Oregon Bill Would Increase Density Near Transit

Transit oriented development in Portland's Pearl District. Photo: Smart Growth America
Transit oriented development in Portland's Pearl District. Photo: Smart Growth America

Land within one-half mile of frequent transit would be automatically upzoned for higher density development under a proposal before the Oregon legislature.

Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) unveiled a bill this week that would zone properties within one-half mile of transit to a maximum of 75 units per acre, according to Willamette Week. Properties within one-quarter mile of light rail would be rezoned to an upper limit of 140 units per acre. That’s equivalent to about a six-story building.

Currently in Portland, density is only about seven people per acre. Low residential density around transit means access to transit is restricted and it can lead to housing price appreciation that helps fuel gentrification.

“What’s the point of providing frequent transit if you exclude people from living nearby?” asked Ben Fried, a spokesman for TransitCenter, the national advocacy organization. “Transit works best when people can walk to their stop, and with this policy many more people will be able to live within walking distance of good transit.”

The legislation would not require land by transit to be developed at high densities, but merely allow it.

The bill is one of several progressive housing bills before the legislature this session. A proposal from House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) would ban single-family-only zoning, allowing four-unit buildings in every neighborhood. An additional measure from Kotek and Courtney, which recently passed in the Senate, offers some protections for tenants against rent increases, limiting them to one per year. It also bans evictions without cause.

  • crazyvag

    I’m confused. The bill limits housing density near transit to about 6 stories?

    I guess it’s a start, but why not set a minimum rather than a low maximum?

  • Pietro Gambadilegno

    It is confusing, but if it is like the California bills, that is the minimum maximum density. In other words, cities cannot set a height limit near transit that is lower than 140 units per acre (about six stories) but they can set a height limit that is higher than that.

  • Patricia Gonya

    Population density in Portland is about 4,300 people per square mile which compares favorably with other livable cities like Boulder. Not everybody wants to live in a vertical slum.

  • Patricia Gonya

    Probably because Portland doesn’t have an edifice complex?

  • SeaMoney

    And with this bill nobody will be forced to live in a “vertical slum”. You will continue to be free to live in whatever housing type you prefer assuming you can afford it.

  • Bernard Finucane

    As someone who has lived happily upstairs from a supermarket, I question your claim that nobody lives in commercial space. Far from being a slum, it was quite nice. This was the view taken 3-4 meters from my front door.

    And popping downstairs to get groceries I’d forgotten to buy was very convenient.

    As for your health concerns, the German healthcare system works fine.

  • Bernard Finucane



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