Welcome to Housing Facts

Eugene has a housing crisis.
But it may be a bit different than you assume, and you may be surprised to learn that the loud voices promoting “build-baby-build” as the solution are less interested in solving the problem than making money.

City of Eugene planners and planning commissioners propose to eliminate what the investors and developers claim are “barriers” to their development plans, without any attempt to address the real housing crises, as explained below.

Under the guise of a response to the (2019) House Bill 2001 (the so-called “Middle Housing” legislation), city planners have drafted a sweeping set of Eugene code amendments that would effectively upzone almost all of Eugene’s residential neighborhoods.

The proposed changes take a “one-size-fits-all” approach without any consideration of geography or neighborhood character. The dereuglation would allow five times the current density; much smaller lots with three, four, or more times the current number of dwellings; much taller buildings; much greater lot coverage by structures; elimination of tree protections; no provisions to accomodate parking or circulation for the additional cars that would accompany more intensive development. And there are no provisions to prevent the displacement of lower-income households by demolitions and increased rents.

This website explains housing fundamentals and illuminates some of the consequences of staff’s proposed code amendments.

Are you already up-to-speed and want to help protect low-income households? Scroll to the bottom of this page to take action.

NEW! Read “Housing the Rich” in the August 9th issue of the Eugene Weekly. Here are sources for two of the central claims in the piece:

1. Black advocacy group’s recent, well-researched report states:

In Charlottesville, our studies and lived experiences overwhelmingly show that when we permit market-rate and luxury housing development without deep affordability, we see skyrocketing rental rates, rapidly accelerating development in previously Black-majority neighborhoods, and displacement of predominantly Black lower-income residents.

“Why Building More Market Rate Housing Will Not Solve Charlottesville’s Housing Crisis” — Report by the Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition; Published April 29, 2021

2. Experts recommend developing multiple, context-based plans for smaller subareas to protect non-white residents. Lisa Barnes, a preeminent expert on housing impacts on non-white and lower-income neighborhoods, explains this point.

Unexpected outcomes of revitalization planning can have highly detrimental effects for neighborhoods, and indeed, the city as a whole. One reason for this problem is that planning departments often target policies to geographic areas that do not include a consistent level of housing quality and that do not define the extent of the housing submarket. To implement effective strategies, planners should first assess the spatial structure of the housing market in their city.

Does Neighborhood Really Matter?Journal of Planning Education and Research 26:5-17 (2006)

Read the “Letters to the Editor” in the Eugene Weekly in response to “Housing the Rich“.

REFERENCES: Need additional solid research and evidence as you explore this website? Download a PDF document with annotated references and links:
Click here.

A CLOSER LOOK AT HOUSING FACTS

The true housing crisis in Eugene
Too many households in Eugene are “housing-cost burdened,” which means that after they pay the full cost of housing, they don’t have adequate, sustainable financial resources to cover the cost of other basic living necessities, such as food, medical care, etc.
More info at: “Understanding Housing-Cost-Burdened

It is a crisis for a low-income household when they have to forego food or medical care to pay rent.

It is a crisis when a large medical expense forces a low-income household into homelessness because they have not got enough money left to pay the rent.

It is a crisis when redevelopment and/or gentrification displaces a low-income household from a home that was affordable until it was demolished or the rent was suddenly increased significantly.
More info at: Understanding Displacement

Households that are housing-cost-burdened are mostly renters in the lowest categories of household income.
The housing crisis is not spread across Eugene households evenly or equitably. Almost all housing-cost burdened households are Very Low Income (VLI) or Extremely Low Income (ELI). Almost all VLI and ELI households are renters. Definitions …

Eugene has an ample supply of housing affordable to middle- and higher-income households.
Although middle-income households in Eugene may find they can’t afford the house they would like to buy, there is a surplus of housing for purchase or rent that middle-income households can afford.

This may be an undesirable situation, but it is not a “crisis.”

Allowing more intensive infill development by deregulating Eugene’s residential zoning standards must be done only for future housing projects that will offer lower rents, not just increase investors’ profits.
The issue isn’t that zoning shouldn’t be more flexible— it should be. The issue is that deregulation of residential zoning to allow more intensive development must be paired with regulations to ensure that what gets built will contribute significantly to more housing that is affordable to low-income households.

Eugene Planning Division staff have written draft code amendments that will worsen the housing crisis, if adopted by the City Council.
City staff are recommending that the City Council approve extreme deregulation of almost all of the residential areas in the City. Only subdivisions, mostly newer and more expensive, that have restrictive homeowner covenants would be exempt from the impacts of the deregulation.

The proposed deregulation would allow extremely tiny lots (844 square feet) without street access, much higher buildings close to adjacent homes, many more dwellings on even small lots, elimination of tree protections, and otherwise unleash much more intensive, market-rate redevelopment in older neighborhoods.

Such a radical deregulation would constitute a massive financial inducement encouraging investors to redevelop lower-cost rental houses (and duplexes) as higher-cost, multi-unit rentals. The inexorable result would be the displacement of current lower-income renters in the impacted neighborhoods.

Learn how a low-income housing advocacy group is fighting to stop displacement of Black households in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Why Market Rate Development Will Not Solve Our Housing Crisis

The Planning Division staff have completely ignored the potential for displacement in their recommendations. The staff were asked for their estimate of the number of low-income households that would be displaced. Their answer: “This precise statistic is not included in the middle housing code amendments scope of work.” (Email from Planning Division on March 15, 2021.)

