Help is on the way!
  • Nicole Cmar
  • Help is on the way!

Portland Senator Michael Dembrow confirmed to the Mercury that he will introduce a bill during the 2016 session that, if passed, would lift the statewide ban on inclusionary zoning (IZ) on both for-sale and rental units.

In case you missed my story today, affordable housing advocates are hopeful that the 2016 legislative session might be the one in which Oregon finally removes a preemptive ban on IZ, allowing local jurisdictions to require developers to reserve a certain number of units in new projects as affordable to low-income residents.

In a Wednesday phone call, Dembrow said he'll reintroduce the legislation, only, this time around it will include rentals rather than just single-family homes and condos.

"We think we've been able to find a way to include rentals without violating the state's ban on enacting rent control," Dembrow says. "We think that, from a legal standpoint, that by having units in new developments from the very beginning, and by offering developers things like system development charge waivers or height bonuses as a trade, this can be done irrespective of the ban."

Dembrow says he thinks the time is right in the face of the current housing crisis across the state. He says, in addition to the lack of affordable housing in Portland, places like Deschutes County are being hit hard. There, the new Oregon State University Cascades campus opened recently, and many college employees working on campus are being forced to live in neighboring Redmond because they can't afford to rent in Bend.

"One of the reasons I chose to work on the inclusionary zoning issue is that I'm also really involved in getting the minimum wage increased," Dembrow says. "One of the things I get pushback on is people saying in order to tackle poverty in the state you can't just address wages, you've got to also focus on the high cost of housing."

The 2016 Oregon legislative session begins Feb 1. Dembrow says the Senate Workforce Committee will meet in mid-January to have a preliminary hearing on both the inclusionary zoning bill and the minimum wage bill he'll introduce.