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On Governor's Desk: Housing Bill Lifts Ban on Inclusionary Zoning

Oregon cities now can force builders of apartments such as this one in Eugene to set aside housing for low-income families. (Visitor7/Wikimedia Commons)
Oregon cities now can force builders of apartments such as this one in Eugene to set aside housing for low-income families. (Visitor7/Wikimedia Commons)
March 9, 2016

SALEM, Ore. - As the clock ticked down on Oregon's legislative session this year, lawmakers worked to pass several bills addressing the housing affordability crisis.

Senate Bill 1533, currently waiting approval from Gov. Kate Brown, would lift a ban on inclusionary zoning, which allows cities to force builders to set aside multifamily units for Oregonians making 80 percent of the median family income or less. However, Mary Kyle McCurdy, a board member at Housing Land Advocates, said restrictions in the bill will make it unlike inclusionary zoning in other places.

"This is not a complete lift on the ban," she said. "In fact, it just allows it on a narrow set of circumstances."

McCurdy is concerned about three restrictions that could make the bill hard to implement in cities outside of Portland:

* The zoning bill only applies to developments of 20 units or more, and most developments aren't that large in small Oregon cities.

* Cities must offer financial incentives for building inclusionary zoning, and some cities don't have the resources for this. However, localities could find a boost in revenue from another part of the bill that ends a ban on construction excise taxes.

* The bill sets the affordability benchmark at 80 percent of the median family income, above the 60 percent threshold typical in most localities around the nation.

McCurdy said cities in other states have been using inclusionary zoning without these restrictions for decades.

"It's not new for a city to say, 'If you want our approval to build this thing, there are some things that the public wants in return,' " she said.

Oregon has prohibited inclusionary zoning since 1999. The only other state with an inclusionary zoning ban is Texas.

The text of SB 1533 is online at olis.leg.state.or.us.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR