A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Housing issue still divides Albany council

Written February 13th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Accessory units indeed: There are three addresses on this Albany lot at 11th Avenue and the Santiam Canal.

The Oregon legislature wants more people to be clustered in existing single-family neighborhoods. But Albany Mayor Sharon Konopa says not here. So she is once again blocking a council-passed ordinance relaxing the city code on accessory dwelling units.

A four-member majority of the Albany council Wednesday approved an ordinance allowing accessory dwelling units of up to 900 square feet at single-family homes and repealing code requirements on off-street parking and owner occupancy of the main or accessory unit.  As she has done twice before on the same issue, Konopa said she would veto the change. (The second was of an ADU ordinance that because of a procedural error had not actually passed.) The council lacks the required five votes to overturn her veto.

The 2017 legislature required cities to approve ADUs on all single-family lots but allowed them to keep restrictions on parking and owner occupacy. The veto leaves Albany with a code that fails to comply with the state law because it does not allow detached ADUs everywhere the law demands. But because the legislature has spoken, the planning department has ignored this one code requirement and allowed detached ADUs in all single-family zones.

Now comes House Bill 2001 in the current legislature. It would require cities to allow up to four units on single-family lots and also forbid them to impose parking and ownership requirements. The bill had a hearing Monday, and Konopa submitted a strongly worded letter against it.

On Wednesday, she asked the council to take a stand against the bill. “We need to stand our ground,” she said, meaning to oppose the state taking away local control, as it has done on annexations and other issues. “We need to fight all we can.” But the council declined — no surprise considering that four members support the ADU provisions in the bill.

The council lines up this way: Konopa and Councilors Dick Olsen and Bill Coburn want to protect existing single-family neighborhoods from higher occupancy for which their streets and utility systems were not built, and which residents may not want. Councilors Rich Kellum, Alex Johnson II, Mike Sykes, and Bessie Johnson want to allow ADUs with no ownership or parking requirements. They argue that ADUs are expensive to build and must meet enough other rules, such as setback and height restrictions, so that they will remain rare.

The push in the legislature for higher city density is driven by the majority Democrats, who say making more housing available will help slow skyrocketing housing costs and the problems stemming from that. This led Councilman Olsen, a Democrat who once ran for the House in District 15, to express his dismay Wednesday. He blamed Democrats out of Portland for a policy that he thinks is wrong. (hh)

33 responses to “Housing issue still divides Albany council”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    Regardless of what Olsen and Konopa believe, the facts are that a housing shortage is very real. If that were not true, why then do housing developments sell so gosh darn quickly even though houses are now built cheek by jowl, with nearly Zero Lot Lines leaving no room for anything other than the construction.

    Konopa and Olsen have done nothing about these sardine-like conditions. Several houses in the neighborhood I live in have multiple adult children living with their parents. These fine folks often park 4-cars or more on the street cuz mom and dad have the garage filled with unused stuff and two cars in the driveway.

    Bottom line, Olsen and Konopa seem intent on protecting the oldest housing stock/neighborhoods where building lots are large and lawns are luxurious…but everywhere else….oh well, it’s just those Liberals in Portland mucking things up.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Albany keeps building market-rate housing. That will only exacerbate the affordability crisis many folks are experiencing.

    Albany homeowners should have complete freedom to solve this problem, within the generous boundary lines the State wants to establish.

    Get out of the way, Mayor Konopa. Using the veto to impose your personal views is a form of tyranny.

    • H. R. Richner says:

      The tyranny is imposed be the state. The legislators’ progressive ideas already exist in Magnitogorsk, e.g. Property rights be damned?

  • thomas cordier says:

    Thank you Sharon, Bill and Dick for your collective stance on this issue. I don’t want to increase population density of my neighborhood or Albany in general. The whole idea of State gov’t pushing/forcing an increase is suspect. The rationale is flawed as to outcomes. The four Council members who think ADU’s will be rare because they will be expensive actually get their wish because none is better than rare.

  • Lundy says:

    To borrow an analogy from retired Judge Rick McCormick (who borrowed it from someone else), this protracted ADU spat is about as worthwhile as “having an elephant shipped here from Africa so we can measure the size of its trunk.” I’m not enamored of our Democrat-controlled legislature, but it’s hard to imagine their push for allowing ADUs as having much impact because logic suggests hardly any of them would ever be built anyway.

  • Shawn Dawson says:

    My daughter lives in Portland, and has for four years. We visit often. She has relayed to us first hand of the issues which arise when houses with rental units are not owner occupied. What happes is that folks from out of town buy up property, with the sole intention of making as much money as they can with as little upkeep as possible. The houses become run down, and the rents remain as high as the owner can get. There is little incentive to maintain the house beyond the minimal needed to keep it standing and up to code. Indeed, she has seen some houses near her bought by out of towners who solely use it as an AirBnB, even if against the law, as that generates the most money and does nothing to help with the housing shortage or costs.

    Due to lack of off street parking, streets in many neighborhoods in which she has lived are effectively one way streets. Two cars can not pass, so drivers take turns, pull in front of drive ways to let others pass, etc.

    I don’t know of that many streets in Albany that would be that narrow, it seems like we do have sufficient parking in the Albany area to have both sides lined with cars and still have two open lanes, but I haven’t driven down every Albany street.

    But it seems to me that a compromise would work if the council were willing. Keep the owner occupancy requirement, but lessen the off street parking restrictions. Regarding the size of the ADU, I don’t really see much difference between 750 and 900 square feet and would be inclined to allow up to the 900 feet as well, if it doesn’t infringe on neighboring properties.

    I would suggest that as part of this issue, that Albany also address short term (AirBnB) rental rules if they have not done so, and ‘tiny home’ rules. I personally believe we should encourage tiny homes in Albany. This is all tied together with rising housing costs.

    Shawn Dawson

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Keep the owner occupancy requirement.”

      This issue was brought up (again) at last nights council meeting. It’s unenforceable IMO. How would you manage that? The city would need to hire “occupancy police” to knock on doors to ask of whoever answers the door: “Show me your [ownership] papers!”

  • avidreader69 says:

    Parking is an issue in most of Oregon. Maybe OK in Portland where there is mass transit, but in Albany putting 4 times the parked cars on most streets might be a major problem. On our street the recent approval of back yard lots violated the State Fire Code for the number of residences on our dead end road (and we do not have a functional storm drainage system — which would be affected by less open space for absorption or runoff). So even parking can be complicated by other legal issues.

    With 4 times the housing units on a lot there will be issues of sewer (how many additional units can the City Sewer system handle), water (how to increase the capability of the water system and who will pay for it), phone and cable service, new schools, and —-. The new 900 foot structures will need the infrastructure but will have little value for raising property tax revenue.

    I don’t know much about the actual State legislation, but there should be concerns about who owns the accessory units. Is ownership of the lot divided or are the accessory units just rentals? Looks like a possibility the no owner could live on the lot. What happens to property values as 4 residency lots start to develop?

    I have too many questions and too few answers.

  • Bob Woods says:

    If conservatives demanded a livable wage for everyone who works 40 hours in a week (part time too), housing affordability would not be as big an issue. But conservatives kill every attempt to get more wages to the poor.

    • Rich Kellum says:

      Bob, wages have risen faster since that awful blond-haired Republican has been President than under his 3 predecessors…. lowest unemployment for black folks since…………ever. lowest unemployment for Hispanic folks since………ever……. gawd…that is awful..

      • Bob Woods says:

        Which has NOTHING to do with guaranteeing a living wage for people at the bottom.

        What was the average wage in 2018?
        June 2018 Median Household Income. According to Sentier Research, the median household income in the United States rose from $61,858 in May 2018 to $62,175 in June 2018, an increase of 0.5% over the previous month.Aug 1, 2018
        June 2018 Median Household Income | Seeking Alpha

        What is the average pay increase for 2018?
        In the United States, an average 3 percent pay increase is predicted by Korn Ferry, the same as for 2017. Adjusted for the expected 2 percent inflation rate in 2018, however, the real wage increase is 1 percent—down from last year’s 1.9 percent.Jan 4, 2018
        2018 Salary Forecast: Smaller Real Wage Increases in the U.S. and …

        What would minimum wage be adjusted for inflation 2018?
        While 18 states are increasing minimum wage at the beginning of 2018, the federal minimum wage will stay at the same rate it has been since 2009 of $7.25 an hour.Dec 22, 2017
        This chart shows how much higher the federal minimum wage …

        For most U.S. workers, real wages have barely budged in decades

        On the face of it, these should be heady times for American workers. U.S. unemployment is as low as it’s been in nearly two decades (3.9% as of July) and the nation’s private-sector employers have been adding jobs for 101 straight months – 19.5 million since the Great Recession-related cuts finally abated in early 2010, and 1.5 million just since the beginning of the year.

        But despite the strong labor market, wage growth has lagged economists’ expectations. In fact, despite some ups and downs over the past several decades, today’s real average wage (that is, the wage after accounting for inflation) has about the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago. And what wage gains there have been have mostly flowed to the highest-paid tier of workers.

        • Ken Walter says:

          Unlimited unskilled labor keeps wages down.

          • Bob Woods says:


            It’s part of the plan the was cemented with the election of Ronald Reagan. Destroy unions. Slash government prtections. Enrich the already rich.

          • Rich Kellum says:

            Unlimited unskilled labor…………………. coming across our southern border, and liberals scream that a wall will do no good, you should talk to them Bob..

        • Michael Hedenberg says:

          Nice google research you have done but yet you don’t understand the more a person makes the more the state wwill take in taxes along with the federal government will take as well. You want a liveable wage freeze inflation and lower state and federal taxes on the middle class and raising taxes on business will not lower the cost of a product or service so what is the solution?

