Bringing Inclusionary Housing to Oregon

In 1999 the Oregon legislature passed a wholesale ban on mandatory inclusionary housing requirements. To date, no other state aside from Texas has implemented a sweeping prohibition against inclusionary housing policies.  Traditionally, land use planning and zoning rules fall under a city’s authority, not under state authority.  By tying the hands of local policy makers, the Oregon Legislature’s 1999 decision deprived the state of thousands of homes for families and workers of moderate means.  As a comparison, in neighboring California, between 2000 and 2006, developers in jurisdictions with inclusionary housing policies built 30,000 reasonably priced homes for low and middle income families.

Inclusionary housing policies were first implemented over 40 years ago, and have since become a widespread planning tool – over 500 jurisdictions now have inclusionary housing programs.  As housing markets across the nation heat up, housing costs are rising, and people of all income levels are feeling the squeeze.  As one of the few tools to tackle escalating housing prices, inclusionary housing programs are experiencing a noticeable renaissance.  Cornerstone Partnership is busy answering questions posed by leaders in places as diverse as Nashville, the Twin Cities, and New York, all of whom want to design or calibrate inclusionary policies for their specific market conditions.

As inclusionary housing programs become ever-more popular, community leaders and elected representatives in Oregon are taking note.  It is hard to ignore the fact that inclusionary housing programs consistently coexist with thriving housing markets and profitable developers.  Plus, academic research has confirmed that inclusionary housing does not impede market rate development¹. The fears that led to Oregon’s ban on inclusionary housing, quite simply, have not played out.

A broad and diverse coalition, led by environmental and social justice advocates, have launched an initiative to finally reverse Oregon’s ban.  Although local policymakers will have to carefully craft the language of their requirements for rental properties due to a State prohibition against rent control, the bill would be a huge step for Oregon.  It would clear the way for mixed-income homeownership development.  A less obvious benefit, but no less important, is that the bill would enable cash-strapped localities to tap into a new source for local housing trust funds – inclusionary in-lieu fees.  Inclusionary housing in-lieu fees fund affordable housing development in hundreds of jurisdictions across the US.  Local jurisdictions in Oregon have unfortunately been unable to benefit from this source of revenue.

Thanks to strong leadership from Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-38) and diplomatic guidance by Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-46) in the House Human Services and Housing Committee, there is a clear path for HB 2564 to pass through the House and be taken up by the Senate in late April.  This is not the first attempt to overturn Oregon’s ban on inclusionary, but it is certainly the most successful. The campaign, led by OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, has changed the political math and garnered support from the House Democrats and key Senators.  Due to Cornerstone Partnership’s work on inclusionary housing around the country, OPAL asked us to testify at hearings in the House and Senate, meet individually with legislators, and provide educational materials to key stakeholders with questions.

We have been thrilled to support the campaign and contribute to its success. If you’d like to find out more, like OPAL on Facebook to get the latest updates on the campaign.



¹Bento, Antonio, Scott Lowe, Gerrit-Jan Knaap, and Arnab Chakraborty. 2009. “Housing Market Effects of Inclusionary Zoning” Cityscape, 11.2, Regulatory Innovation and Affordable Housing 7-26.

Gerrit-Jan, Antonio Bento and Scott Lowe. 2008. Housing Market Impacts of Inclusionary Zoning. College Park, MD: National Center for Smart Growth Research and Education.

SchMukhija, Vinit, Lara Regus, Sara Slovin, and Ashok Das. 2010. “Can inclusionary zoning be an effective and efficient housing policy? Evidence from Los Angeles and Orange Counties.” Journal of Urban Affairs 32.2, 229-252.

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