to a change of character in some neighborhoods. Only time will tell whether the law has the desired positive impact.

Rand Campbell is a Bend-based real estate and land use attorney at Van Vactor Law LLC. He recently earned his law degree at Willamette University College of Law and became a member of the Oregon State Bar in 2019.

vanvactorlaw.com

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