Directors of the non-profit Architectural Heritage Center believe that our central city neighborhoods, including historic districts, are vital components to making Portland the successful city it is today.

HB 2007 as it stands will seriously damage city neighborhoods by speeding the pace of demolition of less-expensive homes and replacing them with far more costly single-family homes and duplexes.  This conclusion is based on the several hundred demolitions in Portland over the past five years that have led to the construction of virtually zero “affordable” replacements.  Along the way, opportunities to purchase less-expensive homes in the region have been reduced and renters have been displaced from rented homes.

This problematic bill is being considered in a public hearing on June 22 at 1 pm by the Joint Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Natural Resources. Click here to find out who represents you in the state legislature and express your views. Fred Leeson, past president, will be testifying on behalf of the AHC and in partnership with many other concerned organizations comprising the Portland Coalition for Historic Resources.

We believe that design review, including historic design review, has proven successful in improving the design and quality of new buildings that have undergone those reviews.  Given that new buildings could last for 200 years or more, taking time to maximize the quality of their design and materials is time well spent.

Since historic districts in Portland comprise less than 2 percent of the city’s residentially-zoned land, we believe that they are not a major factor in the so-called affordability “crisis.” We see them as open-air museums contributing to the vitality of our communities and shared by all. They are places which also celebrate the hands and creativity of the people who designed and built them. They have high “walkability” scores and welcome visitors to see how the past is interpreted in the present, and encourage heritage tourism and the dollars it brings to communities.

That said, we believe that density can be increased in historic districts by building accessory dwelling units and by allowing large old homes to be reconfigured into multiple units.  We believe that historic design review for exterior changes is vital to protecting the context of our historic fabric.

We believe that quality construction in many parts of Portland can provide excellent new housing opportunities, without destroying the integrity of the city’s historic districts. We appreciate the need for new affordable housing opportunities. We believe this goal can be achieved with success and sensitivity, but not by incentivizing the pace of residential demolitions that remove our most accessible housing for owners and renters today.

Regrettably, the legislative trajectory of this bill eliminated or minimized testimony and factual submissions from the heritage community.  There was only one public hearing earlier on 3-14-2017 with little or no notice to the heritage community, and an “information session” on 5-25-2017 only allowed invited testimony. Updated versions of the bill were difficult to obtain.

We believe that ALL stakeholders should have a voice in decisions that affect them.  As a result, we believe that HB 2007 is poor public policy and violates Oregon’s tradition of public involvement.

For more information, consult, and see our previous blog posts below.

Related Posts:

Fix Problematic House Bill 2007 (May 23, 2017)
Oregon House Bill 2007 – Proposed Legislation Turns Back the Clock on Affordable Housing and Historic Preservation (May 9, 2017)