Should Salem plan Sherwood’s growth over the next 50 years?

Salem wants to take a more direct role in defining what our neighborhoods look like and how they will grow. The House Speakers Office believes this will in part solve for the housing crisis that we face today.

House Bill 2001 would abolish exclusive single-family zoning in cities with more than 10,000 residents. It would allow the construction of duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, quadplexes and cottage clusters, on any lot that is zoned for single family homes. The developer would have the choice of what type of home to build.

I think all of us can agree that there is a housing crisis that is putting the dream of home ownership out of reach for many in our communities. The question is how to best solve for that problem; A top-down one size fits all mandate from Salem or solutions and programs that are created at the local level that takes into account our unique circumstances?

On a fundamental level, this bill allows a homebuilder to choose which mode of housing will be developed, with no accountability for the results that we are trying to achieve. Housing markets are speculative by nature. A homebuilder is going to make these decisions based on the demands of their investors, meaning profit, not the needs of the communities. furthermore developers come into a community build homes, then leave. They are not concerned with the long term impacts on livability, infrastructure, transportation and utilities. High demand markets will always drive high prices, regardless of the incentives that are created in the absence of accountability.

The bill does not account for the impacts on long term planning as it relates to school capacity, utilities, transportation, infrastructure, and city services (police, parks, etc.), When planners are not able to forecast what mode of housing is being developed, they will need to assume the highest use scenarios. This leads to incremental costs for transportation and utility infrastructure for new developments. In areas targeted for re-development, it will impact user fees and utility rates when infrastructure has to be upgraded to accommodate the increased density.

The decision on what mode of housing should be built on a given lot or set of lots should be driven by the planning departments at the local level, with heavy involvement of the community, as required under Statewide Planning Goals – Goal 1.

The Centers for Housing Policy found that local conditions have a dramatic impact on the success or failure of inclusionary housing programs. Programs that accounted for local economic and housing market factors have the best chance for success.

The Sherwood City Council passed a resolution in opposition to this bill for many of the reasons that I covered in this blog post.

I recently testified before the Oregon House Committee on Human Services and Housing on this subject. I lobbied for partnership from Salem, not mandates. We need tools to help solve for affordability and the missing middle. We need to be able to plan our infrastructure, ensure adequate transportation options, and most importantly we need to partner with our schools to manage growth. We have a great community because of careful planning over the last 30 years. We need to keep the authority to plan our community at the local level.

This is a complex challenge, what do you think? I would like to hear from the citizens of Sherwood on this issue.

More Reading:

Council President Rosener Letter to House Committee on HB2001

Sherwood City Council Resolution in Opposition to HB2001.

Oregon Legislative System: HB2001 Text

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