Why Housing Opportunity Is Environmental Opportunity

There’s no longer any question that Oregon must prepare for a changing climate. That means building strong communities that can bear the added stress of floods, heat waves and other extreme weather. It also means planning to make the most of our precious water, fuel and energy resources. If we don’t plan ahead, communities that are already overburdened with poor housing conditions, few transportation options and less access to resources will also bear the greatest burden from climate change.

But if we plan ahead, we have a chance to cultivate a stronger, more resilient and more effective response to a changing climate. We can cut pollution by making it possible for people to walk, bike and ride.  We can increase access to education, jobs and healthy food. By addressing the equity issues in our communities today, we can build neighborhoods in which people are deeply invested in ensuring strength, stability and sustainability.

City and local authorities will be called on to meet this challenge, address inequities and strengthen our communities. States can help by making sure they have all the tools available to them. In Oregon today, our local governments are missing an important tool to ensure quality housing and access to resources. Oregon is one of two states (Texas is the other) with a ban on the use of inclusionary zoning. Currently, 500 cities and counties across 27 states are using inclusionary housing to promote healthy, sustainable, and inclusive communities and increase housing opportunities for all.

Inclusionary zoning can be used to reserve units in a housing development for low or moderate income households, and can ensure that units remain affordable for generations. That can bring greater diversity to communities that will be most resilient in a changing climate. Research shows that inclusionary housing, when designed right, can cut climate change pollution by providing walkable neighborhoods and greater access to transportation alternatives.

Cities and counties need a range of tools to help communities be resilient and to ensure affordability. Inclusionary housing is not the only tool they need, and it might not be the right one for every community. But it’s a very basic, flexible and important one that cities and counties can use as they see fit to make housing and development work for them. Given the challenges ahead, we believe the legislature must restore this tool, so that local authorities can address affordability concerns and underlying social inequities.

That’s why Oregon Environmental Council is following the lead of the Oregon Inclusionary Zoning Coalition and other partners advocating to lift the ban on inclusionary zoning in Oregon.

 

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