What Portlanders Are Saying About HB2007

What is HB2007?

HB2007 is a bill in the Oregon Legislature that would override local zoning and historic protection regulations. It will eliminate demolition protections in every National Register Historic Districts, force every Oregon city and community to permit duplexes in every single-family house zoned neighborhood, and exempt all residential projects from local cities’ discretionary design review (unless in downtown Portland or Gateway.)

The bill is sponsored by Portland-area representatives Tina Kotek (represents St Johns, Kenton, East Columbia area), Alissa Keny-Guyer (represents Laurelhurst to Lents) and Tawna Sanchez (represents North and Northeast Portland).

In the only public hearing on the bill, held on March 14, 2017 in the Human Services and Housing Committee chaired by Alissa Keny-Guyer, the committee took testimony from the bill's backers: Oregon Homebuilders Association, Oregon LOCUS (real estate investors and developers), the Oregon Realtors Association, and 1000 Friends of Oregon.

Here is the testimony list from HB2007's one and only public legislative hearing. Is this adequate public input for a bill that will effectively re-zone single-family neighborhoods, allow demolition of historic districts, and prevent design review of developments, throughout the state?

The committee then added the amendments requested by these groups and, without another public hearing, sent HB2007 to the Joint Ways & Means Committee on April 24, 2017.

This is a stealth bill, fast-tracked under the media radar and without public input.

None of the affected cities and neighborhoods, local governments, or historic preservation groups were heard; most were not even aware of the bill until May 2017 and none have been permitted to submit testimony at the only legislative hearing on the bill.

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Reactions to HB 2007.

As soon neighbors and cities learned of HB 2007's attempt to take control of local neighborhoods and local zoning, the reactions started coming in, and those reactions have been overwhelmingly negative. It is clear that HB 2007 doesn’t help affordable housing; it is a wish-list for developers of market-rate and luxury housing.

We have collected some of those reactions for your reading.

Brian Libby (editor of Portland Architecture and widely published author on Portland's urban development and architecture) calls HB2007 "Housing's Trojan Horse"

House Bill 2007, is not an answered prayer but a Trojan horse.

Under the auspices of making it easier and faster to build affordable housing by requiring faster processing of permits, it is an attack on Oregon's most historic buildings and places and our ability to engage in the quality placemaking that has made Portland the most popular city in America.

Well-known Portland land use attorneys Edward Sullivan and Carrie Richter dissected the problems with HB2007 in "Solving The Housing Shortage Or Hastening Gentrification?"

It is likely that this new construction would go on the market with each individual housing unit selling or renting for double or triple the cost of the original housing unit. Thus, authorizing duplexes (especially if they are essentially unregulated) could gentrify neighborhoods more quickly, making housing even less affordable.

There are ways to increase density that do not involve destroying the lowest ­cost homes, displacing renters, and forever losing the historic fabric of our communities. Portland is well on its way to finding a solution; let’s give Portland’s more nuanced approach a chance before allowing the Legislature to intervene.

Urban planner, architectural expert, and advocate for vibrant, livable neighborhoods, and editor of Livable Portland, Michael Mehaffy says HB2007 shows "How Not To Solve A Housing Crisis"

there is no available evidence that the bill would have the intended effect [of promoting affordable housing]. It would instead offer an apparent windfall to builders of expensive infill housing—which seems to explain why the Homebuilders Association of Metropolitan Portland was an early backer of the bill.

Commenting on Mehaffy's article was Jeff Joslin, Director of Current Planning in the Planning Department of the City and County of San Francisco. Joslin says

The problem is a genuine one, and the solution needs to be as well; not the cynical hijacking of the affordable housing issue to suit other agendas. This legislative effort is not that solution.

In a editorial in the Portland Tribune, Portland resident Terry Parker explained how HB2007 "Undercuts Portland's Best Urban Qualities"

First-time buyer and starter homes already are being demolished at an alarming rate. Replacement housing nearly always has a higher price tag. The term "Rip City" could be quantified with a new meaning. The impacts of HB2007 will likely accelerate teardowns with developers taking advantage of any opportunity where they can use what, in effect, could be called "bulldozers on steroids" to rip apart neighborhoods and maximize profits. The effects of lost green yards, mature trees and open space will be forever lasting.

Alan Classen, Editor of the NW Examiner, says HB2007 shows what happens "When Homebuilders Rule The World"

The Oregon Legislature is advancing a bill that would undercut many of Portland’s land-use policies, zoning regula- tions, neighborhood plans and historic districts. Design review would become optional. The city’s mammoth comprehensive plan update may become Swiss cheese should HB 2007 be enacted.

If the Oregon Home Builders Association were granted one wish without limit, they could hardly have written a more self-serving bill.

Midge Pierce of the SE Examiner also weighed in on this "Infill On Steroids"

A bill known as a “Build Baby Build” legislative bill under the idea of addressing emergency housing statewide is fueling what critics call a widespread assault on Oregon cities’ self-determination and livability. Adding insult, the bill is barreling through the state legislature without adequate public hearing.

House Bill 2007 would essentially eliminate single family residential neighborhoods by making multi-plex infill housing mandatory across the state. The bill would permit duplexes and ADUs everywhere in cities and towns of at least 2500 residents.

