Virtually everyone agrees that Southern Oregon faces an affordable housing crisis, and that it will take a combination of state and local policies to address it because there is no single “silver bullet” solution.
That makes it particularly important for the Oregon Legislature to pass House Bill 2001.
For nearly all of Oregon’s history, developers and property owners were free to meet community needs by building duplexes, triplexes, or other so-called “middle” housing alternatives, in addition to single-family homes. It is only a relatively recent change that some cities began to establish legal barriers to artificially block those units in many neighborhoods.
HB 2001 would remove those outmoded restrictions. Single-family homes, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, and cottage clusters would all be permitted throughout all cities with at least 10,000 people.
This could help increase the supply of affordable housing with very little cost in a relatively short time — much more so than by relying only on expanding urban growth boundaries and infrastructure to build more-expensive single-family homes.
Nearly two-thirds of Southern Oregon households today consist of one or two people, and many working households, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and young people need an affordable alternative to a single-family home.
In many single-family neighborhoods today, rooms or accessory units are rented out, meeting housing needs by creating what amount to duplexes despite the zoning. HB 2001 would allow property owners and builders to address the need legally.
Over the past year, the Rogue Action Center has knocked on more than 2,200 doors in Jackson and Josephine counties to ask residents about improvements they would like to see in our communities. Affordable housing was the top issue residents raised, by far.
One out of three households in Jackson County is paying more than 50 percent of income for housing, leaving little for other necessities. Meanwhile, the Medford School District had the second highest number of homeless students in the state for the 2017-2018 school year. More than a thousand local students sleep in cars, in tents, on couches and in shelters.
We should all be able to agree that inaction is not an option. By removing an artificial and outmoded barrier, HB 2001 is an important piece of the puzzle to improve housing affordability, choice, and opportunity in Southern Oregon.
Michelle Glass is director of the Rogue Action Center (RogueActionCenter.org). Greg Holmes is Southern Oregon advocate for 1000 Friends of Oregon (Friends.org).