Over the past few months, my City Council colleagues and I have had many discussions about housing supply. Many Portlanders are also asking whether the City’s long-range plans will allow enough additional homes to be built to keep up with demand. When supply matches or exceeds demand, it is more likely the cost of housing will be stable or decrease. An adequate housing supply reduces pressure to expand the Urban Growth Boundary.
The Portland City Council’s adoption of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan and the Central City Plan on May 24 gives the city ample capacity for growth and new construction without need to expand the UGB and increase supply.
Here are the facts, according to staff experts at the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability:
- The Metro Regional Growth Forecast allocates 123,000 new households to Portland by 2035.
- The city, under our current Comprehensive Plan, already has capacity to grow by 210,000 households.
- Even before the City began the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Map update under Mayor Hales, Portland was on track to do our share of providing housing to hold the UGB from creeping onto farm and forest land.
- The new Comprehensive Plan and Central City 2035 Plan increase this capacity by 39,000 households, for a total capacity of 249,000 new homes. This capacity includes both single-family and multi-family units, both owner-occupied and tenant-occupied.
We currently have 264,000 housing units in Portland. When the new Comprehensive Plan is adopted later this month, Portland will have the capacity for 249,000 additional housing units to be built.
We have plenty of land supply and zoned capacity for development. Demand for housing at particular price points may exceed supply at any given time. There is an ongoing influx of affluent people moving to Portland, and slow development of market rate housing seems to be responding to this rather than to a lack of land zoned for housing. Approximately 95% of new market rate housing is being built at the luxury level. Building more luxury units alone won’t protect vulnerable populations.
The vast majority of the zoning map changes which I joined my colleagues on Council in supporting were made after many months of extensive public process, with input from tens of thousands of Portlanders as well as the Planning & Sustainability Commission. In a few instances recently, I was not persuaded to support final-hour spot-zoning proposals to increase density on individual lots based solely on “the need for housing”. The evidence does not support the assertion that more units, in every instance and in every location, are needed to meet citywide goals.
We must carefully weigh the long-term risks and benefits of proposed zoning changes that are based on the promise of a potential development project or a particular housing style. Changing the zoning map and/or Code does not guarantee that a specific project will be built at the affordability level promised.
We must focus our energy on how to incent affordable options to serve all Portlanders as the capacity already permitted by the new Comprehensive Plan is being built. We have plenty of capacity.