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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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Better Housing by Design aims to make apartment living better in Portland

Learn about proposals to improve the livability of apartments and other higher density buildings, then testify to the Planning and Sustainability Commission.

The Better Housing by Design project is updating the rules that guide how new apartments and other larger residential buildings are built. These medium- to high-density residential zones provide opportunities for new housing to better meet the needs of a growing Portland.

The proposed new rules will create more housing choices for households of all ages, incomes and sizes. They will also ensure that new buildings are healthier, more livable and better connected to streets, shops, parks, schools and other amenities.

Major topics addressed by the project include:

  • Greater housing options and affordability to meet more housing needs.
  • Outdoor spaces and green elements for children to play, gardening and outdoor gatherings.
  • Building design that helps create pedestrian-friendly streets and respects neighborhood character.
  • East Portland design standards and street connections that respond to the area’s distinct needs.


Review the Better Housing by Design Proposed Draft:

Additional Proposed Draft documents will be available by June 2nd, including:

  • Volume 3: Additional Zoning Code Amendments (minor code amendments that provide consistency among zoning code chapters, eliminate redundant regulations, and update references to the multi-dwelling zones)
  • Appendix G: Better Housing by Design – Displacement Risk Analysis
  • Appendix H: Connected Centers Street Plan

Tell the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) what you think

Via the Map App …

Screen capture of the Map App

Explore the Map App

The Map App is new and improved! In addition to viewing proposed map changes for individual properties, community members (property owners and renters) can now testify directly to the Planning and Sustainability Commission via the Map App. It’s as easy as sending an email. And once you press “submit,” you can see your testimony in the Testimony Reader in real time. You can also read other people’s testimony.

At a public hearing …

You can testify directly to the Planning and Sustainability Commission at a public hearing:

Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 5 p.m.
PCC Southeast Campus, Community Hall Annex
2305 SE 82nd Ave Portland, Oregon

Or send a letter by June 12, 2018, to …

Portland Planning and Sustainability Commission
Better Housing by Design
1900 SW 4th, Suite 7100 
Portland, Oregon 97201.


We’re ready for your questions. Call 503-823-0195. Interpretation services available.


Next Steps

After the PSC hears public testimony and the “record is closed” (no more testimony – written or oral – is accepted), the PSC will hold a work session to discuss the testimony and develop any amendments they want to make to the proposals before they vote on their recommendations to the City Council. Council is expected to hold public hearings on the PSC’s Recommended Draft this summer.

For more information, visit the project website

Have you received a City of Portland notice in the mail?

Here’s what it means and what you can do.

Welcome to the Better Housing by Design online “customer service” page. We’re glad you’re here.

  • Perhaps you received a notice in the mail that looks like this, and you’re not sure exactly what it means. 
  • Or maybe you heard about proposed rules that would change the zoning for apartment buildings and other higher density residential buildings.
  • Or both.

You are not alone! Some 33,629 property owners received the mailing pictured at right from the City of Portland. This is required by state law whenever a change in the zoning could affect the value of a property — up or down. Your address was pulled from the County Assessor’s Office.

First things first

First thing to know is that these changes are proposals — not the law. We hope you’ll learn more about them and tell the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) what you think. Any new rules must be adopted by City Council before they become effective. And before adoption, they are refined and changed based on public testimony, as well as PSC and City Council amendments.

Second, these proposals do not require you to sell your land or do anything to your property.

We’re here to help

We want to help you understand the proposal and how it may affect you and your property. You can:

  • Call the Helpline at 503-823-0195. Friendly staff will look up your address and tell you how the proposal would affect your property.
  • Look up your address on the Map App to find out what rules apply now and what could be proposed.
  • Send us an email at, and a knowledgeable person will respond.

Then share your feedback with the Planning and Sustainability Commission via the Map App or in person at a public hearing

Renters matter too

You don’t have to be a property owner to weigh in on these proposals. Renters are also affected by the housing shortage and the lack of housing options. So, look and imagine how these changes might affect how you live in and experience Portland. Then share your thoughts with the Planning and Sustainability Commission.

Current and proposed Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Designation Names

Current Com Plan Name Current Zone New Comp Plan Name & Abbreviation New Zone
Multi-Dwelling – 3,000
Multi-Dwelling – 2,000
Multi-Dwelling – Neighborhood (MD-N) RM1 (Residential Multi-Dwelling 1)
Multi-Dwelling – 1,000 R1 Multi-Dwelling – Corridor (MD-c) RM2 (Residential Multi-Dwelling 2)
High-Density Multi-Dwelling RH Multi-Dwelling – Urban Center (MD-U) RM3 (Residential Multi-Dwelling 3)
RM4 (Residential Multi-Dwelling 4)
Central Residential RX Central Residential (RX) RX (Central Residential)
  1. Comprehensive Plan designations, such as "Multi-Dwelling – Neighborhood," represent the long-term intended use for properties.
  2. Zoning designations, such as "RM1," include specific rules for the type of development and the size of features of buildings that are allowed on a property. The multi-dwelling zones are intended for a wide variety of residential development, including multi-family buildings.

Summary of the proposed multi-dwelling zones

Comparison of current and proposed development standards

For more information, visit the project website.

Better Housing by Design draft Zoning Code amendments now available for review

Portlanders invited to review the BHD Discussion Draft and send comments to staff by March 19.

How can Portland’s multi-dwelling zones be improved to ensure more people live in safe and healthy housing that meets their needs?

The Better Housing by Design project team has been addressing that question for the past year. With the help of community members, multi-family housing developers, renter advocates and others, the team developed the Better Housing by Design Concept Report.

Now proposed zoning code and map amendments to implement the concepts for Portland’s multi-dwelling zones are available for public review in the BHD Discussion Draft.