Renters of low/moderate-cost homes in Jefferson Westside Neighbors
You are at risk of displacement. Once the property that you rent is upzoned to allow three, four or more rental units, the owner (or investors to whom the owner sells) will have a substantial financial incentive to demolish your house and replace it with a triplex or fourplex of apartments that rent for more than your house. Take a look at what’s already happened in the JWN:
Click to view

Even if your house isn’t a target for demolition and redevelopment, other lower-rent houses in your neighborhood will be. As the potential for redevelopment creates the opportunity for greater rents and return-on-investment (ROI), rental property owners will raise their rents to roughly match the potential ROI by selling the property to an investor.

The staff code recommendation to deregulate the JWN neighborhood is high-octane fuel for Gentrification. Say “good bye” to lower-income households!

The following sections are “under construction” — Stay tuned!

Basic housing facts for the Eugene area.
Follow the links below for evidence and discussions. [Coming Soon!]

  • What are the most effective ways to reduce housing-cost burdens?
    1. Raise wages.
    2. Build more subsidized housing
    3. Implement land value recovery policies


  • Can market-rate housing be built that will reduce housing-cost burdens?
    No. The current cost of materials and labor makes it impossible in Eugene to build housing that’s afforable to VLI and ELI housholds without some form of subsidy.

  • Would deregulation of low-density, “single-family” zoning reduce housing-cost burdens?
    Generally, “No.” However, less stringent zoning standards forinclusionary zoningcould reduce housing-cost burdens.

  • What effect would allowing “Middle Housing” in “single-family” neighborhoods have on housing-cost burdens?
    With “inclusionary” requirements, this could help. With market-rate upzoning, this would potentially worsen housing-cost burdens because of displacement and increased rents.

  • Is Eugene’s zoning code “racially exclusionary”?
    No. Household wealth is the only “exclusionary” housing factor in Eugene. Overall, non-white households have less wealth and thus have fewer available dwellings they can afford. Overall, a greater proportion of non-white households are housing-cost burdened.

    Planning Division staff have been unable to identify any provision of Eugene’s residential zoning code that was “racially exclusionery” or any proposed code amendment that would remediate racial exclusion. (Email from Planning Division on February 16, 2021) Learn more about the staff false narrative.

  • Would building more market-rate housing have a “trickle down” effect that would reduce current housing-cost burdens?
    No. Adding additional supply of housing at market-rate would have no impact on the cost of housing that would be affordable to VLI and ELI households.

    Planning Division staff have been unable to identify any evidence that a “trickle down” effect from new, market-rate housing would benefit VLI and ELI households. (Email from Planning Division on April 29, 2021)

  • Would building more market-rate housing have a “filtering” effect that would reduce long-term housing-cost burdens?
    No. Adding additional supply of housing at market-rate would have no impact on the future cost of housing that would be affordable to VLI and ELI households.

    Planning Division staff have been unable to identify any evidence that a “filtering” effect from new, market-rate housing would benefit VLI and ELI households. (Email from Planning Division on April 29, 2021)

  • Would building more market-rate housing provide more choices of dwelling types?
    It depends. Investors and developers will build the type of market-rate housing that they believe will produce the maximum profitability with the least risk. The result may or may not be additional choices across the full spectrum of housing types.

  • Would deregulation of low-density, “single-family” zoning have any harmful impacts?
    Yes! If the deregulation leaves the decision of what gets built, where and at what cost to investors and developers, the redevelopment in lower-cost neighborhoods is likely to increase demolitions and displacement of current residents.

    Upzoning without protections against displacement of lower-income households may violate the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). Learn more about potential legal issues with the Eugene Planning Division’s proposed upzoning:
    Upzoning and Racial Displacement Legal Issues

  • Would greater degrees of deregulation produce greater reduction in housing-cost burdens?
    No! While greater deregulation allows investors and developers to reduce land costs and/or create larger buildings, no amount of deregulation would enable market-rate housing to be affordable to VLI and ELI housholds.

  • What specific deregulation has the Oregon Legislature dictated?
    Several recent bills require that Eugene upzone residential areas to allow accessory dwelling units, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, rowhouses and “cottage clusters.”


    The (2019) HB 2001 bill was sold as “gentle density” with so-called “Middle Housing.” While it’s sound land use planning to allow a mixture of different housing types, it’s critical to have appropriate development standards when these more intensive forms of development are allowed as “infill” in already built-out neighborhoods.

    Take a tour of the “Mything Middle Housing Gallery”.

  • What zone changes has Eugene Planning Division staff drafted, and how do these changes correspond to the legislative requirements?
    The city planners have drafted code amendments that would result in far more extensive deregulation than required by State requirements. The staff’s recommendation of such extreme deregulation would exacerbate the harmful impacts on low-income renters, including displacements and greater housing cost burdens.

You can help ensure that future code amendments lower rents, not just increase investors’ profits.

RIght now, take only five minutes to send an email to the City Council with the simple message:

I (we) urge the City Council to ensure that the implementation of “Middle Housing” does not allow or encourage housing development that would displace low-income households because of demolitions or significant increases in monthly rents in their neighborhoods.

TO: MayorAndCC@ci.eugene.or.us

Click for more advice on taking action.

1 Comment

  1. Dear Mayor and Eugene City Council,
    I believe “middle housing” in Eugene is appropriate only if explicit safeguards are included that require its implementation to address equity in housing opportunities across all income ranges. Without explicit safeguards, deregulation of current zoning will inevitably leave middle housing projects to be defined only by profit, once again leaving low income people at risk.

    Like

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