Ostensibly about easing construction of affordable housing, Oregon HB 2007 is instead both a disservice to affordable housing and a specific harm to historic districts. The bill takes a “one size fits all” approach that overrides local controls over issues like design review and zoning and potentially encourages the demolition of smaller, less expensive homes. In other words, the bill is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The Architectural Heritage Center is working closely with other organizations to respond quickly and productively to HB 2007 in its current form and to work together with bill sponsor House Speaker Tina Kotek. While the AHC favors thoughtful solutions for communities facing housing pressures, including the construction of affordable housing and increased density, we believe that this can be accomplished without compromising logical design guidelines for historic districts. We support provisions and amendments in the bill that will augment the supply of affordable housing and increase density, but not the needless demolition of good old houses which are already constructed.

Many advocates for HB 2007 have assumed that proponents of affordable housing and historic preservationists are diametrically opposed. The truth is that there are innumerable examples of successful affordable housing projects in historic districts and individual landmark buildings across the country. Here in Portland, one can look at both the renovation of the Clifford Hotel and the Erickson-Fritz Building by Innovative Housing Inc. as exemplars of adapting old buildings for a new use.  Across the country, from Pittsburgh to Shreveport, there are excellent examples of long-standing programs that keep lower-income residents in their homes while providing loans and assistance for renovation, along with constructing infill for added density and vitality.

Oregon has long been committed to the protection of historic resources, as summed up in Goal 5 of the Statewide Planning Goals and Guidelines. While the intent of HB 2007 to create more affordable housing is laudable, it turns back the clock on other state and local goals in a way that is particularly harmful to the character buildings and important spaces which shape our communities and encourage visits by tourists. Certainly, we are in favor of streamlined design review and permitting for affordable housing–especially for new construction. Let’s continue to encourage positive ways to include higher density in existing neighborhoods, such as ADUs, but also protect important community standards for other aspects of livability.

You can help by expressing your concerns to legislators about the bill and its damaging ramifications to both affordable housing and historic preservation. Please email Speaker Kotek as well as your representatives and senators in the state legislature to share your opinions. Find your representatives here.