Increasing Residential Density and Affordable Housing

State and city planning goals addressed by the actions recommended in this section:

  • Economic Opportunities
  • Affordable Housing
  • Climate Change
  • Energy Resilience
  • Compact Urban Development
  • Efficient Transportation Options
  • Neighborhood Livability
  • Natural Resources
  • Civic Engagement, Public Participation and Collaborative Implementation

Contents:

 

Overview

Seventy five percent of River Road housing stock is single family residential. However only fifteen percent of households on River Road are traditional nuclear families. This shows a drastic need for housing that can accommodate other household types such as singles, baby boomers, empty nesters, single parents, young couples or other family compositions.

Challenges

ECCO Apartments

ECCO Apartments Building

Most of the housing development that we have seen in River Road as of late is either a single-family subdivision or large apartment buildings. This is challenging for this area because neighbors have not seen good examples of projects that provide a needed level of density. The emerging Missing Middle Housing movement has suggested many housing types that create a full spectrum of density that could be much more appropriate for a neighborhood rather than just suburbia and run of the mill apartments like we now have.

Some of the obstacles for these missing housing types include code restrictions, system development charges, and development practices. A challenge very specific to River Road is large apartment buildings that meet city requirements but are still inappropriate for county streets. One example would be the ECCO apartments parking controversy.

Proposals

  • Allow R-1 zoning to accommodate cluster developments, duplexes, and fourplexes based on lot acreage much like R-1.5 does for rowhouses.
  • Eliminate system development charges for SDUs like the City of Springfield has done.
  • Create a process for form based code development that would benefit many innovative ideas such as block planning.
  • Assure that large multifamily developments meet requirements appropriate for both the city and the county in the River Road neighborhood.
  • Green and resilient design elements could be included in all these development possibilities.

 

Co-housing/Intentional Housing

Co-housing can benefit many residents of River Road by creating an environment where participants can better share tools and resources as they see fit. Co-housing projects can strengthen community and be designed for a compact footprint.

Secondary Dwelling Units

Secondary dwelling units have the greatest implication for creating more density in River Road. Many Single-family houses are located on large lots that can accommodate additional dwellings without disturbing the neighborhood fabric.

Affordable Housing Units

Affordable housing is a critical need in River Road, Eugene and nationwide. Development in River Road, particularly along the main corridor, can be designed in ways that reduce the cost of living. Smaller apartments, strategies to reduce car dependence, design that encourages social cohesion, opportunity to grow food, and walkability are all features that can help provide affordable housing.

Tiny Homes

Tiny Home Community

Tiny Home Community

For those in an income tier that falls below what traditional affordable housing can provide, tiny homes are a good possibility. Square One Villages has been leading the way in this initiative, but even more affordable housing at this scale is necessary to reach more unsheltered people with limited options.

Additional missing middle types of housing, such as Townhouses, Duplexes, Triplexes, Quads and others should be available in the housing and affordable housing mix.

Taking into consideration the full spectrum of housing types while writing policies for our neighborhood plan, with allow for “best fit” dense developments in our neighborhood.

Further Thoughts

Some of the benefits of these housing types are:

  • Reduced displacement of current residents
  • Appropriate density within the urban growth boundary
  • Stronger sense of community and reduced conflict
  • Local economic growth with increased population
  • More efficient use of land, roads, resources, and infrastructure.

Example:

The Turtle creek apartments is a great example of introducing an affordable and missing housing type that has strengthened the neighborhood and has created no controversy. They blend into the neighborhood with design and style. They also provide a beautiful public open space overlooking a turtle pond.

Note: This is complementary to the form based planning of Envision Eugene.

Block Planning

Block planning, in effect can serve as a missing middle housing type because it can help increase residential density along with MANY other benefits.

City BlockMany city goals are about conservation of resources, building community and making better use of what’s available on site and nearby. Block Planning is a powerful land use tool that can deliver countless benefits. The City of Eugene hired a skilled consultant over 30 years ago in an effort to jump start block planning in Eugene. At that time, the visionary effort did not take off.

Block planning needs to be in the green and resilient tool kit. It can be adapted to diverse situations.

When neighbors create a block plan rules and regulations do not go away, but complying with them can become much more flexible by looking at a block as a unit with a lot of cooperative potential rather than a series of unrelated plots of land. This would allow design elements to be more green and resilient in terms of set-backs, new structures on the property, landscaping, storm water, parking and more.

Block planning is a land use tool few people are aware of yet it offers enormous potential to benefit those living on the block and to actualize numerous city and state land use, resource, energy and environmental goals.

As economic, social, political and environmental conditions already in the news continue to mature, it’s likely more people will gain an interest in block planning. We would be smart to add block planning to the green and resilient tool kit and make sure people know about it.

Block planning action items:

Bring block planning out into the open, update its process, let the public know this tool exists and invite interested people to learn more.

Note – Two locations in Eugene provide a useful impression of what block planning can look like. East Blair Housing Co-op owns ten properties that are managed in sync. Maitreya Eco Village covers over an acre and is managed as a single property.

A tour of these places shows impressive benefits. These are important examples that work for unique locations. Other blocks might use the same concepts of depaving, solar design, edible landscapes, and accessory dwellings with outcomes that look quite different.

Note: Block Planning aligns to the form based planning of Envision Eugene and virtually every state and city planning goal. There is enormous economic potential for creating jobs with block planning. The increased scale of Block Planning would create benefits far greater than transforming single properties.

 

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