House Bill 2007- Gift or HBA Trojan Horse?

Several disconcerting amendments made to House Bill 2007 by the Home Builders Association and 1000 Friends of Oregon are NOT a friendly –  they have turned a laudable and worthwhile effort by Speaker Kotek into a Trojan horse.  The HBA’s amendments seek to undermine affordability rather than to preserve and protect it.  HB2007 does nothing to protect and preserve existing affordability and avoid displacement; It will only exacerbate and perpetuate the crisis of affordability by disproportionately benefiting the kind of private-interest development that created an emergency in the first place.

On the surface, it appears to be an admirable and much needed tool to expedite and facilitate affordable housing initiatives. That’s what we all want, what we need, and what we fight for every day. Who could argue with that? Not me! However, it also contains several key provisions which will have overwhelmingly devastating effects statewide and that bear deeper examination – asking and answering the questions:

Who are we really building for?”  

Who stands to get hurt and who stands to benefit?”

House Bill 2007 should be amended to apply only to providing, protecting, and preserving HUD standards of affordable housing, not creating broad opportunity for speculative development that let to this crisis of affordability in the first place. It should protect and preserve existing affordability and avoid displacement. This can be accomplished by meeting two broad goals:

  1. Prohibit the demolition of existing habitable housing units by enforcing a minimum standard of Soundness and providing exceptions only when the project meets strict review criteria.
  2. Limit the bill strictly to providing affordable housing that benefits those most in need – remove provisions which are not directly tied to regulated or defined standards of affordability.

The dramatic shift in HBA strategy that was employed to defeat the demolition tax in 2015 was so successful in creating powerful false equivalencies that we’re seeing that subterfuge in full bloom now.  It is much harder to break through tactics that are clothed in the wool of progressive liberal terminology like “affordability”, “diversity”, and “livability” even if they benefit only the wolf.

If you haven’t yet come across this brag piece which won the Portland Metro Home Builders Association a national award, please give it your attention.  They had it up on the NAHB site for over a year, but it came down a few weeks ago.  The brag piece was still available on the nahb webiste up until mid-April. The google cached version from April 19. 2017 has since been removed as well.  Here is an offline version saved from the nahb website before they deleted it:

Here is the link

And if I were taking some artistic liberty in paraphrasing the self-congratulatory blather contained in that piece, it would go something like this:

These Portland liberal progressives were upset about a demolition ‘epidemic’. Affordable housing advocates, environmentalists, and historic preservationists were united in an effort to maintain affordable housing by de-incentivising demolitions and cutting into our profit margins. We realized that we weren’t going to be able defeat the tax using our normal approach of threatening to sue the City. So we devised a strategy to divide the liberal camp and turn affordable housing advocates against preservationists. By engineering testimony and framing a narrative that created the false equivalence that any impingement on our profit margins was instead a privileged and xenophobic attack on affordability, we not only defeated the demolition tax, but it was far more successful than anticipated in normalizing demolitions and demonizing those who sought to impose rule changes. Although our members were understandably indignant at an agenda which was inherently deceptive and antithetical to our values, many of our moderate former critics have now become our most zealous champions. We cannot understate the significance of a strategy which seizes the liberal agenda, attacks from the left, and divides the ranks of the opposition from within – especially in progressive cities like Portland. Yay, we won an award for deception, dividing, and conquering!!


There are links below to provide additional information about the bill and to contact your legislators.