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Oregon May Strip Portland of Its NIMBY Powers

A controversial bill before the state legislature would preempt cities’ rights to prevent new affordable housing.
As Portland faces a severe lack of affordable rental housing, a controversial state bill is pitting housing advocates against preservationists.
As Portland faces a severe lack of affordable rental housing, a controversial state bill is pitting housing advocates against preservationists. Don Ryan/AP

People can’t afford to be poor in Portland, Oregon. Nearly half of the households that rent in the Portland metro area pay too much. Almost one-quarter (24.3 percent) of these households are severely cost burdened, meaning half of their household income goes to keeping a roof over their heads. The median income of Portland metro homeowners is nearly twice that of renters: $81,900 versus $41,600, per a new Harvard report on housing.

Oregon has decided to do something to boost affordable housing in the state. A new law before the legislature has opened unexpected fault lines in the already fractured political debate over housing costs. The bill represents something of a mixed blessing for affordability boosters: it’s designed to remove barriers to new construction, but at the cost of local authority.