Oregon expanded housing options for Oregonians of every age, income level and family size with the passage of House Bill 2001 in 2019. By allowing a greater variety of housing types such as duplexes and multiplexes, HB 2001 helps to create affordable, accessible housing. AARP played an important role in advocating for HB 2001, and now AARP members can get involved in how the bills is implemented. Together we can help expand housing options in all of our neighborhoods.
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Why are housing options important to older adults in Eugene?
Oregon is getting older. Beginning in 2011, the elderly population growth rate has exceeded 4 percent each year, according to the U.S. Census. There will be 40 percent more older adults in 2030 than in 2018 living in Oregon.
With a median age of 39.6, Oregon is older on average than the rest of the United States. And while only about 1.5 million of the state’s residents are 50 or older, that equates to nearly 37 percent of people living in the state of Oregon. By 2030, the median age in Oregon will be 41.6 years.
At the same time, Oregon is experiencing a housing crisis with a lack of affordable housing options. An Oregon Health Forum series in June 2021 highlighted the need to create more housing opportunities for older adults, many who might have little to no retirement savings or others who simply need to downsize to live comfortably and accessibly.
Eugene has the unfortunate distinction of having the 2nd second most constrained housing market in the nation, according to realtor.com. The report was released in 2017, but Eugene has not made much headway in addressing its housing shortage.
Statistics gathered by the City of Eugene show that 45 percent of residents are cost-burdened. That is they are paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Sixty-one percent of renters and 28 percent of homeowners are cost-burdened according to statistics.
What are the solutions?
By allowing for the construction of smaller and more age-friendly homes, we can respond to changing demographics and better serve Eugene’s growing population of seniors.
As people age, their needs change, and the homes they lived in for years might not fit their needs or lifestyle. Mobility challenges also might be a factor in older residents decision to find a smaller home. They might find it too hard to climb stairs or maintain a yard. Even if seniors want to swap their larger home for a more modestly sized alternative, Eugene’s current housing supply isn’t meeting their needs. For too many seniors, downsizing means leaving the community they’ve called home for years.
Eugene is not unique. Across the United States, there is a mismatch between the available housing stock and what the market wants and needs. Communities and builders are recognizing the need for a shift in the way American homes are designed, regulated and developed.
Part of the current problem is due to the “Missing Middle,” a term coined by the Berkeley-based architect and urban planner Daniel Parolek, whom AARP Oregon brought to Eugene in 2017.
What is the "missing middle?"
The Missing Middle is defined as the range of housing options that fit between detached single-family homes and mid-rise apartment buildings—think duplexes, townhomes, bungalow courts, row houses, and small courtyard apartments. The result is smaller units rather than the detached single-family homes on big lots that dominate the residential building market.
These type of housing units are described as missing because very few have been built since the early 1940s due to regulatory constraints, the shift to auto-related patterns of development and financing challenges.
Parolek, a frequent contributor to AARP Livable Communities, is an architect, urban designer and founder of the firm Opticos Design. He used the term "Missing Middle Housing" to describe that kind of small to mid-sized residences that have become hard to find but can greatly expand the availability of housing that's attainable for a variety of middle income households.
The word middle as used in the term Missing Middle Housing has two meanings.
First, and most importantly, it represents the middle scale of buildings between single-family homes and large apartment or condo buildings.
The second definition of middle relates to the affordability or attainability level.
These housing types have historically delivered attainable choices to middle-income families and continue to play a role in providing homes to the “middle income” market.
Missing Middle Housing is affordable by design, which means it can achieve affordable price points for rental or for-sale units without subsidies. It achieves this by increasing supply and filling the gap for neighborhood living; using simple, lower-cost construction methods; reducing reliance on automobile ownership; and using land more efficiently with shared and smaller units; and providing more income opportunities for residents.
Benefits of Missing Middle Housing
The City of Eugene recently passed an ordinance, plus amendments to eliminate barriers to Accessory Dwelling Units. Unfortunately, that step forward is being challenged by opponents of housing options in Eugene. Like the smaller ADUs, "missing middle" housing provides several benefits.
- Reducing Transportation Costs
Building parking is expensive, especially in areas like Eugene, where land costs are high. The cost of building parking is passed on to the buyer or renter, thus increasing the cost of housing. Missing Middle Housing is often found in walkable neighborhoods, eliminating the need for a car, which typically costs nearly $10,000 per year.
- Smaller Spaces and Shared Land Costs
Missing Middle Housing delivers multiple units on the same size lot as a single-family home, allowing distribution of land costs across multiple units, making them inherently more affordable. Because the units are often smaller than conventional single-family housing, they are less expensive to build. The smaller footprint also is better for the environment.
- Income, Equity and Empowerment
Because federal home loans can be used for buildings with up to four units, a homeowner can qualify to purchase a Missing Middle Housing building that could contain their own unit, plus up to three additional units, which can provide additional rental income to help the homeowner afford their housing cost.
Small, incremental Missing Middle infill is also an excellent business opportunity for a small local business, which could lead to a groundswell of incremental Missing Middle Housing development, contributing large numbers of affordable, locally-owned housing units.
- Land Trusts and Lasting Impact
Creative approaches can be used to limit the impact of the cost of land on the short- and long-term affordability of a unit. One approach is a community land trust, which is a nonprofit organization that’s formed to hold title to land in order to preserve its long-term availability for affordable housing and other community uses
Other links to check out:
Busting Missing Middle Housing Myths
Opponents of middle housing often use myths to scare their neighbors into joining them in opposition to the missing middle legislation in Oregon. Complicated zoning laws often require public input, and while local involvement in the process is good and necessary, obstructionists often can use public comment to promote myths.
MYTH: HB 2001 outlaws new single-family homes
FACT: It simply allows for the continued creation of single-family homes, while ensuring that other types of housing are available.
MYTH: It encourages widespread demolition of existing houses.
FACT: The main economic drivers of demolition are increasing land values and the size of structure allowed to be built on a site. If they want to, cities can tune their zoning code to discourage demolition by limiting the size of new homes.
MYTH: It will destroy the character of existing neighborhoods.
FACT: Middle housing is community compatible by nature. In fact, most older neighborhoods we love have a mix of single-family homes, smaller plexes, courtyard homes, and compatible by nature. In fact, most older neighborhoods we love have a mix of single-family homes, smaller plexes, courtyard homes, and row houses. Because these housing types are smaller than multistory apartment buildings, they provide a dispersed and discreet way to add homes to a neighborhood. Jurisdictions can address any concerns about visual compatibility through design and location standards.
MYTH: It allows state takeover of local neighborhoods.
FACT: Cities have broad discretion on how to comply with the bill’s requirements. They can and are encouraged to customize local regulations to meet their needs and concerns. Get involved to help them do it right!
This story is provided by AARP Oregon. Visit the AARP Oregon page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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