I am asked every week, “What can you do to bring housing to Clackamas County that our young families can afford”.

Here is my answer.

Since 1973 Oregon has had the nation’s most restrictive statewide land-use regulatory system. A large percentage of our private land is zoned for either “exclusive farm use” or “exclusive forestry use,” which severely limits the ability of property owners to develop land in accordance with basic market principles.

SB100 from 1973 brought about the “urban growth boundaries” around all cities, designed to limit urban expansion. That may have looked like a good idea in 1973, considering the urban sprawl America had witness after World War 2.

Nowdays that same law is choking our ability to build homes and to attract new business to for lack of available land. Changing these boundaries to accommodate population growth is a slow and expensive process.

The result of this over-regulation is a group of lucky landowners who own the developable land. This is a government enforced monopoly, resulting in a shortage of land for housing in every municipality in the state. With the cost of buildable land skyrocketing, it is no longer impossible to build “starter homes” or moderately-priced apartment complexes in most cities. In response to the government-caused housing crisis, many elected leaders have promoted policies such as rent control, new taxes for supportive housing such as the Metro Supportive Housing Services measure and the Metro Housing Bond, which tax people who are already struggling to save for a home of their own. Unfortunately, these policies can only make the housing problem worse by discouraging new private investment in housing and making free market housing that people can afford an even more unattainable dream.

We must reform this current land-use regulatory system so that the real estate markets can once again become a free market situation. We can set the conditions for building the homes we need, and we can design those projects to a new paradigm of urban design can limit sprawl. Easing the current urban growth boundary regulations, and greater flexibility in farm and forestland regulation will create a better County for our small businesses and our growing families.

Also, I suspect in a couple of years that 100’s of billions of federal dollars for supportive housing, rental assistance, Housing and Urban Development will dry up. What them? A free market housing situation that our people can afford to buy with their own money, without government assistance, is the only way to housing success in Clackamas County.