A progressive new low-density housing reform is transforming the city of Portland, with profound implications for real estate investments. The proposed changes in zoning requirements for residential lots has been billed as controversial since Portland condo developer Eli Spevak first spearheaded the proposal six years ago.

Called the Residential Infill Project, Portland’s city council recently approved the measure to allow up to four homes on most residential lots, with the option to build four to six homes on a lot if half of them are made available at regulated prices. In addition, it also eliminates parking requirements from 75% of Portland’s residential land.

New housing options on previous one-house lots

With the new zoning allowances for multi-dwelling units on what were once single-home lots, there are now multiple options for development projects. Some of them include:

  • Multiplex units: uniplexes up to 2,500 square feet, duplexes up to 3,000 square feet, tri- and fourplexes up to 3,500 square feet
  • Allowance of up to two secondary cottages per lot
  • Cottage clusters of the same size
  • Four- and sixplexes allowed with an affordability requirement

While other cities such as Vancouver and Minneapolis allow the interior square footage of a building to be half the size of the lot it’s on, Portland’s du-, tri- and fourplexes can now be from three fifths to .7 of the lot. The reforms will have the effect of redirecting investment toward smaller, more affordable middle-class housing and away from supersized single-home construction and renovations.

The impact of introducing “missing middle” housing options

Allowing smaller housing and multiplex options amidst single-home residential neighborhoods has abruptly reversed Portland’s restrictive zoning laws that have existed for nearly 100 years, and which remain in place in many cities across the country. The effect of this zoning reform will be not only a boom in smaller home, condo and multiplex unit construction, but also a huge uptick in investment properties on the market.

It is important when entering any real estate transaction, whether to purchase a property, lease with a purchase option, sublease or refinance, to have the help of an experienced real estate attorney who will make sure that your best interests are protected.