Democrats in state Senate join Republicans to kill neighborhood income diversity bill

Democrats in state Senate join Republicans to kill neighborhood income diversity bill

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Though the bill would have affected only condos and other owner-occupied homes, some rallied around it as a seemingly achievable way to preserve income diversity in bike-friendly areas like Southeast Division Street.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

A bill that would have let Oregon cities require some condominiums in some new housing projects to be sold for below-market prices reportedly died in the state Senate on Wednesday.

One leading advocate for inclusionary zoning, as such policies are known, said late Wednesday that Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) and Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Southeast Portland) had “opted against a final caucus on the bill, claiming that the votes aren’t there.”

“We believe otherwise,” added the advocate, Jonathan Ostar of Portland-based OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, in an email to supporters of House Bill 2564. “It’s beyond frustrating that the caucus won’t get to discuss this last amendment.”

The bill’s backers include the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, 1000 Friends of Oregon, Upstream Public Health and other groups looking for ways to keep Portland’s decade-long housing shortage from making it impossible for most people to afford homes in Portland’s bikeable, walkable neighborhoods.

Even advocates of inclusionary zoning regularly describe it as an incomplete, though useful, response to the massive problem of affordable housing. Because of the wording of a different Oregon law that bans rent control, HB 2564 as written probably couldn’t have be used to regulate prices in new apartment buildings. But advocates have pushed it as a way to preserve income diversity in resident-owned buildings and neighborhoods.

Opponents of inclusionary zoning, most notably the Oregon Home Builders Association, have argued that Oregon should continue forbidding its cities to enact laws that they see as violating private property rights.

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It’s a surprising turnaround for a bill that up until a month ago seemed likely to pass thanks to large Democratic majorities in both state houses.

As the bill neared death, its most powerful advocate seemed to be House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-North Portland. Here’s Ostar on her role:

Speaker Kotek went above and beyond, drafting a second amendment that reflected Builders’ ongoing concerns while staying firm on the integrity of the policy tool and flexibility for local jurisdictions statewide. She personally shopped the amendment to key Senators, and we believed we had a pathway to move the bill over these final few days. …

Speaker Kotek is calling for a hearing on her final amendment, which we support. It appears the legislature will be working through the weekend, which means there is time for something to shift, however unlikely. I will let folks know if there is any movement on her call for a hearing, which might provide us an opportunity to mobilize a final time this session to show Senate leadership the breadth of support for this bill. Practically speaking, we may not get much notice on this, but we’ll do what we can.

In the meantime, it would be great if folks could email/call/write thank you notes to the Speaker for her leadership. Eventually we’ll circle back with Reps. Williamson and Keny-Guyer and others who were instrumental in getting us this far, but for the moment, let’s make sure Speaker Kotek knows how much we appreciate her work. She definitely extended herself. This one lays squarely at the feet of current Senate leadership.

“Oregonians are feeling real impacts of a statewide housing crisis every day, so the Speaker believed it was important to continue working until the end of the session to give local governments this tool,” Lindsey O’Brien, Kotek’s spokeswoman, said in an email to The Oregonian Wednesday.

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