Portland city council looks to retool proposal for more development

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The Residential Infill Project would allow up to four units on most residential lots

Portland City Council was packed as officials heard public testimony about the residential infill project, Jan. 15, 2020. (KOIN)

The City Council is scheduled to take up the controversial proposal to build more homes in Portland on Thursday, Feb. 13.

As currently written, the Residential Infill Project would allow up to four units on most residential lots in existing single-family neighborhoods. The change is intended to create a greater variety of housing that costs less that single-family houses. 

After two previous public hearings and work session, the council members are expected to begin discussing amendments they might introduce and support. 

Mayor Ted Wheeler has said he is interested in a “deep affordability bonus” that would allow up to eight units on a lot if some of them are affordable to households earning less than the area median family income. 

Supporters discussed the concept during public hearings on Jan. 15 and 16. An advocacy group, Portland: Neighbors Welcome, has prepared a one-page, two-sided fact sheet on the concept that has been shared with the council members.

“With over 77,000 Portland households making under 60% of area median income, this amendment can make a huge difference for a huge slice of Portland,” the fact sheet reads.

United Neighborhood for Reform, an advocacy issue opposed to the current version of RIP, does not have a position on the amendment because it has not yet been finalized and introduced.

Multnomah Neighborhood Association Land Use Chair James Peterson, an outspoken RIP critic, is already opposed to the amendment, however.

“The best option to create more affordable housing would be to re-zone some of the single-family zoned property around centers and corridors to multifamily. This would allow wood framed apartments or condominium complexes to be built where there is adequate transit and infrastructure. Building 20 or 30 units in one project would have significant per unit cost savings over building projects with four, six or eight units,” he told the Portland Tribune.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz has said she is interested in reducing the affordability threshold from 60% to 50% of the MFI.

All council members have also said they are concerned that RIP — as the proposal is commonly called — could displace some lower-income families who homes are demolished to make way for the additional housing. A separate project to propose solutions is underway but not expected to make recommendations any time soon.

The 2019 Oregon Legislature required Portland and others cities in the metropolitan area to allow duplexes on practically all single-family lots and up to four units on at least some lots in single-family zones by July 1, 2023.

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