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Portland, Oregon, passes sweeping infill housing measure for low-density neighborhoods

RIP

Portland, Oregon, passes sweeping infill housing measure for low-density neighborhoods

Portland, Oregon (Truflip99/Via Wikimedia)

Yesterday, Portland, Oregon’s city council voted to adopt the Residential Infill Project (RIP), a measure supporters have called the most pro-housing reform to low-density zones in U.S. history.The Portland city government has called it “the biggest rewrite of Portland’s zoning code since 1991.”

The new rules will make multiple changes to zoning restrictions covering the city’s abundant low-density neighborhoods. They will cut parking requirements, increase accessory dwelling unit allowances, create tiered maximum building sizes for multiple- and single-household homes, and allow six-unit residential buildings, among other changes. The city estimated that the changes would allow the creation of 24,000 more homes over the next 20 years in the city’s complete walkable neighborhoods. The city and supporters claim that the new laws place Portland at the forefront of national efforts to create affordable housing through market-driven methods.

To build affordable housing, cities in the United States, unlike in some other countries, currently rely heavily on market-driven methods, like tax credits and inclusionary zoning requirements, which are designed to encourage private developers to invest in the sector. Government-developed housing is often stigmatized in the U.S. because it has frequently been underfunded and poorly maintained, and has been a tool of racist exclusionary housing policies.

Supporters of RIP have cast it as a restorative measure that will partially undo decades-old zoning restrictions meant to preserve whiteness and wealth in low-density neighborhoods.

RIP had been years in the making and draws on ideas developed in other cities, like Minneapolis, facing affordable housing shortages.

The new rules are scheduled to take effect in 2021 after they are acknowledged by Oregon’s state government.

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