Everyone knows Oregon needs more housing. But where we put new housing matters. Oregon cities have plenty of centrally-located properties ideal for new housing, but big developers instead want permission to build suburbs on natural lands outside of existing urban growth boundaries (UGBs).
Oregon Governor Tina Kotek has proposed a Housing Production bill (Oregon Senate Bill 1537) in the 2024 legislative session. The bill does contain good infrastructure funding and climate-smart housing incentives, but it also has a problematic provision that allows cities a one-time expansion of their urban growth boundaries (UGBs). Protecting our land use system by stopping this expansion is important for solving our housing crisis, addressing climate change, and living up to our environmental values.
Expanding urban growth boundaries threatens to pave over Oregon’s natural areas, forests, and farm lands. That means losing the benefits of tree shade, carbon sequestration, and clean air in order to build housing that is far away from existing workplaces, schools, public transit, and city services. The result would be housing that is distant and disconnected from the places that people want to live in and more cars on the road emitting pollution.
Oregonians already stopped this bad proposal in 2023, and now it’s back again. If lawmakers amend SB 1537 to remove the urban growth boundary expansion, then this bill will be worth supporting and celebrating. While developers claim that there isn’t enough space for new housing within our existing cities, Oregonians can see with our own eyes that there is more than enough room to make use of currently-empty lots, add more units to old single-family homes, and more solutions to create housing where people want and need to live.
We don’t need sprawl to solve the housing crisis. Tell Oregon lawmakers to reject the Urban Growth Boundary expansion to protect affordability, clean air, and natural lands.
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