A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Crowd hears about law on middle housing

Written May 15th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Here’s part of the crowd at Wednesday night’s information session on “middle housing” laws.

Close to a hundred people crowded into the Riverside Community Center Wednesday night to learn and talk about Oregon’s new “middle housing” laws.

Among other things they heard that there’s nothing the City of Albany could do to prevent plans for a 22-home subdivision in North Albany from being turned into a townhouse development of 80 lots instead.

(The 80 lots in the Riverwood Crossing development, at Gibson Hill and Laura Vista, have been tentatively approved, but construction of the homes has not begun.)

The city organized the meeting to hear from people and to explain the implications of House Bill 2001 approved by the 2019 Oregon legislature. The law requires cities of Albany’s size to allow multiple dwellings or “middle housing” on any residential lot.

Much of the talk was about infrastructure that might be overloaded when systems planned for a certain number of dwellings suddenly have to serve many more.

A handout published by the city and available at the meeting asked, though not in those words, if the city can deny a middle housing project because it would overload the roads.

“No.” That was the short answer. The long answer included this: “When a developer proposes a middle housing land division, the city can only review it against the review criteria specified in state law, which do not include evaluation of impacts on the transportation system.”

Someone in the audience suggested the city council increase system development charges to pay for roads and other improvements made necessary by greater housing density. Putting a traffic signal on Highway 20 at Scenic Drive was mentioned as one way of easing congestion elsewhere in North Albany.

This public meeting was an effort by city officials to clarify the legal ramifications of Oregon’s policy of packing more people within urban growth boundaries.

I sat through the first part of the meeting but had to be elsewhere later. If there’s an identifiable outcome of this effort, perhaps the local paper will have a story soon. (hh)

19 responses to “Crowd hears about law on middle housing”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Local land use regulators and their pathologically bossy supporters should not win this debate. Meetings like this just reveal NIMBYism at its worst.

    Polls indicate that real Americans are in favor of construction projects that make housing more affordable for young people and young families. The market is demanding middle housing.

    Patriotic state politicians are just serving the greater good by allowing middle housing in upper housing neighborhoods like North Albany.

    If more traffic is the real concern (I doubt that it is), then those inclined to control-freakery need to scratch this itch by advocating for a state imposed mileage fee on every vehicle (take your pick: MBUF, RUC, VMT).

    You can’t freeze North Albany as if its a snapshot in time. Middle housing is the law. It is progress.

    Like the 1969 song said, “Think of your fellow man….”

    • Glenn Edwards says:

      Agreed Gordon. A free market that allows an increase in housing supply is good, and filling in areas, rather than sprawling, lowers infrastructure costs. Both benefit more affordable housing for Albany.

    • Brad says:

      The issue as I see it, is that North Albany Road and the sewers and waterlines were designed based on assumptions for the population, living in RS10 zoning. Now that you can fit 4 families onto lots originally planned for 1 family, it is certain that the infrastructure will become inadequate. If you drive Gibson Hill Road or North Albany Road or Hwy 20 leading into downtown, you already see the problem. There will need to be additional traffic signals and turn lanes built on Gibson Hill Road.

      So, who should pay for upsizing the infrastructure? Should development pay for the increase? Or, should the existing residents pay for increasing the infrastructure through higher water bills and property taxes. To me, the answer is obvious, the System Development Charges need to be increased to cover the new infrastructure. At the meeting last night, a City engineer stated that the water pumping capacity to push water into North Albany needs to be increased.

    • Coffee says:

      Never thought I would say this to Gordon S. but, hear, hear!! I agree

    • TLH-ALB1 says:

      And yet, all this new housing – middle or otherwise – has done, is increase the cost of housing – both for owners and renters. Whether through fees, on the developer or the current citizens, increasing them means someone is going to get the shaft in the end. It is not affordable nor sustainable.

