2021 Legislative Recap

Mary Kyle McCurdy byline

The 2021 legislative session by the numbers

  • Over 850 messages directly to legislators, in response to our action alerts
  • 12,000+ Oregonians directly engaged in our legislative priorities through targeted emails
  • More than 50 pieces of written testimony submitted by our team, many accompanied by oral testimony
  • Three 1000 Friends-authored bills introduced: HB 2560A, HB 2556 & HB 2558
  • Over 200 bills on our list of legislation to monitor

 

Equitable access to decision-making

A primary goal of 1000 Friends of Oregon this session was to ensure land use decision-making is more equitable and inclusive.  We developed two bills as significant first steps in that objective, and we thank Rep. Mark Meek for sponsoring both of them. We also co-authored a bill with Up For Growth to increase housing development within proximity to transit stops.

HB 2560: Equitable Access to Civic Engagement | Passed

1000 Friends of Oregon crafted and led the effort to pass HB 2560, a major first step to providing equitable access to decision-making to all Oregonians.  HB 2560 makes the current COVID-related requirement that governments — city, county and state — provide remote access to public and hearings permanent.

Goal 1 of Oregon’s land use program is public involvement; it represents a commitment that Oregon’s residents will be provided accessible, equitable, and meaningful opportunities to participate in their community’s land use decision-making, at all levels of government. 

HB 2560 is exactly what Goal 1 is all about, and covers all public meetings, not just land use ones. Prior to 2020, access for most public hearings and decision-making, access was through what might be the least inclusive way: in-person, hours-long meetings often held at inconvenient times. 

Remote access to public hearings and meetings opens participation to so many more Oregonians, as the in-person only nature of meetings excludes those who do not or cannot drive; many disabled individuals; rural residents who live far from their county seat or city hall; those who have family, school, or other obligations that prevent them from coming in person; and those of lower-income who cannot leave jobs to testify in-person, to name a few examples. 

HB 2560 is additive to in-person public hearings.  It is one of the many ways that governments at every level should open up all public hearings, including expanding broadband access, getting out into the community, providing interpreters, and much more.

HB 2556: Equitable Notification for Land Use Proceedings | Not passed

HB 2556 did not get a hearing this session, so we will be back in a future session to advocate for this bill  Current, decades-old statutes set the minimum standard for local government notice of land use proceedings that are limited and inequitable. That law requires local governments mail notice only to property owners, and within a short distance of the property that the land use action is about. Renters are excluded from those required to receive notice of land use proceedings, even from land use changes that might be proposed for next door. In addition, land use changes — especially in rural areas — can have impacts beyond the immediate vicinity. HB 2556 would have made two big changes to the current notice system:  

  • Require notice of local land use proceedings to be mailed to both property owners (current law) and to the property/resident addresses (which would include renters and lessees).
  • Expand notice distance inside urban growth boundaries from 100 feet to 600 feet (about 2-3 blocks) and rural notice provisions from 500-750 feet to 2640 feet (1/2 mile).

 

Equitable access to housing 

The objective of Oregon’s statewide land use planning Goal 10, Housing, is: “To provide for the housing needs of citizens of the state. Buildable lands for residential use shall be inventoried and plans shall encourage the availability of adequate numbers of needed housing units at price ranges and rent levels that are commensurate with the financial capabilities of Oregon households and allow for flexibility of housing location, type and density.”  1000 Friends works at the state, regional, and local levels to see this Goal fulfilled, by delivering the land use tools to ensure diverse, affordable and abundant housing for all Oregonians in every neighborhood.

SB 8: Easier paths to affordable housing approvals | Passed

SB 8bill makes it easier to site regulated, subsidized, long-term affordable housing inside urban growth boundaries (UGBs).  SB 8 allows affordable housing on lands zoned for commercial use or owned by a public entity or a religious institution. On land already zoned for residential use, SB 8 allows a density bonus for affordable housing, scaled to the surrounding area’s density. The density bonus enables affordable housing providers to build more housing cost-effectively. The bill also clarifies prior legislation under which the Land Use Board of Appeals must award attorney fees if the affordable housing provider prevails in an appeal.  SB 8 does not apply to lands that cannot be adequately served by water, sewer, stormwater drainage, or streets — to name a few restrictions.

