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Rent control. Linkage fees. Mis-calibrated impact fees and inclusionary housing requirements. Onerous mandatory tenant relocation. Restrictive tenant screening requirements.

These are all policies that have two things in common: 1) they are driven by a severe shortage of housing and 2) they undermine multifamily development feasibility, exacerbating the housing affordability crisis. 


Oregon Smart Growth leveraged its ability to build effective coalitions and work across the political spectrum to gain support for housing supply policies that not only encourage walkable, livable residential and commercial development that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, but also broadly addressed our long-term housing shortage in Oregon—currently 155,000 units—and reduce the housing crisis pressure. Multifamily alone cannot produce the volume of housing needed to play catch-up on that short-fall or meet all future needs.

2019 Legislative Session

The 2019 session was a grueling six months filled with many controversial, complex policy bills. 

OSG stayed laser-focused on housing supply policy and feasibility issues to pass good policy bills, defeat bad policy bills and mitigate negative elements where broader policy issues were involved.  The results demonstrate there is growing, broad agreement within a very progressive Democratically-controlled legislature that our housing crisis is driven by the fact that we do not have enough housing. With that new understanding, we can pursue entitlement and streamlining for increased multifamily feasibility in future sessions.  

OSG built coalitions to help pass important legislation and defeat harmful bills, including: 

  • Increased housing supply across Oregon by re-legalizing middle housing (HB 2001) in exclusively single-family zones —approx. 77% of Portland is currently single-family zoned. HB 2001 supports significantly more housing development across the state and reduces the housing shortfall pressures:


  • Requires all cities with populations between 10,000 and 25,000 to allow duplexeswithin single family-zones areas by June 30, 2021.

  • Requires all cities with populations over 25,000, and all Metro cities larger than 1,000, to allow duplexes, triplexes, quads, cottage clusters and townhomes within single family-zones areas by June 30, 2022.

  • Any affected city that does not adopt middle housing code will have a DLCD-created model code applied to its comp plan.

  • Allows cities to regulate siting, design, parking requirementsso long as the cumulative effect does not make middle housing infeasible.


In addition to significantly increasing housing across larger Oregon cities by allowing up to four units on a lot currently zoned exclusively single-family, HB 2001 establishes precedent for bills like transit-density that have direct nexus with multifamily development.

  • Held local jurisdictions accountable for needed housing to meet local shortfalls (all ranges of affordability), including lowering barriers or increasing incentives to achieve the housing needed (HB 2003). State to create regional analysis methodology and conduct analyses; local jurisdictions over 10,000 population to complete housing plans that are updated on regular intervals, with DLCD oversight on the actual production of needed housing (including requiring a city to act in compliance with a statewide land use planning goal related to housing.) 

A city must include for each action in the housing production strategy, the schedule for its adoption, implementation and the expected magnitude on the development of needed housing. Under HB 2003, housing production strategies are not land use decisions and are not subject to appeal or review by the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA.)

  • Reduced likelihood chronic NIMBY appeals of locally-approved affordable housing projects. SB 8 requires attorney fees be paid to the applicant if the appellant loses frivolous appeals at LUBA or a higher court. 


  • Protected multifamily development from any reduction of the 20-unit minimum threshold in inclusionary housing statutes (HB 2997) and helped secure clarification that inclusionary housing programs do not apply to state-licensed CCRC senior facilities, which provide medical and meal services to residents.

  • Helped keep HB 2144 locked up in the Revenue Committee after one hearing, ensuring that Oregon investors in Opportunity Zones can make full use of the program to invest and reinvest in their state.

  • Stopped HB 2727 from moving forward in the House Committee on Human Services and Housing, a bill that would have added unworkable affordable housing requirements to investments in Opportunity Zones. 

  • Defeated efforts to remove owner consent for historic landmark designations (SB 927.)

Oregon Smart Growth also supported the unprecedented $300 million in state funding for affordable homeownership, multifamily development, rent assistance and affordable housing preservation. 

The 2019 session was going to produce a rent control bill, as leadership had the votes to pass a bill before the session even started. Through OSG’s education of and work with legislative leadership over the past three years, SB 608 avoided the worst rent control policies that activists demanded, by protecting new construction from any rent caps for fifteen years, preventing lifting of the local rent control preemption and focusing on avoiding egregious increases. Anything more restrictive would have stopped housing development in its tracks.