Read the Better Housing by Design Discussion Draft.

What’s in the Discussion Draft?

The proposed code changes will help ensure that new development in Portland's multi-dwelling zones better meets the needs of current and future residents as well as contributes positive qualities to the places where they are built.

The Discussion Draft proposals will shape new development in the multi-dwelling zones by:

  • Revising the multi-dwelling zones so they relate to different types of places.
  • Regulating development intensity by the size of buildings, instead of the number of units in the building.
  • Adding incentives for affordable housing.
  • Requiring shared outdoor spaces like courtyards for larger projects.
  • Encouraging innovative green features and tree preservation.
  • Limiting front garages and surface parking.
  • Shaping building scale and setbacks to integrate development with neighborhoods.
  • Applying standards for East Portland for better design suited to the area’s characteristics.

Learn more and comment

Portlanders are invited to learn more about the Discussion Draft and give their feedback in the coming weeks. This public outreach period is focused on familiarizing community members with the detailed code amendments in preparation for the Planning and Sustainability Commission and subsequent City Council hearings later this year.

Comments on the Discussion Draft are due by March 19, 2018.

Upcoming events

Two open houses will give community members a chance to review the proposals and talk to staff. The project team will provide a presentation summarizing the proposals and be available to answer questions.

Central Portland

Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Room 2500 (2nd floor)
TriMet:  Multiple bus, MAX and streetcar lines

Eastern Portland

Thursday, February 8, 2018, 6 – 8 p.m.
9955 NE Glisan Street (Ride Connection Office)
TriMet: Bus #15 and 19; MAX Blue, Green, Red lines

How to comment

Comments are due by Monday, March 19, 2018. Send your comments to:


City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability
Attn: Better Housing by Design Project
1900 SW 4th Avenue, Suite 7100
Portland, OR  97201

Ideas for improving multifamily development released

Better Housing by Design Concept Report addresses open space, building design and scale, street connections and more; comment to staff by August 7.

Not all apartment buildings are created equal. Some include attractive features and design qualities; others leave a lot to be desired.

As Portland grows and more housing is required, our community will see more multifamily construction, such as apartment complexes, fourplexes, courtyard apartments and other types of multi-dwelling buildings being built.

So how can we ensure that these new housing units are more “user-friendly” — more like home? With outdoor spaces for play and gardening; more trees, sidewalks and pathways; and improved design standards for front and side setbacks, garages and height transitions?  

The Better Housing by Design (BHD) project has been working with residents, builders, designers and other stakeholders to figure out how to make new development in multi-dwelling zones healthier, safer, more comfortable and inviting.

Concept report sets the table
Over the course of several months, the BHD project team has developed a set of concepts that address these issues. These 18 concepts are the subject of the Better Housing by Design Concept Report. They address improvements to open space, building design and scale, development bonuses, Eastern Portland development standards, and street connections in multi-dwelling zones.

More open spaces: For instance, one concept would require that multifamily development on large sites include shared outdoor areas, like courtyards, to provide space for children’s play areas or gardening. Currently, these kinds of spaces are not required in the Zoning Code.

Photo: By combining individual outdoor requirements (currently 48 sq ft/unit), more shared outdoor space (basketball courts, playgrounds, garden plots, etc.) would be available for recreation and trees.



New types of streets: Another concept proposes a new type of narrow street (similar to the one shown in the picture below) that will make it easier to provide street connections on small sites.

Photo: By making allowances in the Zoning Code for alternatives to full-width streets, more (smaller) streets will create much-needed connections between large blocks in places like East Portland.

Setting the bar higher
New multifamily development plays an important role in providing more housing for our growing population. But Portland’s Zoning Code can set the bar higher so more people can enjoy these homes in neighborhoods that foster a sense of community and support healthy living.  

Read and comment on the Concept Report
Read the report and find out how the Zoning Code can help create better housing by design.

Then tell us what you think. Comments to staff are due by August 7. Your feedback will help staff develop the changes to the Zoning Code rules.

What’s next?
Project staff will develop draft code language that will be included in a “Discussion Draft” to be released in the fall. Comments on that draft will be reviewed by staff, who will then prepare a “Proposed Draft” to submit to the Planning and Sustainability Commission (PSC) sometime in the winter of 2018. The PSC will hold a hearing so the public can testify about the Proposed Draft. The PSC will then make decisions about how to change the draft before submitting it to City Council in the form of a “Recommended Draft.”

For more information about the Better Housing by Design project, visit or contact Project Manager Bill Cunningham at or 503-823-4203.

New concepts for improving Portland’s multi-family housing ready for public review

Better Housing by Design project shared draft concepts at two open houses; now you can look at them online.

Last week, staff from the Better Housing by Design project shared draft concepts for improving housing design and development in Portland’s multi-family neighborhoods.  

At two open houses, Portlanders could view concepts that addressed key issues in multi-dwelling zones:

  • Open space for residents
  • Building scale and transitions
  • Development bonuses
  • Scale-based zoning
  • The Connected Centers Plan project for the Jade District and Rosewood neighborhood.

About 75 people attended the two workshops to learn more about and offer feedback on the draft concepts.

Missed the open houses and want to learn more? No worries. Now you can review the presentation and the information boards from the open houses.

Comments welcome

You can submit comments to staff about the draft concepts by June 12. Email or call Project Manager Bill Cunningham at 503-823-4203. Feedback will be reviewed as staff finalize the Concept Report, which will be released at the beginning of July.

What’s next?

After the code Concept Report is released in July, Portlanders can provide comments to staff, who will consider the feedback as they develop draft code language. This will become a Proposed Draft for the Planning and Sustainability Commission to consider sometime in the fall of 2017.

For more information about the Better Housing by Design project, visit or contact Project Manager Bill Cunningham at or 503-823-4203.