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Why did the state make new transportation and housing rules?

In 2020, just before the pandemic took hold, Governor Kate Brown mandated through an Executive Order that new rules be created to help Oregon meet 2050 climate pollution reduction goals. In response, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development began convening a rule-making committee to dramatically change Oregon’s housing and transportation planning rules. The rules disincentivize vehicle travel in as many ways possible, and seek to change our built environment to make it less convenient to drive, and instead, walk or use a bike. The impacts of the rules are sweeping, and will cause the greatest changes to Oregon land-use law in 50 years. Read on to learn about specific impacts to housing, traffic, business, cities and people. 

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How will these rules impact housing types and home ownership? 

While the rules are well-intentioned and designed to make meaningful progress on meeting climate change goals, housing experts say that many of the rules may preclude important forms of housing from being built, increase housing costs, and create more risk of gentrification in our urban centers where the rules apply. The rules center on the idea of dramatically increasing density, which means increasing the amount of people that live, work, and travel in a defined area. DLCD believes greater density is essential to hitting the new greenhouse gas reduction targets in the Governor’s Executive Order.


The rules seek to do this by shrinking the average size of a dwelling unit to only 900 square feet and creating high-density and mixed-use zones called Climate Friendly Areas. The updated rules have clarified that while single-family dwellings are technically allowed, the rules still seek to disincentivize this type of housing because they allegedly are not climate friendly. Housing experts disagree. The reality is that under the rules, single-family detached houses will only be able to be built on approximately 1,700 sq ft lots, which will eliminate opportunities for garages, back yards, and open space. Houses will need to be multi-story units with limited bedroom and bathroom options for buyers. Home ownership opportunities may be reduced, because instead of building small sparse units that consumers do not want, builders will opt for other options like building multi-family apartments for rent. Despite the Department's assumptions about costs below, there have been no studies done to ensure that the limited housing types incentivized under these rules will be more affordable for Oregonians.  

"The only housing type that may be difficult to locate in climate friendly areas is single family detached housing, due to typical home and lot sizes (although Cottage cluster developments may be able to achieve minimum density requirements). Nothing in the climate friendly area rules precludes the development of detached single family homes elsewhere in the community. Typical, large-lot, single family detached housing development is not climate friendly. Making allowance for this type of development in a climate friendly area would completely subvert climate pollution goals (and likely equity goals as well, because such units would not be affordable)." - DLCD Staff Commentary.

Despite these comments, the Department has made clear that they do not want to limit types of housing or opportunities for homeownership. This means that the rules must be changed to achieve this objective and eliminate any barriers that stand in the way of all types of housing being built throughout our communities. 

How will these rules impact housing costs?

Despite repeated calls for the Department to analyze how these rules will increase housing costs, there have been no studies done to adequately ensure that there will be no additional cost burden on Oregonians. Housing experts fear that because of increased densities, record high land prices in areas where these rules apply, cost of labor and materials, and other market factors, only expensive apartments will be built in Climate Friendly Areas. This means high rents and that only the most fortunate being able to afford to live in these areas. All of this may mean higher housing costs for community members outside of Climate Friendly Areas, too.


Housing experts also have raised concerns about how new neighborhood design requirements, parking regulations, density standards, and infrastructure improvements will increase the costs of housing development. This could be from the design requirements themselves, or costs being passed down from local governments. Additionally, confusing and vague standards could cause costly delays. Unfortunately, these are the types of costs that drive up the price of housing at the end of the day. 

The Department has stated that they hope these rules could help lower the costs of housing. However, without a proper analysis and further changes to the rules, these rules risk increasing the cost of housing through new requirements, ignoring existing costs, and making it more difficult to increase needed homeownership opportunities in many communities. 

Will these rules cause gentrification and displacement?

Yes. While the rules are intended to promote equitable outcomes, the rules are likely to have serious unintended consequences for historically marginalized communities and low-income Oregonians. The Fiscal Impact Statement of the rules makes clear that zoning of Climate Friendly Areas could result in the displacement of underserved populations who may reside in these areas. Additionally, the Department acknowledges that these rules are likely to result in some unintended lack of affordability and displacement, and will disproportionately impact lower income households who are dependent on motor vehicle transportation. In the rules, the Department attempted to strengthen protections for historically underserved and low income Oregonians. Unfortunately, because the State has not conducted studies to determine the impacts from the rules, the rules fall short of ensuring that vulnerable communities will be protected and the risk for gentrification and displacement remains.

The Department has the opportunity to bring together local equity offices, low-income Oregonians, BIPOC communities, car-dependent households, and subject matter experts to truly understand the needs of Oregonians. 

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How will these rules impact traffic and freight? 