Senate Bill 8 will make it easier for affordable housing providers to find and develop suitable parcels that are located where families need to be – near schools, stores, services, and jobs – in other words, in their communities. 

HB 2583: Redefining what makes a family | Passed

This bill removes residential occupancy restrictions if they are based on familial or nonfamilial relationships among any occupants. 

Current occupancy limits in Oregon cities typically prohibit more than a specified number of people from sharing a dwelling, unless they are related. These occupancy limits are not related to health, safety, or any other legitimate rationale. Rather, these occupancy limits reflect outdated and often racist notions of “family” and desire to exclude certain groups of people, such as immigrants, renters, those of lower income, and students.  

Today, we see many different types of “households,” which can include blended families, unmarried couples and friends, renters, and more.  These occupancy limits are not only discriminatory, they cut off a potential source of much-needed additional and more affordable housing in cities and towns across Oregon. The legal ability to share a house or rent a room often offers the most affordable and sustainable housing option —  a bedroom in an existing home. 

HB 458: Promoting middle housing development | Passed 

This bill increases opportunities for homeownership. It applies to middle housing built pursuant to HB 2001 — the statewide bill re-legalizing housing options like duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes —  by allowing land divisions to separate dwelling units into separate lots. SB 458 also prohibits homeowners’ associations or restrictive covenants from forbidding partition division. 

HB 2004 & HB 2006:  Emergency Housing Shelters | Passed 

HB 2006 and HB 2004 ease the ability to locate emergency shelters inside UGBs and rural residential areas — if specific conditions are met — and significantly increase funding for them. This enables Oregon to more fully address the needs of fellow Oregonians, so they may transition from being without a house to safe and affordable permanent housing.

SB 141: Tax abatement program for increased housing density | Passed

SB 141 revises the current vertical housing development zone program (VHDZ) in some technical but significant ways to make it more useable for builders of multi-family buildings. The VHDZ program provides a local-option tax abatement program to encourage increased housing density within mixed-use development and redevelopment in locally designated areas, including housing for those of low-income.

Regional Housing Needs Analysis (RHNA) | Funded

The legislature’s final, large budget bill provides funding and direction to the Department of Land Conservation & Development and Oregon Housing & Community Services Department to continue the important work both agencies have done so far to implement a Regional Housing Needs Analysis (RHNA) throughout the state, in every city. The agencies will conduct studies and make legislative recommendations on incorporating the RHNA into Goal 10. The RHNA will fund outreach and studies for additional data, including on race/ethnicity; improved estimates of housing need; definition of regions in the state; how a RHNA can be used to address equity, discrimination, and segregation in housing supply; and incorporating a RHNA into projected local housing needs.  

HB 3335: Grant Money for ADU pilot programs | Passed

The concept for this bill was led by the Hacienda Community Development Corporation. HB 3335 establishes a pilot program inside UGBs to make both building and living in accessory dwelling units (ADUs) accessible to those of lower-income. The bill authorizes OHCS to grant funds to nonprofit organizations to manage the building of ADUs for income-eligible homeowners (at or below area median income), and then to make the ADUs available for lease by income-eligible tenants (at or below 60% of area median income). The affordability period is 10 years, and then the ADU is available to the income-eligible homeowner to rent at the market rate.

HB 2918: Surplus public lands for nonprofit housing development opportunities | Passed

This bill requires local governments — and allows mass transit districts or transportation districts — to prepare and submit to the Department of Land Conservation & Development an inventory of surplus lands. It also establishes an alternative process for cities to sell land for developing affordable housing. Surplus public lands, when in the right location, provide excellent opportunities for affordable housing.  Currently, affordable housing providers get a 30-day notice that public lands will be available for sale, which is not a reasonable amount of time in which to evaluate the land and put together a financing plan.  In a survey of how other states and regions have attempted to link surplus public lands and affordable housing, we found that it starts with a state-level inventory. The HB 2918 inventory will enable nonprofit affordable housing providers to learn about and evaluate lands that might become available for sale, much earlier than they currently are able to do. 

