Eight Ingredients for a State-Level Zoning Reform
In 2019, Oregon passed a first-of-its-kind state law that ordered larger cities and the Portland metro area to rapidly legalize duplexes on all residential lots and fourplexes, triplexes, townhomes, and cottage clusters on more than half of lots.
Though Oregon’s legislature was the first to pass such a specific upzone, many states have since considered similar laws. Some theorists argue that regulatory limits on housing might be best controlled at the state and provincial levels, because state lawmakers have both motive and means to address regional shortages. Oregon’s experience offers a possible template.
In a narrative informed by original interviews with seven people and my own experience as an advocate for the bill, I construct the first detailed account of how Oregon’s proposal succeeded. It relied on a committed political leader, organized external advocates, and a bipartisan urban-rural coalition to defeat a bipartisan coalition that opposed the concept.