2024 Legislative Recap

Short sessions were designed to handle administrative and budget business that cannot wait for the following year’s long session. Nonetheless, before the session even started, we knew that controversial urban growth boundary (UGB) expansions were on the agenda. (After all, we’d fought them off in 2023, and corporate luxury housing interests have been lobbying for sprawl since at least 2016 – not to altruistically help solve our housing crisis, but to build high-end homes that make them money, sit vacant for most the year as short-term rentals or second homes, and drain taxpayer dollars with the water, sewer, and utility they require.)

This session’s major sprawl bill disguised as support for housing, SB 1537, passed despite incredible efforts, although 1000 Friends of Oregon and our allies were able to reduce some of its worst aspects, including reducing the UGB expansion acreage by one-third of the initial proposed size. In the process, some 50 affordable-housing, renter, climate, environmental, transportation, and land use advocates joined together to push for better solutions. But the bill, now law, is still full of red flags.

Beyond the headline bill of the session, we tracked approximately 30 bills that affected land use, closely following more than a dozen and testifying and lobbying with partners on most of those. We helped to pass funding for the Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program, support for Oregon’s marine reserves, and desperately needed housing support under SB 1530 and HB 4134. (SB 1530 invests $89 million directly in infrastructure to build housing inside our existing urban growth boundaries. HB 4134 puts another $7 million into specific infrastructure projects to add housing in McMinnville, Toledo, Burns, and Amity, with a portion of that housing set aside for people with moderate or low incomes.) Our base of supporters also made thousands of points of contact with legislators in just five weeks. 

We also stopped some bad bills: a niche attempt to build a golf course on Bandon Dunes (why?), a bill to remove oversight on how we site transmission lines and renewable energy facilities, and a bill that would have added even more buildings onto all lands outside UGBs, including farmland, forestland, and natural areas. We expect those to resurface, so keep an eye out for opportunities to get involved with them next year. 

And then there were the good bills that never got a foothold – casualties of a tight timeframe, we hope, and not indicators of how they’ll fare in 2025. A bipartisan bill to study extending WES (Westside Express Service) transit to Salem was among the pack. It would be the first step in connecting two of Oregon’s major metro areas by public transit for the first time since the 1940s. And we lost out on funding for wildfire resiliency for Oregon’s homes and communities, a crucial effort that we’re not giving up on.

For more than just these highlights, including which legislators put their weight behind the best bills, dig into the details from our exclusive presentation to members and the session’s key supporters. And if you’d like to be part of the crowd when we give our legislative preview ahead of the 2025 session, become a member today.

Browse the recap

Housing production

 SB 1530 Funding for renter protections, housing stability programs, and infrastructure

Supported and passed

What it does: The SB 1530 base bill and the dash-3 amendment provides funding to various housing programs in Oregon, directing funds to specific agencies and community organizations that run a variety of supportive housing programs, including:

  • Renter assistance
  • Housing stability programming
  • Resident outreach
  • Emergency shelters
  • Housing preservation programming
  • Land acquisition for affordable housing

SB 1530, with the dash-3 amendment, also provides funding to help residents of affordable housing where the public funds for that housing are going away. This has been a much-needed step toward a longer solution to preserve existing affordable housing. 

The dash-3 amendment also includes $100 million in infrastructure funding to support housing development.

Why it matters: Effective solutions to our housing crisis recognize that once people obtain housing, the next step is to help people stay housed. Oregon’s renters are heavily cost-burdened due to the price of housing outpacing wages. Rental assistance and other eviction prevention strategies can help reduce this burden. 1000 Friends has supported easing the siting of emergency shelters; this funding for continued operations and services can provide the first step toward getting people into more stable housing.

The dash-3 amendment provides critical infrastructure funding for housing development and will help Oregon meet our housing goals. Funds target housing projects that are otherwise ready to build, except for missing investment in water, sewer, sidewalks, and other infrastructure. This housing will be well-located, on lands already inside communities and near schools, stores, and parks. This allows those projects to be completed more quickly.

1000 Friends has been a strong advocate for infrastructure funding directed inside Oregon’s existing UGBs to unlock the thousands of acres of existing, vacant residential land in our towns and cities.

 SB 1537  Housing at the edge

Opposed and passed

What it does: The base bill of Governor Kotek’s housing bill, SB 1537, includes two provisions we strongly supported: creation of the Housing Production Accountability Office and revolving loan funds for housing. It also initially included good infrastructure investment tools, some of which have since been wrapped into SB 1530 and are no longer part of SB 1537.

SB 1537 also had a flaw we couldn’t support: provisions that would override land use and environmental laws. SB 1537 allows cities to expand their UGBs by at least 50 or 100 acres for residential and other uses, without following land use laws, to allow private developers to build homes primarily for people with higher incomes. (That UGB expansion acreage is down from 75 and 150 acres thanks to the dash-9 amendment, which reflects effective advocacy work by community organizations and individual Oregonians). 

Why it matters: This provision allows the private homebuilding industry to build more of what they have been building for decades – sprawling subdivisions at the city edges with housing that most Oregonians cannot afford, and that will also exacerbate climate change and wildfire risk to residents. (When will we learn to stop doing the same old thing and expect a different outcome?) 

We are glad for the reduction in impact on Oregon's land use system resulting from the dash-9 amendment, but SB 1537 still allows UGB expansions that bypass those laws. Our mission is anchored on helping Oregon flourish through effective land use planning and so we still cannot support SB 1537. 

The message is simple: Overriding land use and environmental laws will undermine our efforts to produce the housing Oregonians need, where we need it, and with the urgency our housing crisis requires of us. 

