By Garlynn Woodsong | Chair, CNA LUTC
If it seems like the Portland Residential Infill Project has been dragging on for years, that’s because it’s true. The project began in autumn 2015. It will be four years later – autumn 2019 – before the project is likely to be adopted, at the very soonest.
So, what’s going on with it? Ever since last summer, the Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) has been reviewing the staff proposal from April. Public comment was taken until mid-summer. Since then, PSC members have been voting on changes to recommend.
The most recent action was Dec. 11, when the PSC received a staff briefing on an updated economic analysis of the project. It reflects the PSC’s tentative amendments to the proposed draft from September, when it directed staff to revise the proposal to incrementally increase floor area limits for additional units.
This change would allow more housing options and expand the area within which those options would be allowed to all R2.5, R5 and R7 zones, with some exceptions for natural resources and hazards.
Key findings from the economic analysis include:
- The PSC’s revisions would significantly increase housing production in the R2.5, R5 and R7 zones across the next 20 years. An additional 24,000 housing units would be produced, accompanied by only a modest increase in demolitions – 117, which is fewer than six a year citywide.
- The incremental increase in floor area ratio (FAR) allowances for additional units provides a bigger incentive to build housing types other than singlefamily residences. FAR is the ratio between the floor area of the building and the area of the parcel that it sits on.
- The new missing middle housing types – duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and additional auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs) – have smaller unit sizes, which are an average of 56 percent less expensive than new single-family houses.
These reduced housing costs help to provide housing choices for people across a broader range of the income spectrum in more areas of the city.
The PSC is scheduled to receive a briefing on staff’s revised proposal, which should reflect the changes requested to date by the PSC. The PSC is scheduled to vote on recommendations to the city council in March.
City council is anticipated to begin public hearings on the project this summer. No council vote on the project is yet scheduled, but my guess is such a vote will not occur until the school year begins in the autumn, at the very earliest.
From the perspective of the Concordia Neighborhood Association – which has requested that the Portland Residential Infill Project include allowing fourplexes to maximize the potential for reduced housing costs in our neighborhood – the positive news is that the PSC agrees and has requested that fourplexes be added.
The additional good news is the economic analysis confirms that adding fourplexes – and scaling the allowable FAR with the number of units – will result in more, lower-priced units than either the status quo or staff’s original proposal.
Garlynn Woodsong lives on 29th Avenue, serves on the CNA board and is an avid bicyclist. He also is a dad who is passionate about the city his son will inherit. He is the planning + development partner with Cascadia Partners LLC, a local urban planning firm. Contact him at LandUse@ ConcordiaPDX.org.