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New housing rules discussed at lively forum

New housing rules discussed at lively forum

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Housing forum participants, from left, Bob Richardson of OSU, Chris Workman of Philomath, Corvallis Councilor Barbara Bull and Kevin Young and Palmer Mason of the state Department of Land Conservation and Development, discussed HB 2001 on Monday night in Corvallis

How will House Bill 2001 work and how much will it change housing in the mid-valley?

Those were the key questions a Monday night forum at the downtown fire station in Corvallis sought to answer.

The 90-minute event before a standing-room-only crowd was hosted by state Sen. Sara Gelser and featured a  range of state and local officials.

HB 2001, which passed the Legislature in July on the final day of the 2019 session, seeks to address the state’s housing supply challenge by making it easier to build “middle housing” — duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and cottage clusters in zones usually reserved for single-family residential units.

The format called for an overview by Gelser, a primer on the bill from Kevin Young of the state’s Department of Land Conservation and Development, a roundtable involving Young and local officials, and audience questions.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Young’s presentation morphed into the roundtable as so many questions came from the panel during the primer that Young, a former planner with Corvallis and Benton County, barely finished his slides.

Key questions focused on the state’s code development and rule-making process and the housing challenges in Corvallis that stem from the presence of Oregon State University students in the rental market.

Some takeaways:

• Cities have a bit of time to try to sort things out because the legislation takes effect June 30, 2021 in cities from 10,000 to 25,000 population and June 30, 2022 for cities of 25,000 and above. The flip side is that cities will need to develop their own code or be forced to work with the model code and rules the state will develop in case local governments haven't met the timelines.  

• Increasing the density in a neighborhood might increase the demand for infrastructure such as water and sewers. The state is offering extensions and funding assistance for those who need more time. The flip side is that, as Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber pointedly asked, “when will a city know for sure how the housing density is going to change in a neighborhood?”

• Market forces will play a key role in how neighborhoods change as well as the individual decisions made by property owners. The flip side is that neighborhoods near the OSU campus have seen a boom in five-bedroom and five-bathroom rental units as university enrollment has grown, and residents and officials are concerned that HB 2001 will make it easier for that trend to continue.

• Just because a lot is big enough to accommodate “middle housing” doesn’t mean that high-rises will go up where a ranch house used to exist. Local governments still can imposes conditions and restrictions involving height, setbacks and parking. The flip side is that HB 2001 remains a new model and folks will remain uneasy until they see how it performs.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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