HB 2558:  More housing near transit | We will be back

Our bill would have allowed for a modestly higher density in residential areas within ⅛ mile of fixed rail (MAX and Bus Rapid Transit) stops — making it easier for communities to access affordable, carbon-friendly methods of transportation while also preventing urban sprawl. As the Sightline Institute sums it up, “good transit is pointless when people can’t live near it”. Unfortunately, this bill died, the victim of those resistant to allowing more and diverse housing options near transit. However, 1000 Friends will continue collaborating with other organizations to achieve the same outcomes and will continue to make this a priority during legislative sessions. 

Food systems and agricultural lands

1000 Friends focused support on several bills and funding requests that might seem small, but they each play an important role in economically supporting Oregon farmers and ranchers. These working lands professionals provide Oregonians with healthier food options and connect school children to how food is grown.

SB 555: DoubleUp Food Bucks | Funded

Called Double Up Food Bucks, this bill enables and enhances the purchasing power of supplemental nutrition assistance (SNAP) beneficiaries in purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets, farm share sites, and participating local stores. The program received $4 million in funding in the legislature’s end-of-session funding bill.

HB 2785: Statewide Meat Inspection Program | Passed

This bill establishes a $2.3 million grant program to complement the recently enacted State Meat Inspection Program.  It will fund expansion, upgrades, and technical and other necessities, such as equipment to the state’s meat processing facilities. The resulting  increase in f processing capacity will  bring many benefits to Oregon’s ranchers:

  • Supports local, direct to consumer meat sales 
  • Increases regional food system resilience and rural economic development 
  • Supports producers’ ability to donate locally produced meat to food banks and other community assistance programs 
  • Gives producers greater control over the price they receive for livestock 
  • Diversifies processing options and reduces the risk of processing bottlenecks 
  • Provides producers access to local facilities to slaughter and process livestock in remote locations 
  • Reduces transportation time and costs for producers, and lessen carbon footprints 
Farm to School Programs | Funded

Oregon's Farm to School Grant Program provides garden-based education and funding for schools to purchase healthy, local food. Funding to continue this program was included in the budget of the Oregon Department of Education for $10 million. 

 

Bills we opposed that passed

Most bills that would have been damaging to farmland never had a hearing. A few had hearings where we testified, but the bills did not proceed further. We also succeeded in getting several bills modified to where we no longer opposed them. However, one bill that is extremely damaging to Oregon’s farm protection laws did pass.

SB 16: Turning eastern Oregon farmland into sprawl | Passed – VETO Requested

SB 16 is contrary to sound policies the state has established concerning climate, wildfire, and water resources, and will set a terrible land use precedent that goes against almost 50 years of protecting Oregon’s food-producing lands. 1000 Friends — along with several other organizations and many individuals — has requested a veto from Governor Brown.

SB 16 would waive Oregon’s land use laws to allow up to 100 houses — not related to farming — to be built on up to 200 acres of exclusive farm use lands, scattered across the 55,000 acres of the “eastern Oregon border region” around the cities of Ontario, Vale, and Nyssa, the areas of Willow Creek and Brogan, and the farm and ranch lands in between. The bill would rezone EFU land in the hopes, as stated by the proponents, of attracting higher-income residents to the region. 

The bill states the houses will not be allowed on high-value farm lands or farm lands with Class 1, 2, or 3 soils. That is a restriction without meaning in this area, where most farm soils are actually class 4 and above – the very soils that are great for raising Oregon’s #1 agricultural product: cattle. 

Agriculture is the economic engine of the southeast region. Malheur County is always in the top five of the state’s 36 counties in agricultural production, producing over $350 million annually in agriculture products, and is among the top beef and dairy producing regions in the country. Agriculture is also Malheur County’s largest jobs provider.