April is Fair Housing Month, a theme that guided my steps as mayor as well as our City Council agenda. It is not news to most readers that our community faces a housing crisis at all levels. There is a shortage at the upper end of single family homes, which adds downward pressure on the housing market. As people scramble in a seller’s market, the moderately priced homes become more valuable, and folks at the low end of the market are squeezed out. Added to this is our severe shortage of affordable rentals as well as subsidized housing, and we see unrelenting stress on tenants.
Addressing a newly available affordable housing tool in Oregon, Council held its first work session on Inclusionary Zoning. Thanks to 2016 state legislation, municipalities can impose a requirement for affordable housing in new apartments with 20 or more units. Council asked City staff to develop more detailed information about how inclusionary zoning has been used in other jurisdictions and analyze the market conditions and policy options for council to consider in a follow up session. This discussion also included the potential for creating an affordable housing trust fund by implementing a Construction Excise Tax of 1% on new construction, giving the City needed revenue to help support future affordable housing development.
On April 11th and 12th, I joined over 100 community members at the Livability Solutions Forum to learn more about “Missing Middle Housing” from Daniel Parolek, the planner who coined the phrase. I am committed to championing this model to help our city expand the supply of housing at a range of levels. Missing Middle refers to duplexes, fourplexes, bungalow courts, secondary dwelling units, and small apartment buildings that are tucked into neighborhoods where they match the scale of existing buildings. I plan to continue to work with conference organizers – including AARP and Better Eugene Springfield Transit (BEST)—and attendees to work on applying these concepts. Cataloging the middle housing we currently have and noting the buildings that work best in our community, is the first step in taking us out of the theoretical and moving us toward planning with a concrete understanding of where and what style of housing would work well in different neighborhoods.