Residential Infill Project

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Portland's Residential Infill Project

program of City of Portland, Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS), 2015 to present.



from Residential Infill Project Summary: Recommended Draft" (August 2019). 

"In order to meet the demands of our growing city and ensure that future generations of Portlanders can live and thrive here, we need to take advantage of our entire housing area.  Single-family zones make up 43% of our housing land supply while multi-dwelling zones cover 8%. Our single-family neighborhoods can provide housing options that improve the quality of life for current and future residents – our teachers, bus drivers, retail clerks, construction workers and students. We believe that RIP is one tool to achieve that vision. The Residential Infill Project has been amended by the Planning and Sustainability Commission to deliver even more smaller scale, less expensive housing in Portland’s single-family neighborhoods. By offering homeowners and home builders the opportunity to create up to four units on a single-dwelling lot (at a smaller scale and height than is currently allowed), the Residential Infill Project allows the return of attractive, popular and more affordable middle housing types to Portland’s residential neighborhoods.


One piece of the larger housing affordability puzzle
City and regional leaders are addressing the housing crisis on many other fronts, including:
  • A $258 million affordable housing bond passed on the November 2016 ballot that will create 1,300 newly affordable homes over the next several years.
  • Newly created revenue streams for affordable housing, such as the construction excise tax and the accessory short-term rental fund.
  • Affordable housing incentives for multi-family housing projects through the MULTE program.
  • A collaborative effort to address homelessness through the Joint Office of Homeless Services by connecting thousands of people with housing, employment, health and emergency services.
  • An inclusionary housing program that requires affordable housing units in new multi-family residential development and provides additional incentives for creating affordable housing units.
  • New tenant protections, including relocation costs for no-cause evictions or large rent increases.


Projected impact

Johnson Economics study: 24,000 new infill homes viable

Johnson Economics. "Economic Analysis of Proposed Changes to the Infill Development Standards." November 29.

Summarized by BPS in [Tracy 2018]:

"The economic analysis is based on a predictive model that looks at the real market value of parcels against a series of housing prototype proformas to determine the relative likelihood that a parcel will develop. For example, when the real market value (RMV) of a parcel is less than the residual land value (RLV) of a development type, then that parcel is assumed to develop."  [Tracy 2018]

BPS internal analysis: 4,000 of projected 123k new homes by 2035 would occur as infill 

based on Comprehensive Plan assumption of 123k new housing units by 20135

"Portland planners started with the assumption that the city would add about 123,000 housing units by 2035 -- a number already vetted and used in the city’s comprehensive zoning plan. Most of those are projected to be built in high-density areas like downtown or busy commuter corridors. Portland’s single-family neighborhoods would get 16,000 new units, according to the comprehensive plan. "With the adoption of the infill proposal, planners shifted some growth from apartments along corridors into single-family neighborhoods. They now project about 20,000 new households in residential neighborhoods – a 4,000-home net increase in those areas. "The planning bureau considers the 4,000 tally a “more realistic view” of projected infill growth, said Oliveira, the spokesman, though planners say the differing forecasts are intended to complement rather than compete against one another. “They’re both valid in terms of providing a range of what the outcomes could be,” said Tyler Bump, a senior economic planner for the city.  [Schmidt & Njus 2019]


Fine-tuning the incentives

RIP is notable for the careful analyses made around it regarding how program details might nudge outcomes one way or another. 

[Andersen 2018] noted a comment of a Planning and Sustainability Commission member: 
Cap building sizes, but let them get slightly bigger for each additional home they create

"In a series of straw votes Tuesday, the commission endorsed a set of policy changes designed to stop the gradual mansionization of Portland by capping the size of new homes, re-legalizing structures that include more than one home inside and—crucially—allowing buildings to get slightly bigger (about 500 square feet on most lots) for:

  • each additional home;
  • creating homes affordable to lower-income households; or
  • saving and lightly modifying an older structure as part of internally dividing it into multiple homes.

This crucial final part of the proposal, intended to give owners a reason (other than the goodness of their hearts) to create more and cheaper homes when they redevelop their property, had been recommended in May by numerous housing advocates."