The rules drastically change our transportation system by requiring local governments to plan, design, and build streets and highways for the minimum size necessary for users, narrowing local street widths as practical as possible, reducing block lengths, while increasing pedestrian facilities and bike lanes. The goal of the rules is to “significantly, and as rapidly as possible, reduce climate pollutants that are causing increasing climate disruption” and use reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a proxy for reducing emissions. The Fiscal Impact Statement included in the rules acknowledges that the rules may increase congestion on roadways shared by both light passenger vehicles and freight.  

Could these rules make our supply chain issues worse?

Yes. As stated in the Fiscal Impact Statement included in the rules, “the transportation scenario planning requirements may increase congestion on roadways shared by both light vehicles and freight, which could negatively impact a wide range of businesses as well as the public. Freight mobility has been under increasing stress due to a rise in just-in-time inventory management and online retail, and the importance of supply chains has been a significant business factor in the last year.” 

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How will these rules impact workers and businesses? 

The rules seek to change all new commercial and mixed-use development by requiring cities and counties to adopt regulations that provide for a “compact development pattern, easy ability to walk or use mobility devices, and allow direct access on the pedestrian, bicycle, and public transportation networks.” This means changing where businesses can be, how they are built, and how Oregonians travel around town. Specifically, these rules are designed to disincentivize vehicular travel, and instead make it more convenient for people to use public transit, walk, or use a bike. This means changing entrances to buildings, regulating parking lots, assessing fees against businesses for parking spaces, limiting loading zones, and even precluding certain auto-oriented businesses in climate friendly areas. 

Will these rules impact car dealerships, gas stations, service stations, drive-through businesses, or moving companies?

Yes. The rules require local governments to adopt regulations disallowing vehicular parking, circulation, access, display, or loading on-site between buildings and public streets. This language up-ends decades of commercial development patterns, and may severely impact car dealerships, service stations, freight access, and any other auto-oriented business. It will also make it more difficult for movers and workers to unload vehicles during the day. This may also prevent certain stores from being built or offering parking on lots with public streets on all sides. While a local government could choose to protect these types of businesses, these rules provide no guarantee and incentivize the opposite. It's possible that certain provisions may actually preclude auto-dependent retail, services, and commercial uses in Climate Friendly Areas.

The Department made clear that it does not want to cause unnecessary harm to businesses. This means that the rules must be changed to remove provisions that may make it more difficult for local communities to support existing businesses or attract new job opportunities post-pandemic. 

Will these rules make it harder to find parking?

In many cases, yes. The rules impose hosts of new parking regulations particularly for parking lots, which will significantly increase the price of providing this amenity, and likely decrease the availability of parking. For instance, businesses who want to offer a parking lot of larger than 1/4 acre may have to provide 50 percent tree shade coverage of the lot or pay for alternative energy. Additionally, certain provisions in the rules create “parking maximums” in Climate Friendly Areas and town centers that will likely lead to reduced parking availability. Finally, the rules require cities to ease parking minimums or prevent any parking requirements at all, especially close to light or heavy rail stations or near frequent transit corridors. 

The Department made clear that it intends to simply "de-regulate" parking through these rules. This means that the rules must be changed to remove new parking regulations that disincentivize or drive up the costs of providing parking. 

Are there any carve outs for small businesses?

There are generally no meaningful exceptions for small businesses in these rules. The only consideration for small businesses is that a local government may adopt a reduced regulation parking management approach, which must include a repeal of parking mandates for properties that have fewer than ten on-site employees or 3,000 square feet floor space. However, this remains optional for local governments and does not provide small businesses with adequate protection from unintended consequences of these rules. 

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Which cities and counties will be affected by the rules? 

Almost every city along the I-5 corridor will be impacted by the rules, as well as small cities and rural counties in Central Oregon. Unfortunately, many counties and cities still aren't aware of what's coming. See the state's list of impacted cities and timeline for implementation of new rules. 

Do local governments have the resources to implement these rules? 

These rules are expected to be implemented in a very short timeframe--many by the end of 2024, causing cities to slow down on approval of housing and transportation development projects already in the works. This is bad for everyone, because slowing down the pipeline of housing supply causes prices to squeeze higher everywhere in a community. Local governments are already spread incredibly thin, and they are dealing with their own unique set of regional issues. 

“Much of the rules are based on a one-size-fits-all-approach and completely ignore the uniqueness of communities from one end of the state to the other.”
– League of Oregon Cities and the Association of Oregon Counties
in joint letter to the state.

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Did voters or the State Legislature have a say in this?

No. These rules were directed by Executive Order. This means that neither voters nor the Oregon Legislature directed the Department of Land Conservation and Development to undertake this rule-making effort. Legislators have not been involved in the creation of these rules and haven't had a chance as a body to weigh in on them, despite the fact that the Legislature will be asked to fund the implementation of the rules. Local governments are predicting that the Legislature will need to come up with at least $100 million during the next legislative session to simply implement these rules as drafted.

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