Local Advocacy   

Oregon Smart Growth works to ensure that local development policy not only supports a variety of dense, walkable housing and commercial options, but also ensures those developments remain financially feasible. 

Oregon Smart Growth supported a $150,000 allocation in the Mayor’s FY2019-2020 proposed budget to fund aninclusionary housing program market analysis. The project will “provide data and analysis for ongoing refinements to the Inclusionary Housing program incentives and requirements.” Council approved the allocation in the budget, and OSG will continue to engage in the analysis as part of our ongoing work to advocate for an inclusionary housing program that encourages adequate housing production andcreates more affordable housing units. 

In late January, several Oregon Smart Grown representatives participated in a  permitting round table discussion with the Mayor and BDS Director Rebecca Esau. OSG flagged issues around the check sheet comment process, slow check sheet response times from bureaus, alignment amongst bureaus, and issues with the new electronic permit submission process. BDS hired a business process improvements specialist this spring, who is tasked with overhauling the permitting process for better service and efficiency, and BDS is now leading a Development Review Strategic Plan process to develop consistent policies, procedures, and processes across interagency partners for better alignment. 

Two Oregon Smart Growth members were selected to work with Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff on an electric vehicles infrastructure workgroup, specifically around what infrastructure should be required in new mixed use/residential buildings to support EV charging. The City is interested in requiring 100% electrical capacity (i.e. conduits), to prepare for future charging infrastructure (i.e. charging stations); OSG’s representatives are flagging issues around utilities’ ability to provide that transmission levels, vault capacity, and how increased capacity requirements impact design and construction, as well as ensuring the costs aren’t shifted to the developer.

OSG gained improvements in the Design Overlay Zone Amendments project, (including removing the d-overlay from single-dwelling- zoned properties, dropping the creation of “character building” designations, and exempting façade and rooftop alterations of particular types. OSG continues to press for additional improvements to the Proposed Draft, released in September; most significantly, OSG urges the City to drop a proposal to grant the Design Commission the right to reduce FAR that was transferred to the site and entitled under the transfer sector FAR rules. OSG is also advocating for Design Advice Request to remain a voluntary process, and applicants should be allowed to utilize more than one at their discretion. Finally, OSG is pushing for refinements to the design standards menu approach, where a proposed point system is too directive.  

Oregon Smart Growth also weighed in on the latest version of the Historic Resources Code Project, opposing proposed changes to owner consent, specifically a proposal to no longer require owner consent when determining a resource to be a Significant Resource, or for changes to the contributing status of a resource in an established Historic District or Conservation District. OSG’s success in defeating SB 927 (see 2019 Session above) retains owner consent in state statute, which Portland must follow.

Oregon Smart Growth advocated for increased density and reduced setbacks in the Better Housing by Design code changes, which revise development and design standards in Portland’s multi-dwelling zones. City Council passed the Better Housing by Design code package and map amendments on December 18; It will go into effect on March 1, 2020. OSG helped shape the outcome of this code —in November, we defeated a series of proposed amendments that would have reduced height allowances in historic districts, disallowed development bonuses and FAR transfers for properties not near high-frequent transit, and required indoor common areas. A series of amendments we supported did pass, including an exemption for indoor common areas from maximum FAR, and an allowance for FAR to be transferred between sites in multi-dwelling and mixed-use zones.

Oregon Smart Growth secured changes to the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) on the Bicycle Parking Code Update Project, including allowing up to 20 percent of required bike parking to be located in-unit with certain design standards (an early stakeholder committee could not agree on a recommended percentage, with some advocating for no in-unit parking); Projects with 12 or fewer units can continue to provide 100% of required bike parking in-unit. Based on OSG efforts, the updated proposal allows more flexibility for long-term parking, with options to provide some parking in-unit, or on any level of underground parking if there is elevator access. 

Oregon Smart Growth’s early advocacy at the Planning & Sustainability Commission resulted in a Residential Infill Project Recommended Draft to City Council with important revisions that will encourage multi-family housing production—duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes more people can afford—in all of Portland’s neighborhoods. The current Recommended Draft incorporates several OSG-requested changes, including allowing these proposed new housing options in all neighborhoods, allowing them on mid-block lots (not just corners), and eliminating associated parking minimums. 

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