  • These UGB expansion areas will be competing with lands already inside UGBs for those scarce infrastructure dollars. That's not fair or helpful.
  • Under SB 1537, all the housing in these UGB expansion areas could be for people making at or over 130 percent of area median income – even the so-called affordable housing portion of it could be satisfied with housing that will not meet the income levels of most Oregon families. While we need housing for Oregonians of moderate incomes, we also need even more housing for people whose incomes are well under that. We would like to see our collective policy and investment focus on building better for all Oregonians inside UGBs, near to jobs, schools, and stores.
    Building at the edge increases climate change and wildfire risks to lives, livelihoods, and homes.
  • Building at the edge exacerbates inequality and racial and economic injustice. Housing policies and investments should open up existing neighborhoods to people who have been historically racially redlined and economically excluded from these areas.

Testimony: Read our February 8 hearing testimony.

Natural and working lands

 HB 4060  Funding for Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program
Supported and stalled (funding passed under different bill)

What it does: 1000 Friends of Oregon supported HB 4060, which would have provided $10.8 million for the broadly bipartisan-supported Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program (OAHP). These funds help keep Oregon’s farmland and ranchland in production, benefit rural economies, and protect lands that sequester carbon emissions.

Why it matters: The OAHP helps farmers and ranchers establish, protect, and maintain conservation easements on working lands, protecting Oregon’s food-producing lands for future generations. These conservation easements partner well with the land use program to provide long-term protection to Oregon’s irreplaceable farmlands.

OAHP is funded through the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB), which allocated the first $5 million in 2022, permanently protecting 12,480 acres of farmland and ranchland across the state. Because the program did not receive funding in the 2023 legislative session, more than $7.2 million in federal matching funding was in jeopardy. The program received $5.8 million for grants and administration in 2024.

Testimony: Read our February 6 hearing testimony.

 HB 4046  Too many buildings on farmland
Opposed & withdrawn

What it does: HB 4046 would have allowed an additional home on every tract of land outside UGBs if there is already one owner-occupied house on the land. The bill contains some conditions that limit initial occupancy of the home to defined family members and restricts its use as a short-term rental. However, if the family member moves out, the additional house can be used by anyone for up to one and a half years. If the property is sold, the original home no longer needs to be occupied by the owner of the tract. Finally, the county may approve converting the additional house to a “permissible nonresidential use" at any time. 

Why it matters: This bill did not contain long-term safeguards to ensure it meets the stated goal of providing family housing on family-occupied farms  (and the land use system already makes provisions for the people engaged in farming to live there). The bill also creates enforcement burdens that would be difficult for counties to comply with.


SB 1572  Willamette Valley commuter rail study
Supported and stalled

What it does: SB 1572 would have studied the feasibility of extending TriMet’s WES (Westside Express Service) rail line from its current southern terminus in Wilsonville for 31 miles to Salem, with stops in Donald, Woodburn, and Keizer. The bill would have required ODOT to report back to the legislature in December 2024 with findings and recommendations. The route would use the former Oregon Electric Railway line, now owned by Portland & Western and BNSF railroads.

Why it matters: This rail extension would ease congestion on I-5, reduce carbon emissions, and provide mobility options for Oregonians, not only for commuters but also for seniors and people who cannot or do not drive.

Testimony: Read our February 13 hearing written testimony and February 13 hearing oral testimony.

Wildfire preparedness and resilience

SB 1511  Voluntary neighborhood protection cooperatives
Supported and stalled

What it does: SB 1511 directed the Oregon State Fire Marshal (OSFM) to establish a neighborhood protection cooperative grant program and would have established a fund to support it. The OSFM would have, with the Department of Consumer and Business Services and the State Forestry Department, developed criteria for awarding grants to local governments, organizations related to fire districts, nongovernmental organizations, and property owners. The criteria for eligibility  could have included preferences for property owners in neighborhoods with high wildfire exposure, with identifiable social and economic barriers, and that are likely to be successful in implementing wildfire risk-reduction measures.

Testimony: Watch our February 8 oral testimony.

 SB 5701  Wildfire preparedness and resilience investments
Supported and passed

What it does: 1000 Friends supported bills that provide programming and funding for neighborhoods, communities, and the state to engage in community risk reduction, including establishing and maintaining defensible space. We expected some of this funding to be in an overall budget bill. 

Why it matters: Wildfire is a natural part of the Western ecosystem, but climate change and exurban sprawl are causing larger and more frequent wildfires. We can learn to live safely with wildfire, provided we take certain steps to reduce our carbon emissions, reduce sprawl, and collectively invest in actions like creating and maintaining defensible space around our homes and communities, home hardening especially for those who are socially and economically vulnerable, plan for evacuation and response routes, and more. 

Other threats to UGBs

HB 4048  UGB expansions without regard for land use laws
Opposed & stalled

What it does: HB 4048 would have allowed any city to expand its UGB by 75 or 150 net residential acres, with no eligibility requirements, and eliminated meaningful county involvement in an expansion. The densities allowed in the UGB expansion areas would have been even lower than those allowed by SB 1537. This would have allowed expensive, climate-unfriendly, exurban sprawl of four or eight dwelling units per acre in most of the state (or a very low 15 units per acre in the Metro area). 

Why it matters: HB 4048 had many of the UGB expansion flaws of SB 1537 and more, and it contained none of the beneficial elements of SB 1537. Its efforts to increase sprawl also would have increased the cost of the housing and exacerbate the negative impacts of climate change and wildfire risk.