Commissioners start path to adopting mandated housing code changes

During the next year, the Keizer Planning Commission will spend an ample amount of time determining mandated changes to its development code that will impact neighborhoods throughout the city.

The changes, put in place by the Oregon Legislature in 2020 and known as HB2001, require greater density in large cities throughout the state. Large cities are defined as those with a population larger than 25,000, Keizer is closing in on 40,000. The changes need to be adopted by June 2022.

No property owner will be forced into changes, but the city will be required to allow a greater number of housing types on properties zoned for single family residences.

“It will require amending large sections of our code, but my guess is that the planning commission and city council will want to limit changes to what is required,” said Shane Witham, Keizer interim community development director.

The goal of changing the development code is to increase Oregon’s stock of middle income housing. The primary tool deployed to juice the market is rezoning all single family properties for low-density multifamily housing.

The means a property that currently has a single family residence, can be redeveloped or remodeled as duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes, cottage clusters and townhouses that “can blend in well with detached single-family housing.”

“We don’t get a choice on duplexes, we have to allow those on every single family lot,” said Witham at a planning commission meeting Wednesday, March 10. “What we might have control over are quadplexes and triplexes.”

The new code permits cities to decide whether anything larger than a duplex can be attached or detached from the primary residence.

“There is a significant difference between a triplex that is three units in one building and building a duplex in the backyard of a single family residence. I think we can change the probability of what will happen with some policy decisions by the planning commission,” Witham said.

Triplexes will be allowed on lots 5,000 square feet or larger, which encompasses many current plots in Keizer city limits.

“We have a fair number of parcels that are large and deep for urban standards. Some of those aren’t big enough to divide, but a lot of those lots could add units in the back and add a walkway to it,” Witham said.