IPRE has worked on housing issues in Oregon for nearly 30 years. Our research concludes that Oregon has had housing affordability issues for decades. In recent years, housing affordability has reached crisis status in many communities. For example, in 2017 Realtor.com identified Eugene as having the second tightest housing market in the country. Census data shows that more than 100,000 renter households in Oregon were cost-burdened (e.g., pay more than 30% of their monthly income for housing). n 2016. Moreover, 26 Oregon cities with populations over 10,000 are considered “rent-burdened” (more than a quarter of renter households pay more than 50% of their monthly income for housing) by the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department.
The issue has the attention of the Oregon legislature, who has passed several important legislative initiatives to address housing affordability. Rebecca Lewis and Bob Parker supported the Department of Land Conservation and Development in developing the Affordable Housing Pilot Program, which tests simplifying urban growth boundary amendments as a tool to facilitate affordable housing development by providing land. In 2017, the Oregon legislature passed a law (Senate Bill 1051) requiring cities of over 2,500 population to allow accessory dwelling units (aka “granny flats”) in areas zoned for single-family homes.
In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed a statewide rent control policy. This was a response to rapidly increasing rents in many Oregon communities. HB 2003 requires Oregon Housing and Community Services to prepare regional housing needs analyses and for municipalities with populations over 10,000 to develop housing production strategies.
Perhaps the most controversial and innovative legislation that came out of the 2019 session was House Bill 2001. The bill seeks to provide Oregonians with more housing choices–particularly affordable housing. The law allows development of traditional housing types, like duplexes, in residential zones. These housing types already exist in most cities, but were outlawed for decades in many communities. These limitations contribute to increased housing costs and fewer choices. House Bill 2001 will require updates to local laws that currently limit the types of housing people can build.
Rebecca and I recently wrote a piece for The Conversation on initiatives to ban single-family zoning. Our piece comments on the social and environmental implications of exclusive single-family zoning. While we conclude that HB 2001 will probably not have an immediate impact in most Oregon communities (with the exception of Portland), HB 2001 and similar initiatives mark a sea change in policy response to America’s affordability crisis.
You can access The Conversation article using the link below.
In the lull before the finals week storm (or rather, in the midst of preparing for that storm), first year planning graduate students Aiden Forsi, Michael Graham, and Steph Nappa headed off on a whirlwind tour of Northeast Oregon. Their mission: to gain firsthand experience with the “New Natural Resource Economy.”
The new WHAT, you ask? Good question. PPPM Professor Emeritus Mike Hibbard and his research colleague Dr. Sue Lurie have been investigating what they call the new, or next, natural resource economy, aka NNRE, for many years. As part of a year-long project funded by Meyer Memorial Trust, the Ford Family Foundation, and the Oregon Community Foundation, Professor Hibbard and Dr. Lurie are partnering with the CSC to engage graduate students in an applied economic development project centered on the NNRE in Eastern Oregon.
But what is the new natural resource economy? For the long answer, we suggest you read Professor Hibbard’s and Dr. Lurie’s 2013 article in Society & Natural Resources. In brief, however, the NNRE is comprised of small businesses using natural resources in innovative ways that emphasize environmental stewardship. These businesses are contributing to new markets like sustainable farming, habitat restoration, and eco-tourism that complement –not necessarily replace –the traditional, extraction-based natural resource economy
It is perhaps easiest to illustrate with some examples from the students’ trip:
Upper Dry Creek Ranch is a vertically integrated, 100% grassfed beef and lamb ranch. The Cosner family has worked for decades to create a system of ranching that centers on the health of their animals and their land.
The Plantworks is a native plant nursery focused on habitat restoration. Sandy Roth and Dick Kenton collect seeds directly from habitat restoration sites, nurture these native plants through their initial stages of growth, then work to restore ecosystems using the plants.
Stein Distillery is a micro-distillery sourcing local grain from the family farm. Owner Dan Stein transformed a hobby into an award-winning business when he opened to the public in 2009. Spent grains from the distilling process are returned to the farm as fertilizer for the crop that will feed the next batch of handcrafted whiskey, bourbon, vodka, rum, and cordials.
Wilson Ranches Retreat is a bed and breakfast on a working, traditionally managed ranch. The Wilson family is committed to educating visitors about ranching practices that preserve and care for the delicate rangeland of North-central Oregon.
Natural resources and agriculture have always been the backbone of rural life, but the American economy is changing rapidly, shifting away from natural resources towards technology and services. This shift has left many rural communities behind. Professor Hibbard and Dr. Lurie believe that growth of the new natural resource economy may pave the way for rural revitalization in areas hard-hit by economic transition.
As the student team continues to investigate the NNRE in Eastern Oregon, stay tuned for ideas about how policymakers and economic developers can support this emerging sector.
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