Oregon is set to become the first U.S. state to alter its single-family zoning laws in order to encourage more homebuilding. Several cities have passed similar bills in recent months, but Oregon could be the first to introduce state-level legislation, NPR reported this week.
Oregon’s House and Senate this week passed a bill that will require cities in the state with populations greater than 10,000 to allow duplexes to be built in areas that were previously zoned only for single-family homes. And in Portland, cities and counties will also be required to allow quadplexes and “cottage clusters” of homes built around a common yard. The bill only needs the state’s governor to sign off on it to come into effect.
“We all know we have a housing crisis,” Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek said last February when the bill was proposed. “We need multiple tools. One of them is to smooth and encourage additional construction.”
The advantage of duplexes and townhomes is that they are often more affordable than single-family homes, NPR reported.
“Every lot that is developed in the city that might be well-suited for townhomes or a duplex or a triplex that is instead developed this year with a single-family home—that was a missed opportunity,” Rep. Julie Fahey, who worked with Kotek on the bill, told the publication.
Oregon’s decision to allow more varied construction in single-family home-designated areas follows a similar move by Minneapolis city council, which voted to remove single-family zoning rules in December last year. Elsewhere, Californian lawmakers are considering a similar bill that will allow quadplexes to be built in neighborhoods zoned for single-family homes, and for greater density of housing. That bill won’t be voted on until January next year, however.
While moves like this appear to have the backing of U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and other White House officials, the elimination of single-family zoning laws isn’t without its critics. For example, some builders say that rising labor and land costs are bigger obstacles in the way of creating more affordable homes, while activists say that relaxing single-family zoning laws will “destroy neighborhoods”.