Blaine County and its cities should wait and see what happens in Oregon before they jump on the idea of banning single-family zoning to try to jumpstart the housing supply.
The Oregon Legislature just approved a new law that essentially bans single-family zoning in towns with more than 10,000 people. The law would allow duplexes in areas now zoned for single homes.
The governor is expected to sign the law, which will make the state an incubator for an experiment in increasing the supply of housing.
Theoretically, ending single-family zoning would reduce the price of housing because it would spread land cost among more units and increase supply.
Critics of the theory say it won’t work because land prices will rise anyway relative to the number of units allowed on a piece of land. They say higher land prices will negate greater supply. They say the theory doesn’t account for the effects of on-line vacation rentals, which have decimated the housing supply.
If the theory works and produces a larger supply of reasonably priced housing units, it remains to be seen if enough people will buy them. In survey after survey, young families say they want to live in single-family homes.
In zoning, one size rarely fits all. Local governments should think hard before adopting any trendy but flawed theories like Ketchum did when it ended onsite parking in projects with a few small units.
H.L. Mencken once wrote, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.” Local officials should heed Mencken, and wait and see if Oregon’s experiment is successful.