HomeBudget & Tax NewsThe Sovietization of Oregon

The Sovietization of Oregon

Housing prices are falling today due the economy, but Oregon still has few new homes being built to house its residents

A sweeping new housing bill is prancing its way through the Oregon legislature in the name of affordable housing. The bill would greatly reduce the rights of Oregon residents to have a say in the future of their neighborhoods. Instead, it would direct the state’s Office of Economic Analysis to set housing targets for all cities in the state with more than 10,000 residents, and those cities would have six to eight years to meet those targets no matter what the cost.

When Oregon first passed its land-use regulations back in the 1970s, citizen involvement was the number one goal. Now, anyone who doesn’t think a giant apartment building should be built next their house is a NIMBY and probably a racist and should be ignored.

When the Oregon legislature abolished single-family zoning four years ago, people said not to worry about the impact on neighborhoods because the new law would only allow duplexes and triplexes in those neighborhoods. But there was no way that this would make housing more affordable, so it was obvious that the next steps would be even harsher.

Housing prices are falling today due the economy, but Oregon still has few new homes being built to house its residents. The new law is supposed to turn that around with top-down housing targets. Each city over 10,000 people will get two targets: one for subsidized housing and one for all housing. Let’s see, wasn’t there once a country whose government was based on such targets? What was it called? Oh, yes, the Soviet Union. Since targets worked so well there, let’s try them in Oregon.

The Oregonian, Oregon’s largest newspaper, chortles that “a major reason the housing accountability bill could move fast this session is that it makes no significant changes to the state’s urban growth boundary system, which limits development outside of cities.” In other words, the bill does nothing to fix the actual reason why housing is expensive.

Despite this, Dave Hunnicut of the Oregon Property Owners Association, which has long been the leading opponent of the state’s urban-growth boundaries, appears to tacitly support the bill, at least according to the Oregonian. Hunnicut seems to approve of the elimination of public involvement rules that “let Karen who just moved into the house in the brand new subdivision right next to the vacant lot that’s slated to develop . . . to come in and say, ‘I don’t like this.’”

The problem, of course, is that Karen and all the people who bought into Oregon’s single-family neighborhoods over the last 60 years did so with the expectation that their neighborhoods would remain quiet, peaceful, and congestion-free. This bill aims to change that and make many neighborhoods much less desirable to live in.

I’m not sure what Hunnicut’s real position is, but at least some Oregonians agree with me that density is not the solution. Lewis & Clark law professor Jack Bogdanski argues that the propose bill is “going to force the cities to trash any other standards that stand in the way of Soviet-style apartment bunkers on every block (with no parking, of course).”

Under the proposed law, cities that want to require developers to provide plenty of parking for residents or similar amenities will be overruled by the state. This has become an issue because Troutdale, on the outer reaches of the Portland area, wanted to require two parking spaces for every dwelling unit so that residents didn’t clog up city streets with their cars.

The bottom line is that Oregon is going to destroy the livability of major cities in the name of an urban-planning fad that is based on high-density housing that was obsolete a century ago. This is necessary, say planning advocates, to protect Oregon rural areas from development. As I’ll show tomorrow, such protection is entirely unnecessary.

Originally published by The Antiplanner. Republished with permission.

For more from Budget & Tax News.

For more public policy from The Heartland Institute.




The Antiplanner
The Antiplanner
The Antiplanner is a forester and economist with more than fifty years of experience critiquing government land-use and transportation plans.


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