As a Eugene resident, parent, and legal scholar who focuses on housing and climate justice, I am deeply concerned about a local petition circulating under the misleading title “Housing and Climate Justice.”
I realize that some people may have signed this petition without knowing his motives. My hope is to refocus attention on grassroots work that actually supports housing and climate justice, and to inspire ongoing conversation about these issues.
My passion for this work has its roots in the Cully neighborhood of northeast Portland, where I grew up. After losing our home to the lender, my parents moved our family of six to the only available place we could afford – a two-bedroom unit in a quadruplex on a main thoroughfare less than a mile away. a 24 acre landfill. Our neighborhood had far more sites contaminated with industrial pollutants and far more people of color and very low-income families (like mine) than Portland’s more restrictive neighborhoods.
Little did I know it then, but single-family zoning designed to racially and economically segregate American cities kept neighborhoods with cleaner air, better-endowed schools, less congestion, and more trees out of our reach. These regulations achieved their segregationist goals when they were enacted nearly a century ago, and they continue to do so today.
I have since immersed my life in housing and working for climate justice. As a law professor, I focus my research and teaching on housing and climate justice. I oversee the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center’s Sustainable Land Use Project at the University of Oregon Law School. I serve on the Board of Directors of Housing Land Advocates, which works to ensure that all Oregonians can obtain adequate and affordable housing. I currently serve on a committee advising on how Oregon can reduce climate pollution in cities in an equitable way. And, in 2020, I advised on implementing Oregon’s average housing laws.
That’s why I was so concerned to receive a four-page flyer promoting a “Housing and Climate Justice” petition and urging me to oppose the Planning Commission’s recommendation to reform zoning. strict single family to allow “intermediate housing” such as duplexes and triplexes. , and to provide incentives to create more affordable housing in all neighborhoods of Eugene.
Three things make this petition particularly misleading, in my opinion. First, the petition asks the city council to reject a unanimous recommendation to pass the most favorable housing zoning and racial justice reform in Eugene’s history — urging the council to instead pass a code based on the minimum compliance permitted by law.
Second, the author of the petition claims that it is necessary to delay this long overdue reform because input from housing or climate justice organizations or the public has not been provided. Exactly the opposite is true.
Third, the petition website contains misleading and erroneous material.
What will be lost if the city council passes the minimum average housing code allowed by state law — as the petition calls for? Incentives to create more affordable housing, climate-friendly housing and small housing.
Genuine and equitable participation is fundamental to justice. But the petition uses the language of justice to essentially erase the commitment of social and environmental justice organizations and the thousands of citizens of Eugene who participated in the most diverse and robust public participation process in Eugene’s history. ‘Eugene. The commission hosted Facebook Live discussions on affordable housing, exclusionary zoning, the state’s intermediate housing law and other topics.
The meetings were accessible via Zoom and YouTube, and recorded. Economic consultants provided analysis. A round table on equity gave advice on the work. There were stakeholder groups, surveys, briefings and presentations. In a truly unique step, 29 Eugene residents were selected by lottery to join a demographically representative review committee that developed guiding principles, reviewed code concepts and approved draft proposals.
The product of this 18-month process is an intermediate housing code with broad and diverse support. No single policy action can solve our housing crisis or remedy a century of exclusionary zoning and environmental racism, but the Planning Commission’s recommendation is a long-standing step in the right direction.
We find ourselves in a time when many people do not know who to trust. If your concerns relate to housing and climate justice, I recommend engaging with local and state organizations that have fair and affordable housing, racial justice, or climate justice in their missions – organizations like Better Housing Together, Beyond Toxics, DevNW, Fair Housing Council of Oregon, Housing Land Advocates, Huerto de Familia, Lane Independent Living Alliance, NAACP Eugene/Springfield, Oregon Law Center, Pacific Northwest Just Futures Institute for Racial and Climate Justice, and Springfield Eugene Tenants Association.
Sarah J. Adams-Schoen is an assistant professor at the University of Oregon and a faculty member at UO’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Center.