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Eliminating Single-Family Zoning and Parking Minimums in Oregon

Illustration by Wynton Henderson

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From 2010 to 2020, Oregon’s population increased by more than 400,000 people, but its housing supply only increased by about 150,000 units. Meanwhile, over the past decade, housing prices have doubled in the state.

Oregon has seen a sharp decrease in the production of duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes: in the 1970s, Oregon provided more than 40,000 permits for 2- to 4-unit housing, but in the 2010s it provided only about 4,000 such permits.

Reforms Implemented

 Beginning in 2019, Oregon passed a series of zoning and land use reforms outlined in the table below.

Year Reform details
2019 Ban on single-family zoning: Oregon’s state legislature passed the bipartisan House Bill 2001, the first statewide bill to prohibit single-family zoning for localities. Specifically:

·       Towns and cities with over 10,000 residents were required to allow duplexes on land zoned for single-family homes by June 2021.

·       Towns and cities with over 25,000 residents were required to allow up to four-unit buildings as well as cottage clusters—four or more detached units with a shared courtyard—in residential zones by June 2022.

2020 Model housing code: The Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) established a model housing code for mid-size cities to adopt to allow for missing middle housing.
2021 Lot divisions: The legislature passed Senate Bill 458, requiring any jurisdiction subject to the HB 2001 changes to allow lot divisions—meaning that homeowners and developers in Oregon can convert existing single-family housing into duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes where those types of residences are legal.
2022 Ban on parking minimums: The state’s land use commission unanimously voted to roll back minimum parking requirements. Beginning January 1, 2023, 61 cities and 8 metro regions are required to eliminate parking requirements near high-frequency transit service, with more comprehensive reforms required in coming years.

Early Evidence

Most large cities did not update their zoning codes to meet House Bill 2001 requirements until 2021 or 2022, so Oregon’s new law is only just beginning to take effect this year and it is far too soon to measure its impact. In 2020, housing in 2- to 4-unit buildings made up less than 3% of Oregon’s new housing permits—so the state has a long way to go to make “missing middle” housing a substantial part of its housing stock. The legislation does not prevent cities from finding other ways to block denser housing, such as lot size and setback requirements. Additionally, slow permitting for new housing is a major barrier for developers to build new housing in Oregon.

In the first six months after the new zoning rules took effect in Portland, the city saw 127 permits for units that were newly legal. Local policymakers in Portland seem to anticipate the new statewide laws will not be enough to catalyze the development of missing middle housing. In 2022 Portland’s City Council unanimously approved a slate of technical zoning changes designed to ensure that 2- to 4-unit buildings are feasible across the city. Unlike Minneapolis, which eliminated single-family zoning but did not increase allowable building sizes to accommodate new multifamily units, Portland allows new triplexes and duplexes to be larger than the homes previously on single-family lots.

Read more zoning and land use case studies here.

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