Editorial: Problems with the Proposed Middle Housing Code Changes

While supportive of the effort to increase middle housing choices, an analysis of the draft amendments by several Neighborhood Association land use chairs points to three items they believe should be reviewed carefully by the Planning Commission:

1. The proposal doesn’t require that developers of master planned areas build any more middle housing. Table 11-1 in the Bend Comprehensive Plan, titled “Residential Master Plan Minimum Density and Housing Mix” is not being changed. It requires that 10% of dwelling units in developments in RS zones and 67% of units in developments in RM and RH zones be duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, townhomes, or multi-family.

The city could use this opportunity to set separate requirements for middle housing types versus multi-family apartments, and it could increase the required percentage in RS (single-family) zones (to 15%? 20%?). Otherwise, future developments can continue the past pattern of building only single-family homes in one area and apartment complexes in other areas, and middle housing will remain missing.

2. The proposed amendments increase the size of buildings, including single-family homes, that can be built in RS zones. A standard called the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limits the scale of buildings to ensure some degree of compatibility. It is currently set at 0.6, meaning that the total amount of gross enclosed floor area on a lot is capped in most cases at 60% of the lot size (e.g., 2,400 sq.ft. on a 4,000 sq.ft. lot), regardless of the number of stories.

The new rules do two things:

a) Eliminate the 0.6 FAR limit for 1 and 2 story homes; so you will now be able to build a 3,600 s.f. 2-story home (50% larger than 2,400 s.f.).
b) Allow a FAR of 1.1 if there are 3 stories; so you will now be able to build a 4,400 s.f. 3-story home on a 4,000 s.f. lot.

These changes are not required by the state, and no one has suggested that Bend needs larger homes to solve its housing crisis. Critics say the result will be the demolition of more-affordable smaller homes in favor of larger, more-expensive single-family homes, leading to the gentrification of existing neighborhoods.

3. The proposed off-street parking minimums are inconsistent and somewhat irrational. The rules adopted by the state provide a range of options to cities. For example, Bend can require zero or one off-street space per duplex dwelling unit. Triplexes and quadplexes can be required to have zero spaces or one per unit or two per lot, depending on lot size.

The parking requirements proposed in the draft (zero spaces for duplexes and triplexes, one for quad developments, one for each townhome, and one for each cottage) raise obvious questions:

a) What is the rationale for requiring two spaces for two attached townhomes, but zero spaces for a duplex?
b) Why require four spaces for a cottage development with four units, but only one space for a quadplex, which also has four dwelling units?

The solution that would be both fair and meet the state’s standards under HB 2001 would be to require one off-street space per dwelling unit, regardless of the middle housing type involved.

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