In support of HB 2001

Published 2019-06-10

In 10min I wrote some testimony in favor of Oregon house bill 2001. Portland for Everyone has a quick explainer. Here’s an OPB story about it. Sightline Institute has written extensively on the missing middle problem it addresses. Here’s the text of the bill itself. No I haven’t actually read it.

If you care about:

  • increasing urban density
  • preserving the urban growth boundary, and the green spaces beyond it
  • meeting our ever-more urgent climate goals
  • sustaining walkable/bikeable, neighborly neighborhoods
  • welcoming a diverse group of people into our cities
  • addressing homelessness and housing affordability head-on
  • pushing back against “canyon” mixed-use development on commercial corridors
  • keeping small business space affordable
  • saving twee Portland bungalows

… you care about the “missing middle” of row homes, plexes, garden courts, and granny flats that were the traditional housing approach in Oregon cities before WWII. This building type is common (somewhat ironically) in Portland’s “historic” neighborhoods: Irvington, Ladd, Nob Hill/Alphabet/Northwest. They are a necessary bridge for people who have outgrown apartments but can’t afford 2500SF on a full city lot.

From: Paul Souders Subject: In support of HB 2001 Date: June 10, 2019 at 1:38:46 PM PDT To:, Cc:

Dear Rep. Power and Sen. Taylor,

Please consider this email testimony to be entered into the record for HB 2001, in FAVOR of the bill.

Firstly, thank you Rep. Power for your sponsorship of this bill.

Secondly, I strongly support expanding the options for housing in Oregon towns and cities. I would like to share my story.

My family recently completed renovation on our home (including adding an ADU) and I have some knowledge of the financial math that’s driving up housing costs and paradoxically will lead the destruction of our historic neighborhood housing stock.

Because the sale value of our lot, if were theoretically unbuilt, was much greater than the sale value of the existing house (built 1942, I think), there was enormous financial pressure to “maximize the envelope” and build a McMansion on our standard 5000SF Portland lot. This would have easily paid for the demolition fee and provided us with a lot of money if we had chosen to sell. That would have turned a ~$500K single family home into a $1.1M single family home! (We did NOT do this!)

Conversely, if we could have built a maximum-envelope duplex on the lot, we could have sold either unit for about $550K.

Either way, the result would have been one $1.1M property. The difference would have been who could live there:

1 millionaire family


2 families that are maybe not actually millionaires.

Of course, we did neither. We won’t be able to flip it and retire, but that wasn’t our goal. But everyone around us is doing some version of this math, and if “missing middle” housing is difficult/impossible to build, the result will be the end of cute Portland bungalows that (in part) drew us to the neighborhood AND ALSO housing that only millionaires can afford! There would probably be an accompanying acceleration of construction in 5-story apartment buildings along the nearby CR corridor, leading to the “canyon effect” we are seeing along Division St. or Mississippi St. Which would also shred the (commercial) neighborhood we moved to! Heck that's already driven a lot of cute neighborhood shops & restaurants out of business, to be replaced by those bougie outfits that sell $15 bowls of soup.

If our goal as Oregonians is to make Oregon a welcoming place, with vibrant neighborhoods, small businesses, and room for a diverse group of people who are not all millionaires, we desperately need to diversify our family-size housing stock.

Thank you,

Paul Souders Portland