  • centrist says:

    Well, I spent my early years in a truly 0 clearance house. 18 ft wide row houses on a 1/8 mile block. Parking wasn’t a problem in the 50s because not every house had a car. That seemed OK until we moved west. Space around the house that wasn’t paving, trees to climb, among other things.
    So, I’ve experienced high-density housing, and can’t recommend it.
    Land use planning that came to us in the McCall years had significant protection for ag and forest land. There’s only so much buildable dirt available for dwelling places. Limited space combined with population increase seems to force increased density, (and the edgy behavior that dense population seems to breed).

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “(and the edgy behavior that dense population seems to breed)”

      Spot on sir! Colloquially, it’s called “NIMBY.”

  • Jim Engel says:

    For once I will support our Mayor in her stand against these ADU’s. People living cheek-n-jowl can only breed further unforeseen problems that will crop up. My vote is “Not In My Neighborhood”.

  • John Robinson says:

    `The mayor launched into HB2001 and how ADU’s are mentioned in the proposed bill with the State addressing 2 issues; parking and owner occupancy and mandating that there be NO parking requirements or owner occupancy requirements. These are the same two issues that the mayor opposes in the enhanced Albany ADU resolution. During my testimony I presented facts from contacting 8 different cities and 5 do not require owner occupancy and 3 do require owner occupancy. On the parking issue 2 do not require on-site parking and 6 do require on-site parking (if street parking is not avail) Both of these issues were previously addressed by the State when they made recommendation for implementing SB1051 last year. The State recommended against owner occupancy requirements because it is not legal and impossible to enforce. The State also recommended against on site parking because it takes away public parking from the street. So…is it surprising that the State would then mandate this common sense when obviously there are cities that did not get the first message (suggestion). Seems very logical to me. But what part of “you can’t enforce it” or “it’s not defensible in court” does the mayor not understand?

  • InterestedButDismayed says:

    Split the difference – permit ADU’s without owner occupancy requirement, retain off-street parking requirement and add rent control!

  • Ray Kopczynski says:

    “Rich Kellum says:
    February 15, 2019 at 8:13 am
    Unlimited unskilled labor…………………. coming across our southern border, and liberals scream that a wall will do no good, you should talk to them Bob..”

    You’re floating a red-herring, but I’ll suggest the “talk with them” should be had with all the employers who are hiring them…because they (employers) cannot find enough folks to work for the wages being paid…

    • Rich Kellum says:

      Sure Ray, employers should look at wages, the problem with lack of employees is training too not just can you pass a drug test, hundreds simply can not pass. the problem with illegal immigration is that they take the same jobs that folks without special training apply for. so there is an abundance of applicants for the low pay jobs. That is where the “wall” comes in.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        “…the problem with illegal immigration is that they take the same jobs that folks without special training apply for.”

        Your kidding. You honestly believe that?? Tell that to all the farmers, etc. who can’t even get your “folks” to even apply for! Show me some statistics to bear out your statement.




        • Rich Kellum says:

          Ray, get real, jobs in agriculture are only a small portion of the jobs that Illegals take, I said jobs without special training not farm jobs, and that remains true…

          • gwrepray@aol.com says:

            I think you’re missing the point. If said illegals are taking these jobs, why is that? Why are “they” being offered these jobs when there’s all these other folks clamoring for them? What do they offer employers over & above your “folks” that make the employers want to give them the job? The only thing I can think of is good-solid-work-ethic, which is sorely lacking with your “folks.” (And show me some statistics that buttress your point…)

          • Rich Kellum says:

            Bottom line Ray, Illegals do not receive the same kind of Social Welfare that others do. So they take a job at 10 bucks per hour, A ;woman on public assistance in 2016 got the equivalent of $15.72/hour in benefits from the welfare state, so she won’t go to work under many circumstances…. I know that is a generalization but it is true.l; The welfare state did this to us, Great Society in the 60’s ya here have some help but you can not have a man in the house…. and it just wen t down hill from there…

    • Ken Walter says:

      Convenient argument. Are “all the employers who hire them” included within the city limits, where city personnel sign off on compliance? Just looking for a fair playing field.

  • Jeff Bromley says:

    What we need is more land to build on not higher density on the land already used.
    50% of Oregon is under federal BLM and land use protections for farming.
    We simply cannot afford to live with these artificial buffers that keep land sequestered and too costly. We need to open more land to housing in a sustainable manner that will maintain values but hold back increased value to meet the need for affordable land for living.

    • H. R. Richner says:

      Very good comment, Jeff. There is no provision in our constitution for the federal government to own lands in the States of the Union, other than for small administrative requirements. Most Americans don’t know that this is the case in most of the states East if the Mississippi, while the apparently second rate ones in the West, like Oregon, only own half of their land. If our senators did their job for our state instead of promoting ever wider federal power, they would demand title to our land. A subsequent drop in lot prices would create the building boom we are looking for.

      • centrist says:

        A fairly common misconception.
        As the US border migrated west, land title was held by the federal government. When each of the “western ” states were formed, land title was granted to states and individuals, while the fed govt retained title to large areas.
        Federal ownership in the east is low because there was a high demand for productive land. The govt sold ground and used the money.
        Ownership in the west is high in part because much of the ground isn’t productive.


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