Incentives for more multi-family housing on City Council agenda

Civic Affairs

The Better Housing by Design recommendations are intended to encourage more and better multi-family housing projects

A map of existing multi-family housing zones in Portland. November 3, 2019 (Courtesy BPS/Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The City Council will consider revising development and design standards in multi-family residential zones outside the urban core on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

The recommendations were generated during a multi-year project called Better Housing by Design (BHD) undertaken by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) at the direction of the council.

The proposed code changes in these middle- and higher-density zones are intended to encourage additional housing that is more livable. Much of the additional construction is expected to be concentrated along major transportation corridors with frequent transit service.

The zones are where multi-family housing developments  — including four-plexes, townhouses, rowhouses and apartment buildings — are currently allowed. Among other things, the proposed changes would give size bonuses to projects with a significant number of units affordable to households earning 60 percent or less of the area’s median family income.

Parking requirements would also be eliminated for some projects.

The Better Housing by Design project has a focus on East Portland, although it covers other parts of the city as well, including areas of Southwest Portland outside of downtown.

“Between now and 2035, 80 percent of the roughly 100,000 new housing units developed in Portland will be multi-dwelling units. Nearly one-quarter of the total growth will be in multi-dwelling zones outside the Central City. Many of those buildings will be along transit corridors and in mixed use centers,” reads the ordinance to be considered by the council.

According to BHD materials, the proposed changes will:

• Help meet Portland’s diverse housing needs, including housing that is affordable to lower income households and units designed for people of all ages and abilities.

• Include open space and green elements that support healthy living for residents.

• Be designed and scaled to fit in with neighborhood characteristics in middle-density zones.

• Use new approaches to create street and pedestrian connections in areas where they don’t exist or are insufficient.

“As Portland grows, more people will be living in multi-family housing in and around bustling centers and corridors. By 2035, up to 80 percent of the anticipated 120,000 new households will likely be in multi-family buildings and other compact housing types. A large portion of this new housing will be located in Portland’s multi-dwelling zones,” the project website says.

The BHD recommendations are supported by the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland and 1000 Friends of Oregon. They are different than the Residential Infill Project. There is no organized opposition.

You can lean more at BHD website at

The Portland Tribune and Pamplin Media Group’s papers are a KOIN 6 News media partner

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