The win represents a big answer to the housing crisis in rural areas and small communities.
Hood River, OR: An August 24, 2022 decision by the Oregon Court of Appeals means there is now a successful example of a small community — in both Oregon and the wider United States — that has passed revolutionary zoning reform to allow a slew of housing types in residential zones. Thrive Hood River intervened in court on behalf of the City of Hood River (represented by 1000 Friends of Oregon) to defend the City's diverse housing ordinance against an appeal that, if successful, would have killed it.
In 2020, Oregon passed a law that required cities above a certain population to allow housing options beyond just single-family homes. Although Hood River was not beholden to this Oregon law, given its smaller population, the code adopted by Hood River takes the statewide policy even further by allowing up to 12 units per lot in higher-density residential zones and up to 4 units per lot in all residential zones.
“From the outside looking in, this may seem like a small win — defending an ordinance that allows more housing types. But in reality, it undoes decades of exclusionary laws, policies and culture that have pushed Americans into a corner when it comes to where they can live: mostly in large, single-family homes. Not everyone wants that, and most certainly can’t afford it in the current housing crisis” said Alexis Biddle, Staff Attorney at 1000 Friends of Oregon.
Hood River County — and the city that shares its namesake — is the most expensive place to live in Oregon and in the top 1% of most expensive rural counties in the United States. As of 2019, one-third of residents could not afford their housing, including 48% of renters.
In line with what the Department of Housing and Urban Development considers affordable, a Hood River minimum wage worker would have to work over 70 hours a week to afford a 1-bedroom apartment — if there are even any available.
Oregon has been touted nationally as one of the most progressive states for zoning reform in the nation. This win puts in place code that is more ambitious than any current rules in Oregon and represents a model in which other small communities and rural areas can break down barriers causing housing shortages.
Nico Salter, Executive Director of Thrive Hood River had this to add: “Every time a young family or a teacher leaves for lack of housing, we become something closer to Aspen, and our city does not want to become a resort community where residents are second-class citizens serving transient tourism. With the Missing Middle code passage, we said, "We are not Aspen. We are a town where residents, teachers, and essential workers are first-class citizens". There is much work to do, but today, we should be proud of our city for taking a step forward.”
About Thrive Hood River: Founded in 1977, Thrive’s mission is to protect Hood River’s farms, forests, special wild places and the livability of its cities and rural communities. It is an affiliate organization of 1000 Friends of Oregon.
About 1000 Friends of Oregon: 1000 Friends of Oregon was founded in 1974 to protect Oregon’s statewide land use planning program, created in 1973 by working with Oregonians to enhance our quality of life by building livable urban and rural communities, protecting family farms and forests, and conserving natural areas.