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Why Metro Should OK Suburban Housing Expansion Proposal
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This article is intended to inform the reader of general legal principles applicable to the subject area. It is not intended to provide legal advice regarding specific problems or circumstances. Readers should consult with competent counsel with regard to specific situations.

By Jamie Howsley, Attorney

This article originally appeared in the August 7, 2018 edition of the Portland Business Journal.

The Portland area is facing a housing affordability and supply crisis, and the regionally elected Metro Council has the unique opportunity to help address it. Very soon, the council will vote to approve or deny the carefully-crafted proposals of four cities - Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville - to expand the region's urban growth boundary and add roughly 9,200 new housing units in their communities to help drive down housing costs across the region.
Metro planners estimate the Portland area needs roughly 300,000 new housing units over the next 20 years to meet the demands of population growth. In the face of this unprecedented growth, coupled with our current housing deficit, creating 9,200 units is modest in relation to the needs and challenges confronting us as a region.

While each proposal enjoys the unanimous support of the elected officials in each city, we commissioned a poll of likely voters within the region to better understand attitudes about our regional housing issues.

We learned that despite polarization in our national politics, voters in the Portland area are united in favor of building additional housing to help drive down costs. Importantly, voters favor more new housing and more diverse housing choices in suburban communities — places like Beaverton, Hillsboro, King City and Wilsonville. Regional housing and land use goals over the past 30 years encouraged infill and density in the city of Portland. While this needs to continue as a strategy, moving forward we must move beyond the central city and ensure better housing availability and options by providing the rest of the region the tools and land they need to support housing choices, as well.

Some highlights of the poll include:

  • By 59 percent to 30 percent, voters believe the Portland area needs to build more housing to meet the demand of current and future residents. This view was shared widely across all three Portland-metro counties with little difference among Democrats and Republicans.
  • 53 percent of voters favor new suburban neighborhoods with diverse housing options, versus 32 percent of voters who prefer increased density in existing neighborhoods. Interestingly, a majority of voters in all three counties favor this approach: 57 percent in Clackamas County, 54 percent in Washington and 51 percent in Multnomah.
  • 54 percent of voters believe making home ownership affordable to as many people as possible is important to building a rising middle class, while 41 percent believe renting remains a good and affordable option for many people. By 57 percent to 49 percent, women favor ownership over renting.
  • When asked to define "affordable housing," 40 percent of voters chose housing ownership options for low-to-moderate income families, 36 percent selected rental properties for low-to- moderate income families, and 14 percent said public housing for those in need and shelters for the homeless.

In the end, the message from local elected officials and Portland-metro voters is straightforward and simple: the Portland area urgently needs more housing in more places of more types and prices to combat the housing affordability and supply crisis. We urge the Metro Council to do all it can to make this happen by voting in favor of each of the four city plans later this year.