Portland has recently passed a law allowing up to four homes on practically any residential lot. After almost six years since the concept was presented by a local micro-developer, the Residential Infill Project was finally approved by the Portland City Council by a 3-1 vote. The road to this approval has since been long and controversial, having been delayed, and then sent back several times. “Who knew putting people at city council, testifying, writing letters, and convincing their elected officials could change public policy?” Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty said. Five years in the making, it’s finally passed!
Through legalizing different housing types – duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and even cottage clusters – in residential neighborhoods, the Residential Infill Project (RIP) offers a solution to accessibility and affordability in Portland. Over the next 20 years, it’s predicted that the city will be able to add 20,000+ more housing opportunities across Portland neighborhoods. In addition, RIP also offers a “Deeper Affordability” option, wherein four to six homes on any lot are allowed, if at least half are available to low-income Portlanders at regulated, affordable prices.
In summary, the RIP as passed, will:
· Remove all parking mandates from 75 percent of the city’s residential land, making home driveways optional citywide for the first time since 1973
· Ensure an expanded and accessible range of housing options, creating a pathway to homeownership that would otherwise be unattainable for many Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities
· Re-legalize smaller scale middle housing types in all neighborhoods, expanding access to usually exclusive, higher-opportunity areas
· Utilize a scaled approach, letting the size of buildings adjust with the number of homes (then maximum square footage of 6,500 sq. ft. is now reduced to 2,500 sq. ft.)
· Provide more place for Portlanders to live and address shortage of housing – a huge factor why there are escalating rents
· Ban new “McMansions,” and discourage one-for-one redevelopments
· Provide more opportunities to age in place, including allowing two accessory dwelling units (ADU) per lot and greater flexibility to accommodate mobility aids
· Address the climate crisis by residential redevelopment to be more supportive of transit, biking, and walking. thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution
Formerly, Vancouver has re-legalized duplexes, Minneapolis triplexes, Seattle has passed landmark ADU reforms, and Austin has conceptualized six-plex for affordability. These measures taken by different U.S. cities may seem similar to Portland’s, but RIP is considered the most likely to create results, making the city the leader in zoning reforms. It’s actually recognized as the best low-density zoning reform in the history of the U.S.
A great victory—yet Portland remains hard at work on even bigger solutions to the housing crisis. The city is looking into a more comprehensive Anti-Displacement Action Plan as well. The law is scheduled to take effect in 2021, upon acknowledgment by the state government.
Learn more about RIP here.