Portland extends waiver of SDCs on Accessory Dwelling Units

Great News!

This afternoon, Portland’s City Council voted unanimously to extend the waiver of Systems Development Charges on Accessory Dwelling Units for an additional 3 years.  The waiver covers all new ADUs (conversions or new construction) that are permitted before July 31, 2016 and obtain a final inspection and certification of occupancy no later than June 30, 2017.

Critical to this decision was the overwhelming evidence of the waiver’s impact over the past 2+ years.  Before the original waiver was adopted in early 2010, Portland was permitting 2.6 ADUs per month.  That rate jumped to 8.7 ADUs per month in 2011 and is now on track for 12.8 ADUs/month in 2012, a nearly five-fold increase in ADU activity from before the waiver went into effect.  There were undoubtedly other factors involved in this jump, including the available of Energy Trust of Oregon incentives for ADUs, zoning code changes to allow ADUs to be larger in comparison to the primary dwelling (but still capped at 800sf), new appraisal guidelines to make ADUs easier to finance, and a general lifting up of the housing market this year.  But there’s no question that the SDC waiver has been critical in helping many builders and homeowners take the leap from “Maybe…” to “Yes, let’s go for it!” for their ADU schemes & dreams.

We also used the opportunity of some public testimony to nudge the city to consider adopting scalable SDC fees on residential homes – so that 1,000 square foot homes wouldn’t pay the same SDC fees as 5,000 square foot ones (as they do today).  Based on feedback from City Council member Nick Fish, there might be some follow-up on this idea.

All the neighborhood, design community, builder, resident, and public agency support for accessory dwellings made this an enthusiastic and non-contentious “Yes” vote by Council.  Here’s a big “Thank You” to everyone who’s been supportive of rule changes, like this one, that make it easier to build smaller homes.  And a special “Thank you” to the City of Portland for taking the lead on this issue.  Let’s keep the changes coming – locally and in other jurisdictions around the region.

– Eli Spevak

PS – For other city councils… during the ~3 hours in council chambers waiting for this resolution to come up, this bill stood out as their most fun vote amidst a lot of pretty dry, bureaucratic stuff to wade through. So lighten up your next meeting with an ordinance to support tiny homes!


Published by Eli Spevak

Community housing developer

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