HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Are single-family houses over? Not yet

Written November 16th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Another traditional single-family house under construction in southwest Albany.

There’s no sign in Albany that developers are waiting for the new state housing law to kick in, the law that seeks to encourage more people to live closer together and start using the bus instead of their car.

On Monday, the city council and Albany Planning Commission got a briefing on changes the city will have to make in its development code and comprehensive plan to comply with House Bill 2001, which the legislature passed in 2019.

The law says that cities of more than 25,000, such as Albany, must allow duplexes to be built on any lot zoned for a single-family dwelling. That includes lots in the historic districts. Cities must also allow bigger units up to quadriplexes and “village clusters” in any area intended for residential use.

The state is working on administrative rules to carry out that law, and Albany’s land-use regulations must comply by June 30, 2022. If they don’t, the state rules will apply.

The state rules will bar cities from adopting regulations causing “unreasonable cost or delay” in construction of so-called middle housing. As part of that, the city is barred from requiring more than one off-street parking place per dwelling unit.

All of this caused consternation among some council and planning commission members. Councilman Dick Olsen says the state seems to want to turn established neighborhoods into slums, and he thinks it’s a “really stupid idea.”

Jeff Blaine, whose jobs include director of community development, has been attending the committee drafting the state rules. He says the goal clearly is to have Oregonians use public transit instead of their cars.

While the effective date of the new rules is a year and a half away, you’d think developers would be looking ahead. So far, I see no sign of that. Construction of single family-dwellings continues apace on lots in subdivisions where, in 2022, the city will have to allow duplexes to be built.

We’ll see how it shakes out in a few years. But maybe the thing that drives new housing is not what the legislature wants but what developers think people will want to buy. (hh)



7 responses to “Are single-family houses over? Not yet”

  1. thomas earl cordier says:

    Kudos to Councilman Olsen for seeing the truth and speaking out

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Olsen’s position is fear-based and elitist.

    But while the state has taken a step in the right direction, it is still part of a coercive solution.

    Zoning laws and development codes are not necessary in a free society. Noncoercive solutions exist. Allowable uses of land should be driven by private property owners within a given neighborhood voluntarily entering a contractual agreement (restrictive covenants). Allowable uses should not be imposed by government mandate.

    https://mises.org/library/how-zoning-rules-would-work-free-society

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “I see no sign of that. Construction of single family-dwellings continues apace on lots in subdivisions where, in 2022, the city will have to allow duplexes to be built.
    We’ll see how it shakes out in a few years. But maybe the thing that drives new housing is not what the legislature wants but what developers think people will want to buy.”

    Bingo! I get that some folks detest what’s happening. However, adding “back in” the middle housing element does seem to abide with Strong Towns. And – there’s nothing that mandates a developer build duplexes, triplexes, or quads, in any “residential” zone. Right now, they can sell almost everything they’re currently building. I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future due to population trends…

    As I’ve oft stated regarding ADUs, there has not been (and will not be) a tidal wave of requests for them. I’ll say the same for the “middle housing” elements. The developers will look at the trends, and IF they can see a reasonable way to make it pencil out, then they will build them.

  4. H. R. Richner says:

    Our state government demands that we live closer together. The same regime also demands that we live and work apart. When are we going to get rid of it?

  5. Ronald says:

    Sad part about this there still no affordable housing being built

  6. sonamata says:

    We’ve started to look towards Salem to buy our first house, despite really wanting to stay near downtown Albany. We can’t compete with investors/aspiring landlords for the extremely limited inventory. It’s gotten as bad as Corvallis, unfortunately. Would be nice if some of the remaining CARA funds were used to help people become homeowners in Albany and not just renters.

  7. Sidney Cooper says:

    First time buyer program, anyone? Coupled with sweat equity, allowing the young to stop throwing their money away renting. Now if only we had an inventory of affordable, older homes…

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