    • Scotty says:

      Gorden not sure where your anger and resentment comes from. It is about traffic for me at least. North Albany Road and Gibson Hill Road are a nightmare! It isn’t uncommon for traffic to be backed up from the bridge to the start of North Albany Road all the way up to Gibson Hill Road! So fix the traffic problem!

  2. Hartman says:

    Hasso writes, in his typical conspiratorial tone, “…there’s nothing the City of Albany could do to prevent plans for a 22-home subdivision in North Albany from being turned into a townhouse development of 80 lots instead.”

    Hering’s words assume that Albany wants to “do” something to “prevent” North Albany from having to suffer the penultimate indignity of having to host townhouses.

    This column sounds a great deal like a form of projection on the part of the author. As such, the words should be taken with a generous pinch of salt. North Albany is no more sacred than any other part of town and therefore is bound by the laws passed by a duly elected Legislative body.

    • Coffee says:

      “North Albany is no more sacred than any other part of town.” I second that.

  3. chris j says:

    These are situations caused by officials propaganda during and after being elected/or hired. There is absolutely no way to make government officials accountable for lying about anything (except ripping off the government) concerning what they do to us. They promise to be the representatives for the people and do what is best for everyone. It is not required to make it clear how these laws can affect communities when used to support negative growth. The homeless crisis has created laws that are not a positive solution. We have “lawed” ourselves into loophole nightmares. City councilors are easily pressured into the status quo. We are not children that need to keep being herded into all these “it’s for your own good” situations when they clearly are not.

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    The City does not want cheap housing. They want the most expensive structures & improvements because they get more money from PROPERTY TAXES, FEES etc. When there’s money to confiscate, they are first in line-

    When’s the last time you’ve seen the City try to reduce YOUR costs. There isn’t. IF they could, they would just keep the extra money.

  5. Judith Draper says:

    Since low cost housing is almost non existent in this area how do you propose to have enough affordable housing units available for this community. Now when it comes down to the brass tacks of supporting this “middle” housing influx….who is/has proposals to pay for this. Developers build and disappear into the night. Residents of the area are then expected to pick up the slack in additional fees and taxes. Our economy is not growing enough to support what we have now to maintain. Do some real community representation and say NO or You pay for it. Being sure “low cost housing is supported”.

  6. David says:

    Doesn’t Millersburg have an ordinance that no home can be built on a lot smaller than 10k square feet?? If the city wanted to do something about this, they would!

    • H.R. Richner says:

      Millersburg’s population is way below the 10,000 city size addressed by the law. North Albany should be able to secede as easily as it could join Albany at a time when state laws were less intrusive. I’m old enough to remember a time when slum clearing was considered progressive. Then, too, government meddling was “helping the free market” as our friendly contributors above believe.

  7. Ricardo Small says:

    When I purchased a 20+ year old home on a 10,000 sq ft lot in North Albany, I expected the existing nearby neighborhood density to stay the same. I do NOT want four more dwellings on each of my next door neighbors’ lots because that many more people will take value from my home. I would sell and move away if they built those. Packing more houses into existing single family zoning via HB2001 is NOT okay, because it diminishes my ability to enjoy the lifestyle I anticipated owning via uncontrolled numbers of vehicles parking on the street, more noise and so on. That takes value from my existing home. The solution IMO is for North Albany to disincorporate since HB2001 does not apply to areas outside an incorporated municipality. The proposed project should be delayed by all legal means available. Expanding growth boundaries is the solution to more people wanting places to live. Those new areas can be zoned for dense housing without taking value from existing 10,000 sq ft lot neighborhoods.

  8. CHEZZ says:

    On the other hand, let’s all get going on creating our ADU’s on our properties so homeowners can receive the funding benefit. Our own infrastructure can handle it, even if the City/County/State/Federal rules don’t.

