Oregon House Bill 2001 Threatens Eugene and Springfield Single-Family Homeowners and Renters

Jefferson Westside Neighbors Newsletter — August 2019

Oregon House Bill 2001 and the JWN
Paul Conte, former chair of JWN

The 2019 Oregon Legislature narrowly passed HB 2001, which will up-zone targeted areas of older and often low-income single-family neighborhoods, including large JWN areas east and west of the Fairgrounds.

Impacts of HB 2001
HB 2001 applies to Eugene and Springfield, but excludes nearby commuter towns with a population of 10,000 or fewer, including Coburg, Junction City, Veneta, Creswell, Pleasant Hill, Harrisburg, Monroe, Lowell, and Oakridge. The bill also exempts all existing subdivisions with applicable Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs). Thus, residents of many wealthier and newer developments won’t bear any of the burden. In all remaining single-family areas, HB 2001 requires that by June 30, 2022, Eugene code allows two dwellings (detached or attached), triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, and cottage clusters on individual R-1 lots.

As it stands, residents in typical homes could see a three-story structure with up to four dwelling units rise up just five feet from their property line. Potential impacts include loss of privacy, a sense of crowding, diminished sunlight and wind, noise, and traffic on neighborhood streets.

Further, market pressure likely will increase housing prices and rents. Older, less expensive houses will get replaced with higher-cost condos (exempt from the Oregon’s new rent control law), as well as over-taxing water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure that was never designed to handle greater density.

HB 2001 unleashes a powerful market incentive for real estate investors to redevelop unprotected, lower-cost single-family areas in desirable locations close to amenities. Previously, these areas weren’t financially attractive for redevelopment because it didn’t pay to tear down a cheap home and rebuild with just another more expensive house. However, with upzoning, the investment return becomes attractive when a cheap home is replaced with two or more high-end condos or apartments. In the JWN, older, smaller homes in the R-1 area immediately east and west of the Fairgrounds are potential targets for such redevelopment.

Proponents claim that upzoning will reduce housing costs. However, research overwhelmingly shows that building new, expensive dwellings doesn’t lower housing prices and rents for lower-income households. In fact, upzoning lower-cost neighborhoods, without placing restrictions on the price or rents of new construction, often pushes housing costs higher due to speculative investment for redevelopment.

HB 2001’s blanket upzoning is limited to four dwellings per lot and creates a set of counterproductive problems:

a) This approach won’t scale up to provide the number of lower-cost dwellings that are needed to meaningfully address the housing crisis for low-income households.
b) The distributed and unpredictable density increases will have substantial impacts on livability, infrastructure, and services.
c) By not concentrating density close to existing or potential public transit routes, the city will find its ability to justify and create more high-volume, frequent bus rapid transit lines are diminished.

In the end, HB 2001 is inequitable because it exempts areas with CC&Rs. The bill has the potential to exacerbate housing and transportation costs for some low-income households as well as displace residents from low-income, and often more diverse, neighborhoods. HB 2001 creates a strong incentive for economically mobile households to move to nearby smaller towns that are exempt, thus intensifying economic segregation, increasing commutes, and producing more carbon. Finally, increased density reduces the city’s tree canopy and carbon sequestration, resulting in urban heat

Read a full analysis of HB 2001 and its impacts on Eugene single-family neighborhoods — Eugene Citizen’s Guide to HB 2001:

Does Eugene have a “housing affordability crisis”?

The “conventional wisdom” from some quarters seems to be “Yes! And we need more ADUs, more ‘Missing Middle Housing’ and fewer ‘barriers’ in the code.”
Well, the first part of the answer is valid — Yes, we do have an affordable housing crisis.
But what follows in the conventional wisdom is patently wrong. The chart below (also attached as a larger PDF page), using the City staff’s own data drawn from the 2011-2015 American Community Survey (see attached), shows that there is no shortage of “affordable” housing in Eugene, except for low-income households.
Lest anyone is skeptical of this chart, I created it using the exact method used for the following chart in the National Low Income Housing Coalition in their March 2019 report: The GAP — A Shortage of Affordable Homes.
The very simple fact is that above the Very Low Income (VLI) and Extremely Low Income (ELI) categories, there is no shortage of affordable housing either nationally or in Eugene. (Not surprisingly, the city planning staff’s slick handout obscures the central fact and gives the false impression that the “housing crisis” affects a wide range of household incomes.)
The second simple fact is this: The discrepancy between income and the price — not cost — of market-rate housing is what causes VLI and ELI households to be severely housing cost burdened. Market-rate “middle housing,” including market-rate fake “ADUs” (i.e., with no owner occupancy) is no solution at all for the real housing crisis in Eugene. These “YIMBY” diversions aren’t even a so-called “one tool in the toolbox” — as market-rate housing, ADUs and plexes do not provide the truly “missing” dwellings, which are subsidized apartments, but instead will cause harm from redevelopment and price increases arising from speculation.
So, to the Eugene City Councilors who want to do more than support a “feel good” attack on decent, single-family homeowners, stop the current staff nonsense and focus all your energy on subsidized apartments on major transit corridors. Start by taking the steps to “activate” MUPTE on the W. 6th and 7th Ave. segment of EmX.

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: