After years of delay and dodging, it is time to get this done.
On Wednesday, Eugene City Council returned to their Housing Tools and Strategies discussion. The goal of this project was to identify methodologies and actions that would move the needle on housing affordability, availability, and diversity in Eugene.
Last night, when given the option to take action to address our housing crisis, Eugene City Council chose to do... nothing.
For over a year, WE CAN has been talking primarily about code changes to make Accessory Dwelling Units easier in Eugene. But we also know that ADUs alone are not going to solve our housing crisis or move Eugene towards more walkable neighborhoods—they are tiny piece of the solution, but on their own they will not have a major impact. So why the focus on ADUs?
For decades, the vast majority of updates to Eugene’s zoning code have made housing harder to build and made the processes more complex and difficult to navigate. While our high-level plans and statements have repeatedly said that rather than expand into the farm and forest land surrounding the City we wished to find ways to provide the housing we need with the land we already have, as we’ve made the decisions to implement that we have in practice downzoned, limited housing, and added hoops and barriers to the point of absurdity.
We are not going to achieve our goals of providing housing that is affordable to all income levels while also protecting our natural resources, creating more efficient transportation options and planning for climate change if we continue to only pass regulations that just serve to protect existing single-family homeowners from the impacts of neighborhood evolution. The values expressed in Envision Eugene can sometimes be in conflict, and require tradeoffs. But we have for decades privileged one perspective and one set of interests over all the others.
If we are going to solve our housing crisis and achieve our goals as a City, we need to shift direction. And we need to see City Council and City Staff shift direction—no more last minute votes to add barriers and confusion and delays that are written by activists and past by Council with no opportunity for comment and limited evaluation of the impacts.
Accessory Dwelling Units are the smallest, simplest modification that we can make to start moving in the right direction on housing in Eugene.
Of all the types of new housing we can add, ADUs are the least expensive, most affordable construction type that can be done without subsidizes. While all new construction is going to be more expensive than we wish it would be, if nothing else ADUs don’t require the purchase of additional land, which can add significantly the cost of creating housing.
Of all ways we can fit additional homes into our community, ADUs have the least impact on neighbors. ADUs are small, and frequently come in the form of a cute cottage or the conversion of an existing building or portion of a building, creating no visual impact. Given that the majority of homeowners are unlikely to build ADUs, the few additional new neighbors living in ADUs probably aren’t even going to be noticed as they use our sidewalks, streets, and parks.
Every journey starts with a single step. Eugene has been walking backwards. By asking, “Can we remove zoning barriers to ADUs in Eugene?” we are also asking “Is Eugene willing to do more than talk about achieving a vision of affordable, available, and diverse housing?” So far, the answer has been, “No.” But once we take that first step, it makes it a little easier to take another, and another. And we’ve got miles to walk.
After Eugene City Council declined to address the barriers to Accessory Dwelling Units in Eugene when they passed Ordinance 20594 on June 11th, 2018, WE CAN joined with 1000 Friends of Oregon, AARP Oregon, the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, The Homebuilders Association of Lane County, and Housing Land Advocates to appeal the City’s action (or rather lack thereof) to the State Land Use Board of Appeals. A decision is expected in late November.
The City promised a “two-phase” process to address ADUs in Eugene when the code amendment process for Ordinance 20594 was initiated on January 22nd, 2018 with the second phase intended to address the barriers to ADUs in Eugene. The Eugene Planning Commission recommended that Council immediately initiate the second phase of this process on March 26th, 2018.
It has been almost a year. As of today, the Phase II process has not been initiated by City Council, and there is no clear information available on a timeline or methodology for resolving this issue. The City has provided no clear indication of when or if Phase II is actually going to happen-- meaning no clear information about when we are actually going to make ADUs easier.
City Council is set to discuss Housing Tools and Strategies at their December 10th 5:30 work session. Let them know what you think!
On May 23rd, Council once again pushed back the decision on if Eugene is going to comply with State Law allowing each single-family home owner who wants to build a secondary dwelling unit to do so (SB 1051.) Not only did they fail to modify the proposal from staff to remove barriers to Secondary Dwellings Units, they actually voted amend the ordinance to prohibit Secondary Dwelling Units from the Jefferson Westside and Chambers Special Area Zones, two medium-density areas. It is on the agenda for further discussion on June 11th.
January 22nd, City Staff will be presenting to both the Eugene Planning Commission (meeting at 11:30am) and the Eugene City Council (meeting at 7:30pm) their proposal for addressing roadblocks to Accessory/Secondary Dwelling Units (ADUs) in Eugene. Is the proposal enough? Be heard!
Check out the latest from WE CAN in the Register Guard!