  9. Richard S. says:

    The real issue is not the size or number of units! The people of NA have known for years that our traffic problems are unaddressed, and that the water system cannot handle even what is here now! Now, an out-of-town developer has deceived the city into accepting their lies, all with zero consideration as to the impact of those already here. It is time city govt grow some —–, and stand up for the current residents!
    It is time to stand up as residents, and stop this nonsense. We get rid of those in govt allowing this bs; tie it up in court re impacts, fees, etc.; or secede from the city; or flat out block the construction! I, for one, am tired of this crap! I currently live in a poorly built, upper scale home, built by a defunct Salem builder, who bailed out, leaving problems behind. Just like this proposed development…Enough!

  10. John Robinson says:

    Oh progressive and liberal Oregon. What to do? Not surprised that the NIMBY crowd is in full on war mode. They don’t want urban sprawl and homes on farm land, and don’t want higher density (i.e. middle housing). They do want affordable homes or at least to give lip service to the cause. A real conundrum. Basically it’s the “I’ve got mine” (home) and I don’t want you to have one. At least not next to mine anyway. Maybe you can have a home in another city- just not “my” city. And the fact this is happening in North Albany where there is a certain snob attitude among many is even better. All the complaining and finger pointing and yet not one solution proposed.

    The land was on the market for anyone to buy. You all could have pooled your money and bought the land and then let it sit empty for the next century. But that takes commitment and you would rather yell and blame and force your ideals onto everyone else without investing a Nickle. Alternatively you could have developed it into the original 22 homes to keep the density you love. But how many people could “afford” the resulting homes at $500k to $600k ?

    Land is expensive because it is a finite resource. Developers and builders have no control over the varied costs associated with building housing. Land, Lumber, Labor, City permits and fees, etc. Higher density allows the land cost to be reduced per home. It’s the only logical solution when you are opposed to urban sprawl. You want 1970’s home prices but I doubt any of you would work for $3 an hour. Wake up! You wanted Oregon to have one of the highest minimum wages in the country but don’t like the resulting prices.

    My guess is that the 4 townhomes that will occupy the former single family lot will sell in the $350k each price range. Obviously more people will be able to afford that price over the $500k price of the single family home. And some people will still be left out because they can’t afford the $350k townhome. But it opens up more housing numerically and at a lower price point. Better than doing nothing.

    To those that feel fees should be higher to pay for the infrastructure, consider this: The SDC fees and yearly property taxes will generate more revenue on the 4 townhomes than the one single family home. All that money pays for the increase demand on the schools, roads, fire and police services.

    Former Mayor Konopa and councilor Dick Olsen thought that ADU’s would turn Albany into a slum. It has not. Just more fear mongering from people who are anti-growth and want Albany to stay small because it “feels” good to them.

    Development and home building is not an easy business. Fortunately we live in a free state and country where anyone can start any business they desire. So if you have a better solution to the housing problem, by all means put your money where your mouth is and start building! Prices will only come down and stabilize when the supply exceeds the demand. Simple economics. So please stop complaining, be part of the solution and take action! Or sell your home and move somewhere else. Those seem to be your only options.

  11. Twila Ingram says:

    To the people saying this is “Not in my backyard” ism at its worst- you are wrong. I live in North Albany and my husband and I watched the grading and preparation for TWENTY- TWO houses to be built directly behind us. That, we accepted. The issue is the “backyard” is TOO SMALL for 80 houses to be crammed into that same space. And yes, we worry about the impact of traffic on the roads, travel time getting to and from Albany and/or Corvallis/ getting out of NA in case of a fire, and water- we already have an overflow from the spring that runs directly behind us. This is about money and money only. The developer will walk away with a lot of money in his pocket and leave homeowners holding the bag. The thought of having to patch up infrastructure with new funding or property taxes is overwhelming. We are retired and cannot afford one more nickel for either.

  12. Farm1 says:

    I don’t live in NA, but live between Albany and Corvallis on Hwy 20 – I am wondering if there is a water problem in NA? Is the infrastructure for water, sewer enough for the developments being planned? I think this should be discussed by the city and not just put on the home owners if there is a real problem. I know the impact of the bridge and highway will increase even more and that already is a problem. But I guess this is what progress is supposed to look like.


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