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Single-Family Zoning’s Impact on Climate Change

The Oregon Legislature recently passed Bill 2001. This legislation requires cities with a population greater than 10,000 or within a metro to allow duplexes in lands zoned for single-family dwellings within the urban growth boundary.

The bill, which is awaiting Gov. Kate Brown's signature before it becomes a law, is also likely to combat climate change challenges, according to Steve Novick, the former Portland City Commissioner.

"We know that when enough people live within walking distance of each other, a grocery store will spring up that they can all walk to instead of drive to. We know that when people live in smaller multifamily units with shared walks, they use less power for heating and cooling than people who live in single-family houses," Novick told the Willamette Week.

"In cities of more than 25,000 and within the Portland metro area, the bill would further legalize triplexes, fourplexes, attached townhomes, and cottage clusters on some lots in all “areas zoned for residential use,” where only single-detached houses are currently allowed," Michael Andersen, Senior Researcher at the Sightline Institute wrote in the organization's blog.

Additionally, Andersen said that the bill would impact 2.8 Oregonians. "In cities of more than 25,000 and within the Portland metro area, the bill would further legalize triplexes, fourplexes, attached townhomes, and cottage clusters on some lots in all “areas zoned for residential use,” where only single-detached houses are currently allowed," he wrote.

The bill was introduced by House Speaker Tina Kotek in February this year with a view to allowing different opportunities in neighborhoods with different housing opportunities that are more affordable in increasingly expensive markets like Portland.

However, the Willamette Week reported that the environmental and affordability benefits provided by this bill could be "blunted" as the bill also gives a provision that could ease pushing single-family zoning into the suburbs.

"The amendments demanded by the Realtors are part of their effort to force expensive sprawl onto farm and forest land, to rig the land use system in ways that turn Portland into Houston," Randy Tucker, a lobbyist for Metro told Willamette Week. "While Metro opposed these amendments, we continue to believe that smart reforms to the system, like HB 2001, can improve housing opportunity while protecting the farms, forests and clean water we all value about this place."

About Author: Radhika Ojha

Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and copy-editor, and a reporter for DS News. She is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her masters degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha, also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas.
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