Increasing Housing Density in Single-Family Neighborhoods

The Oregon Legislature is requiring most cities to allow more housing to be built in single-family neighborhoods. What do Oregonians think about increasing density in these neighborhoods?

From June 8th through 14th, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including their thoughts about housing density regulations. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead.

This online survey consisted of 1400 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. Responses were analyzed and categorized to allow for a better understanding of trends in Oregonians’ values and beliefs. The survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.6% to ±2.6% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample size permits reliability.

Findings will include a citation of the relevant question, which can be referenced in the annotated questionnaire and tabs at the bottom of the page.

Support or Opposition to Zoning Changes

Oregonians were provided the following prompt about housing regulations in Oregon and were asked if they support such regulations: “The Oregon Legislature is requiring most cities to allow more housing to be built in single-family neighborhoods. Duplexes must be allowed on every lot, and up to four units must be permitted in some areas. The city of Portland is allowing up to six units on nearly every single-family lot” (Q1).

  • Overall, one-half of Oregonians (52%) support such housing increases in single-family neighborhoods, while 37% are opposed and 11% are unsure (Q1).
  • Oregonians ages 30-44 are more supportive of such housing increases than those ages 65 and older (58% vs. 40-50%). This may be a result of challenges Americans in this age group have faced on the path to homeownership, such as the Great Recession and student loan debt(Q1).
  • Oregonians making less than $50K per year are more supportive than higher earners (59% vs. 44-47%), which makes sense given the fact that one of the intended goals of changing the zoning regulations is to create more affordable housing options (Q1).

Increasing Density: Why or Why Not

Respondents were provided the open-ended opportunity to explain why they support or oppose housing increases in single-family neighborhoods. The top reasons to support include lack of affordable housing in the area, addressing population growth, and helping to alleviate homelessness. In fact, the words “homeless” and “homelessness” showed up nearly 100 times in the responses in support of such housing increases. Reasons to oppose include concerns about changes to the neighborhood, increased traffic and crowds, and declining property values. Below are some representative quotes, categorized by whether the respondent supports regulations that allow for increased density, or is opposed to such regulations(Q2-3).

Support (Q2):

Housing is so expensive in Oregon that many people aren’t able to buy in top school districts. This would help a number of people to be able to purchase a home. Also, in cities like West Linn and Oregon City, it is difficult for seniors to downsize to a home of a smaller size and still stay in the community. This would be of help to them, too.”

Female, age 65-74, Clackamas County, white or Caucasian

Because there isn’t enough housing at the moment and there are a lot of homeless people out there that have good-paying jobs, yet no place to live.

Female, age 65-74, TIllamook County, Native American or American Indian

There is a housing crisis happening in our city. We have to build affordable housing for our community members.

Male, age 18-29, Washington County, white or Caucasian

Because I know personally how hard it is finding affordable decent housing. Especially in cities like Portland. It has become impossible to raise a family with just a single income. The cost of living is just too much. I truly believe having more affordable housing would help a lot of people and their families in more ways than one.

Female, age 30-44, Gilliam County, white or Caucasian

Oppose (Q3):

I agree that we desperately need more housing, but I don’t agree that it should come down to putting duplexes or apartments in single-family housing neighborhoods. It’s a bummer to see neighborhoods radically changed. It lessens the relaxed and homey feel of some areas. It would increase the foot traffic and vehicles as well.

Female, age 30-44, Lane County, white or Caucasian

This results in increased parking and traffic problems, which are already bad enough at current densities. It is also likely to have impacts on schools, that again are already stressed.

Male, age 65-74, Marion County, other race or ethnicity

I’ve seen what overcrowding does in my neighborhood and I wouldn’t support it in other neighborhoods. Overcrowded schools and too much traffic.

Female, age 55-64, Lane County, white or Caucasian

Don’t bring down the value of my home by bringing lower-income housing into my neighborhood. The goal of a neighborhood should not be to cram as many low-income people in there as possible.

Male, age 30-44, Clackamas County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x


Demographic Trends

Identifying What Unites Us and Understanding What Divides Us

  • Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color and whites have very similar views on housing increases in single-family neighborhoods, with a slim majority of both groups supporting them (52% and 51%, respectively). White Oregonians, however, are more likely to say they oppose these density increases (38% vs. 33%), and Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color are more likely to say they are undecided (16% vs. 10%) (Q1).
  • Interestingly, Black, Indigenous, and other Oregonians of color particularly emphasize affordability and the idea that everyone needs a home as reasons for supporting increased housing density. These are issues that are intertwined with homelessness, but BIPOC Oregonians are less likely to explicitly call out homelessness as their reason for supporting increases in housing density (Q2).
  • Urban Oregonians are slightly more likely than their rural counterparts to support housing increases in single-family neighborhoods (58% vs. 52%). Suburban Oregonians are the least likely to support increasing density (49%), and the second most likely to oppose it (39%). Only Oregonians living in rural-changing-to-suburban areas are more opposed to increasing housing density (43%). This is likely reflective of the prevalence of single-family residences in suburban and rural-changing-to-suburban areas and, in the case of rural-changing-to-suburban, perhaps even reactionary to the changes already taking place in these areas (Q1).

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (www.oregonvbc.org).

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