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Change zoning locally, not in Salem

We’ll agree with House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, that Oregon has a housing crisis and solving it is going to take creative thinking.

That said, Kotek’s belief that the Legislature is somehow better equipped to solve the problem than are local governments in Bend, Medford or La Grande is wrong. She ignores the role played by state land use planning laws that strangle city expansion and is the driving force behind a measure that does away with single-family zoning in much of Oregon.

She’s going after local governments with House Bill 2001, a measure that orders cities to do away with single-family zoning. Communities with more than 10,000 residents would be required to allow duplexes, triplexes and/or quadruplexes on all land currently zoned for single-family housing.

But, as the House Committee on Human Services and Housing heard Monday from a member of the Sherwood City Council, the change could have unintended, and ugly, consequences. For one thing, it could make it more difficult for school districts to predict and accommodate growth within the limits of their bonding capacity.

Another unintended consequence could be a shift from neighborhoods that do not restrict property owners’ rights with formal covenants, conditions and restrictions, to ones that do as people who can, seek out neighborhoods where multifamily housing is prohibited.

The worst problem with Kotek’s bill, however, is the way in which it cuts local citizens and local government out decision-making about their communities and the way they grow. In Bend, duplexes and triplexes are currently allowed in residential zones, and the city is working to add fourplexes to the mix.

But Bend’s changes were made locally, not forced by Salem. They came about after local discussion and local public hearings, as state land-use law now requires. Because they were a local creation, there’s been considerable local buy-in.

None of that will occur with Kotek’s bill. Instead, it effectively prohibits locals from deciding what’s best for their communities. It should be defeated.