Ideas for expanding opportunities for affordable housing move forward

News Article
Two 3D renderings side-by-side, on the left: an aerial view of land and on the right: a pedestrian path
Draft code amendments to conditional use zones available for review and comment.

As the housing crisis continues in Portland, mission-based organizations such as churches and synagogues, as well as other nonprofits, are looking for ways to help. These community-based organizations (CBOs) are particularly concerned about how the housing affordability crisis has disproportionately affected people of color, who are often renters. And some of these institutions have a little extra land they’d like to use to help those in need.

Over the past year, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability staff have been working with CBOs that are interested in utilizing their land – or supporting organizations with available land – to develop affordable housing. Funded by a grant from Metro, the “Expanding Opportunities for Affordable Housing” project was convened to help facilitate that process.

The project has several goals, including identifying and addressing barriers to the development of affordable housing by CBOs, particularly those that are “conditional uses” on residentially zoned land.

Learn more about three CBOs who received grants to explore development options

What is a “conditional use” and how does it create barriers to development?

Institutional uses such as schools, hospitals, fraternal organizations and faith institutions are typically located in residential zones, where they are allowed as conditional uses and subject to an additional level of review by the City. Although conditional uses may be beneficial and serve important public interests, they are subject to the conditional use regulations in order to mitigate potential impacts to surrounding neighborhoods, which the review process can address.

By removing zoning-related barriers to the development of affordable housing, we can help capture the philanthropic momentum and potentially expand opportunities for development through community-based partnerships.

Review and comment on the discussion draft

The cover of the discussion draft

Planning staff have developed draft zoning code amendments that will help reduce regulatory barriers to the development of affordable housing on land owned by CBOs. These code updates amend the conditional use chapter of the zoning code (33.815), as well as the Comprehensive Plan maps and zoning maps for a small number of sites.

The Discussion Draft is the first opportunity for the public to comment on the project’s draft zoning code regulations. Community members are invited to review the Discussion Draft and share their comments until December 2.

Read the EOAH Discussion Draft: 

Public comments on the Discussion Draft will inform staff’s development of a Proposed Draft (expected in January 2020). The Proposed Draft will be presented to the Planning and Sustainability Commission, which will hold a public hearing and consider public testimony on the draft code amendments. The PSC’s recommendations will be incorporated into a Recommended Draft, which will be considered by Portland City Council later in 2020.

Comments can be sent to Nan Stark, project manager, by email to or by mail to 1900 SW 4th Ave Suite 7100, Portland OR 97201, Attn: Expanding Opportunities for Affordable Housing.

Learn more about the project