Critics call it a stealth bill that is Infill inflation modeled after Portland’s controversial Residential Infill Project (RIP). A major difference is that HB 2007 would extend dense Infill well beyond the city’s current plans for Housing Opportunity Overlay Zones.

Watchdogs are howling, “Wake up Oregon. This is Infill on steroids.”

Our state's leading organization for historic protection, Restore Oregon, calls HB2007 a "Misguided Attempt" that will "Create More Demolition, Strip Protections From Historic Districts"

In an extreme example of good intentions degenerating into bad outcomes, a bill intended to promote affordable housing will actually incentivize demolition of existing affordable housing, strip away protections for historic districts, prohibit design review for new construction, and usurp local control over zoning and density.

The Portland-wide organization of neighborhoods United Neighborhoods For Reform, says "Lets Get Real About Housing Affordability"

But wait a minute! Haven’t we heard that “supply and demand” will work in housing and that after a time of building high-end housing, prices will fall and mid- and low-income residents will find affordable housing as a result. Sadly, no! Housing affordability advocates have learned from decades of experience that tens of thousands of new high-priced market rate rental units don’t translate into affordable housing. San Francisco and the Canadian cities of Vancouver and Toronto are case studies.

Ever greater income inequality allows affluent residents to bid rents higher, and affordable housing is destroyed in the process. “Build-baby-build” may sound great, but the real estate economists have proven that the benefits won’t “trickle down” to help out average folks for 30 years or even more. Your 20-year-old daughter, priced out of today’s market, just might find affordable housing by the time she’s middle-aged.

Unfortunately, HB 2007 simply promises more “build-baby-build” by provisions that either do nothing for affordability or actively work against it.

The National Trust For Historic Preservation says "Density Without Demolition: Tearing down old buildings won’t make our cities more affordable or inviting. It’s time to make better use of the buildings and spaces we already have."

In city after city, we have found that neighborhoods with older, smaller buildings and mixed-age blocks tend to provide more units of affordable rental housing, defined as housing whose monthly rent is a third or less of that city’s median income.

These areas also performed better along a host of other important social, economic, and environmental metrics. Across all 50 cities surveyed in our new Atlas of ReUrbanism, a comprehensive, block-by-block study of the American urban landscape, areas of older, smaller buildings and mixed-age blocks boast 33 percent more new business jobs, 46 percent more small business jobs, and 60 percent more women- and minority-owned businesses.

The McCulloch Foundation, dedicated to preserving affordable and historic housing, calls HB2007 a "Deregulating Development in Historic Districts and Single-Family Neighborhoods, Disguised As 'Affordable Housing' "

This misguided legislation would encourage destruction of currently affordable homes and allow replacement by new, much more expensive housing.

The Portland Coalition For Historic Resources calls HB2007 "A Fight For The Soul Of The Affordable Housing Movement"

Big money talks, and talks politics. In Portland that money has co-opted the campaign for affordable housing, selling the fiction that simply by building ever more market rate and luxury housing, eventually the middle and lower income folks who can’t find affordable housing will be helped.

We object! Real estate economists have shown that the “trickle down” theory of housing affordability underlying this agenda is a myth. Affordability is best supported by public policy which enables construction of housing that is affordable at the outset, if necessary with income criteria for prospective residents. And further that such housing be regulated to ensure it remains affordable for decades.

Portland's own Architectural Heritage Center says HB2007 "Turns Back Clock On Affordable Housing And Historic Preservation"

Ostensibly about easing construction of affordable housing, Oregon HB 2007 is instead both a disservice to affordable housing and a specific harm to historic districts. The bill takes a “one size fits all” approach that overrides local controls over issues like design review and zoning and potentially encourages the demolition of smaller, less expensive homes. In other words, the bill is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

“The Atlantic’s Anti-Historic-District Argument Is Wrong and Extreme” says Justin Davidson in New York Magazine:

Historic districts - like museums, libraries, archives, and any institution that History can’t always defend itself against momentary desires or the indifferent marketplace. That’s why we need to protect it with laws and a culture of respect. We will always have to keep debating where the proper boundaries lie between preservation and change, between cultivating the past and living in the present. But abandoning historic districts to the whims of buyers, sellers, and developers would be a form of cultural vandalism we would quickly come to regret.

“HB 2007 A, Requiring Local Development Code Changes - Oppose” is what the Oregon League of Women Voters say:

The League of Women Voters supports the 19 statewide land use goals and the careful process established by the Land Conservation and Development Commission to promote both conservation and development of land. We oppose HB 2007-A because we believe it seeks to pre-empt land use decisions that should first take place at the local level, where citizen participation is a crucial part of the process.

“Affordable Housing Bill Was Hijacked” by Teressa Raiford, Tracy Prince, Jane Cease in an editorial for the Oregonian:

Sometimes in the legislative process, a good idea in a good bill gets hijacked. That’s what happened to House Bill 2007. It started off as a way to get more affordable housing. It got amended and hijacked to kill off historic districts, to allow development without enough public process and to encourage demolitions.

“YIMBYs: The Darlings of the Real Estate Industry”, write T. Meronek and A. Szeto of Truthout:

If simple supply and demand were a universal solution to rising housing inequality, then building new housing units in cities where the costs of living are high would indeed be a route to cheaper, better housing for all. However, the real world doesn’t work that way, and the YIMBYs’ “build, build, build” platform only stands to benefit a fortunate few.

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