Two bills that got first hearings today in the state House Committee on Human Services and Housing are sure to provoke fireworks if they move further.
To people relatively new to Oregon, or to city-dwellers aware of government efforts to promote the development of ADUs and other construction that promotes density, the bills might seem like logical response to the state's housing shortage.
But Oregon's famed land-use planning system is built on the premise of protecting rural lands from development, i.e. stopping sprawl from extending outside city limits.
There have been few more contentious issues in Oregon politics in this century than the property rights ballot measures in the previous decade.
In 2004, voters approved Ballot Measure 37, which allowed landowners who felt they'd been harmed by land-use or environmental laws to claim compensation from the state or develop their land under whatever rules applied when they first purchased their land. The measure resulted in the filing of claims in excess of $17 billion—a figure vastly beyond the available resources.
In 2007, supporters of the state's land-use laws approved Ballot Measure 49, which repealed the earlier measure.
The bills today generated a great deal of public testimony. Broadly speaking, farmers oppose the bills, while some people dealing with the shortage of affordable housing, including a county commissioner each from Lane and Marion counties testified in favor of the bills.
Mary Kyle McCurdy, the deputy director of 1000 Friends of Oregon, the advocacy group most closely associated with protecting Oregon's land-use laws, testified in opposition to both:
We respect the concern for affordable housing that has motivated some of the proponents of these bills. However:
*The bills do not require that the housing be affordable or provided only to those of a certain income level.
*The bills do not prohibit the housing from being used as short term vacation rentals, which is happening across Oregon’s farm land right now.
*Oregon law already provides many options for farm and non-farm dwellings for those who need to live on a farm in order to participate in farming. And, there are already hundreds of thousands of acres in rural residential areas that are zoned for housing.
*Most Oregonians of any income level, and particularly those of lower income, need housing inside towns and cities, near existing employment centers. A bill that would address this need would allow accessory dwelling units in all single-family zones inside UGBs. Metro required this in all cities in its region over 15 years ago, and it is working well.