Oregon House Bill 2001 Threatens Eugene and Springfield Single-Family Homeowners and Renters
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Read The Register-Guard “Guest Viewpoint”:
House Bill 2001 will poison our communities
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
Learn the complete details of HB 2001 impacts
Click to read “Citizens’ Guide to HB 2001”.
Substantial evidence shows that HB 2001 will worsen, rather than improve housing affordability
Minneapolis provides a clear warning sign
Read a cautionary Q&A with a senior Planning Commissioner in Minneapolis reflecting on that city’s decision to upzone all single-family residential. A few excerpts are below.
“Minneapolis’s Residential Upzoning Risks Unintended Consequences“
by Alissa Luepke Pier in the June 2019 issue if The Planning Report
“The policy took as its starting point that more units automatically equals more affordability, and there wasn’t any interest in delving into whether or not that was actually a factual equation on which to base major decisions. The policy does not cite any research to support its assertion, nor does it even lay out any aspirational goals regarding the extent of the impact they hope to achieve (such as in anticipated added units, or even in theoretical decreases to housing costs). Without any sort of concrete metric, it is impossible to analyze the policy’s effectiveness in achieving its goal of improved housing affordability. That is convenient when what one is proposing is a vague, one-size-fits-all solution with no real statistical support linking it to its presupposed conclusion.
“We don’t have any safeguards for this proposed policy, and once we enact these rights, they’re grandfathered in forever. There is no contingency plan, no method to test effectiveness, and no metrics for success. The consequences of a policy like this on a community like mine are far too harmful to be glossed over in the name of innovation. Let me be clear: Adoption of this policy without adequate safeguards will cause great, long-term harm to low income families and communities of color, and there is no way to undo the damage once Pandora’s box has been opened.
“We’re seeing investors come in, run the housing stock into the ground, treat the tenants like garbage, and immediately take all their rental income—money that could be invested in the community—out of the neighborhood. This is an immediate capital flight from the community, leaving local residents without the expendable income to invest in local opportunities or support local businesses.
“To summarize: In an effort to alleviate the affordable housing crisis, the city is offering my community smaller, crappier housing for no less money, with the added insult to injury of making it harder for them to buy a house and build generational wealth within their own community. It’s shocking to me that we’re patting ourselves on the back for this.”
“Question: As of the last few years, the largest residential real estate owner in metropolitan California is the global equity firm Blackstone. Are similar changes in residential ownership happening in Minneapolis?
“Yes. I’ve heard from realtors specializing in North Minneapolis that they are being contacted by firms on the West Coast, in Florida, Missouri, Texas, and elsewhere who are looking to buy up multiple parcels at a time, sight unseen. Those interests are chomping at the bit for this policy to pass. It saddens me that we would take ownership opportunities away, not only from the immediate community, but from the region as a whole, in favor of global investors.
“If you are enacting change in the name of others, it seems morally irresponsible not to examine that change from every possible angle and study its impact on those same communities before pushing it through. We can brand it with whatever buzzword we want, but if the end result is just a perpetuation and exacerbation of housing and economic inequities, should it really be lauded as “innovative”?”
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.
(*) Note that when the bottom category of Household Income is broken down further, about 90% of the shortfall of affordable dwelling supply is in the subcategory of less than $15,000 HHI. This makes the point even more strongly — Eugene needs to be building subsidized apartments that rent for around $400 a month. So-called “Missing Middle Housing” isn’t going to help households who are “rent burdened” at all!
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.
Gallery of Mything Middle Housing
Click the links below to view three exhibits in the Gallery of Mything Middle Housing: