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The Case for Fourplexes in Portland

Building more fourplexes could do a lot to fix Portland’s missing middle plan, one commentator argues.
March 20, 2019, 9am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Portland’s City Council is scheduled to review a missing middle housing plan. Henry Kraemer argues they should embrace it. The plan would seek to allow multi-unit housing like three and four-plexes in more of the city along with coach houses or ADUs. Kraemer contends that this change could do a lot to support the city’s middle and working class. "Since 1924, the most amenity-rich parts of Portland have been walled off to anybody who cannot afford a single-family detached house. Because detached buildings are the most expensive way to house a family, white supremacists connivingly used single-family-only zoning across the country as an ostensibly colorblind way to exclude people of color from their imagined white utopias," Henry Kraemer argues on

Land in many parts of Portland has become more expensive, dividing the costs of that land between four households could do a lot to make housing more affordable. "The choice facing the Portland City Council is between the status quo – a steady spread of luxury McMansions across the city – and a city where newly legalized fourplexes make it possible for middle-and-working-class families to pool their resources to afford coveted land," Kraemer writes. Kraemer points to a study that shows fourplexes are the cheapest housing available.

While the plan does a lot to make housing more affordable, it will not bring homes in reach of everyone. "Despite its myriad benefits for middle-class and working-class Portlanders, the policy will also not do nearly enough to house the poorest people in our city," Kraemer concedes. Kraemer argues that fixing the missing middle problem would not be enough to solve all housing problems and that the city should continue to expand public housing.

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Published on Thursday, March 7, 2019 in Henry Kraemer
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