Expanding Opportunities for Affordable Housing adopted unanimously by City Council

News Article
Innovative zoning code and map changes will help faith- and community-based organizations build affordable housing on their land.

On June 17, City Council voted to adopt the regulatory changes proposed in the Expanding Opportunities for Affordable Housing proposals. These changes to the zoning code will streamline the review process for community and faith-based organizations that plan to develop affordable housing on their land and are located in residential zones. In addition to zoning code changes, zoning map changes were made on 19 faith- or community-owned sites, which will provide greater flexibility and options for future development. All of the changes went into effect on June 18. 

The zoning code changes adopted by City Council will allow organizations that are in residential zones to:  

  • Develop affordable housing on their land without a conditional use (CU) review if at least 50% of the units are affordable. 

  • Repurpose up to 50% of their parking area for an affordable housing project. 

  • Add up to 2,000 sq ft of nonresidential use without the conditional use review. 

Removing regulatory barriers 

The CU review was identified as one of the major regulatory hurdles, particularly to faith-based organizations, which are typically located in single-dwelling zones where CU is required for institutional uses like schools, religious institutions and community service uses. Besides being a costly review (about $30,000), an organization that is typically doing this work by volunteer committee members without land use expertise must hire a consultant to help them through the CU review process, which adds to the cost of the review. The review takes 9-12 months to complete, and is necessary before permits can be submitted. 

The code changes will make it easier and less costly for organizations to provide affordable housing using their land. But Council also directed BPS staff to do two more things:  

  1. Return in the Fall of this year to recommend four additional sites a similar zone change on their sites. Because public notice was not provided for these, Council did not want to include them in the package that was adopted. They also removed one site that was controversial and added it to the list for a total of five sites to be considered in the fall. 

  1. Additionally, Council directed BPS to initiate a longer term mapping project “that identifies, with community members, properties where a zoning change could create community benefits, focusing on anti-displacement strategies, equitable wealth generation, addressing past harms and furthering fair housing.” 

Commissioners’ comments as they voted 

As Council voted unanimously to adopt the EOAH proposals, Commissioners acknowledged staff and community partners who made it possible. They also noted the significance of the work in light of current events.  

Commissioner Amanda Fritz acknowledged EOAH Project Manager Nan Stark by thanking her for “presenting City Council with an opportunity to provide direction on a restorative and reparative planning effort.” 

Acknowledging the State’s contribution to the project, Mayor Ted Wheeler thanked Speaker Tina Kotek and her office “for urging City Council to bring this project across the finish line as soon as possible. 

“I hope the State can make more of these projects financially feasible and match our local efforts with resources and tools they have. This could be a very powerful partnership for the City of Portland and the State of Oregon. So, let’s work in that direction.” 

Watch the Council session: