Tualatin Seeks Code Changes to Allow Middle Housing

So-called middle housing like this duplex will be allowed in formerly single-family residential zones in the future under Oregon House Bill 2001, passed by the state legislature in 2019. The bill requires cities to allow middle housing development and gives them until June 2021 to adopt the changes into their development codes. (Courtesy/City of Tualatin)

The City of Tualatin is facing big changes in the near future in how it handles residential development. 

Gone are the days in Oregon where neighborhoods could be limited exclusively to single-family homes. Thanks to House Bill 2001, approved by the State Legislature in 2019, residential zoning requirements may no longer be restricted to just single-family homes or large multi-family apartment complexes. Instead, duplexes, triplexes and other forms of so-called middle housing must now be allowed in zones formerly limited to single-family homes. 

These types of housing developments already exist in many cities, but new construction of middle housing was prohibited in many residential zones in recent decades. Many say this is just one factor that has led to the current shortage of affordable housing in Oregon. 

Now, Tualatin is knee-deep in planning for a future that includes a more diverse range of housing options. But creating the standards that will regulate how that occurs in the middle of existing neighborhoods is a long and complex process.

Oregon cities have until June 30 to allow construction of middle housing options in formerly single-family zones. At an April 12 workshop, City planners told the Council that the process will tie in neatly with existing planning efforts being carried out under the Tualatin 2040 banner, which will determine how the public wants the city to grow over the next 20 years. 

“The timing of this is pretty incredible,” said John Pheanis, a Senior Project Manager with consulting firm MIG Inc. “Tualatin 2040 in particular has been looking at housing types and housing choices, and that coincides with what the state of Oregon has been looking at.” 

The so-called “missing middle” in housing development is what state legislators hoped to create in Oregon cities with the 2019 passage of House Bill 2001. Now, cities have until June 2021 to adopt code changes allowing duplexes, triplexes, townhomes and other types of middle housing in residential areas that formerly allowed only single-family housing. (Courtesy/City of Tualatin)

City staff have been working with consultants to analyze existing City code, explore different regulatory changes and develop a first draft of an amended code that complies with HB 2001. Broadly speaking, the draft covers measures that would make development of middle housing easier for developers and builders. It also introduces a new type of development called the “cottage cluster,” which would allow for the construction of multiple small homes under 900 square feet centered around a common courtyard on a single lot. 

One key issue that will need resolving, however, centers around parking requirements. Current city code on middle housing contains requirements for parking that exceed those allowed by HB 2001, something that will need to be addressed prior to adoption of any final regulations. 

“My concern is new development versus infill,” Mayor Frank Bubenik said. “The biggest thing we’ll hear back from the community is we don’t want lots of cars back-to-back-to-back. How do you address that without having the fear of a fire truck not being able to get through that community because it’s so tight?”

Land supply is also an issue in Tualatin. This is why City code is being overhauled to also allow middle housing to be built in existing neighborhoods as infill. 

“There is very little vacant space in the city today for new development, or even partially vacant,” Pheanis said. “So, it’s important to look at existing zones. Single family detached housing is the dominant type of housing, but what about middle housing with duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and townhomes? 

“A lot of the siting and design standards are a barrier to housing production in Tualatin.” 

Some also noted that senior-specific housing is also an area that should be examined. 

“I think we have a lot of people in this community who would love to age in place and stay here,” Councilor Nancy Grimes said. “And we don’t have very many at all single level affordable homes. There are a lot of great amenities here, but we need housing options to catch up with that.”