Land Use Housing Strategies

Supporting the development of a more affordable variety of housing in unincorporated Clackamas County

The Planning & Zoning Division has compiled information and data to develop a three-phase strategy to help ensure that the county’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning & Development Ordinance (ZDO) support meeting the growing need for more housing options in Clackamas County. The details are available in Long-Range Planning Issue Paper 2020-1, Housing Strategies Related to Comprehensive Plan and Zoning & Development Ordinance Updates, Feb. 11, 2020.

Board approves code amendments to expand housing options

On Nov. 3, the Board of County Commissioners approved several changes to the Zoning and Development Ordinance (ZDO) to encourage the development of more multifamily housing in urban unincorporated Clackamas County.  Specifically, amendments were approved that will:

  • Provide residential developers with additional entitlements (such as more units) in exchange for providing housing that is affordable for low-income households
  • Increase maximum allowed housing density in some unincorporated commercial zones from 25 units per acre to 60 units per acre;
  • Allow a 20 percent density bonus for housing in mixed-use development in those unincorporated commercial zones;
  • Reduce overall parking requirements for multifamily developments in unincorporated commercial and residential areas, and
  • Reduce parking requirements for multifamily developments within ¼ mile walking distance of a light-rail station.

The BCC action, which implements several of the recommendations from the 2019 Housing Affordability and Homelessness Task Force, was shaped during came at the end of a nearly The action came at the end of a nearly two-year-long process of studying and gathering input on these proposals, as well as public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners.

More information about the actions taken is available in the material provided for the Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 Board Land Use Hearings

The Need

Housing chart

Housing in Clackamas County is becoming less affordable. Exacerbating this problem is a deficit in buildable residential land in the urban unincorporated area. Based on estimates in the Clackamas County Regional Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) from September 2019, unincorporated Clackamas County lacks residentially-zoned land for as many as 5,000 housing units needed in the next 20 years, over half of which would be multi-family units to meet anticipated demand.

The analysis in the HNA identifies a need for additional housing types for a range of income levels and at a range of sizes, in part, to respond to the preferences of the Baby Boomers and Millennials that make up a growing portion of the population. One challenge is that, while the county has a need for a wide range of housing solutions to serve households at varying income levels, there remains a tendency for low-density residential development to dominate the new construction market.

To meet the range of needs identified in the HNA and facilitate the development of housing that better serves the needs of all the county’s residents, several strategies need to be deployed:

  • Through implementation of programs administered by the county’s Department of Health, Housing and Human Services (H3S) and non-profits organizations, and
  • Through changes to the land use regulations implemented by the Department of Transportation and Development (DTD) through the Planning & Zoning Division.


Phase 1

  1. Housing density in commercial zones
    • Land use regulations often include limits to the number of dwelling units that can be built on a particular piece of land. This limit, described as a number of units per acre, is referred to as “housing density.” One way to facilitate more housing development is to allow for more housing density. The county is considering increasing the housing density allowed for multi-family housing developed on certain lands zoned for commercial uses like retail and shops, services, offices, restaurants and lodging, child care and adult daycare, entertainment, etc.
    • Currently, the Clackamas County code allows for multi-family homes to be built in most commercial zones, but in many areas restricts the density of that housing to no more than 25 units per acre.  Increasing the number of housing units allowed per acre close to commercial areas and job centers could substantially improve housing opportunities for people who want, or need, to be closer to such services.
  2. Multi-family parking requirements
    • Parking requirements can impact the type and density of housing developers can afford to build and people can afford to rent or buy. Constructing required parking can be a significant cost for multi-family housing developments, which then can result in increased rents or sales prices.  In addition, reducing the number of required parking spaces could provide enough space for more housing units on a property. Not providing enough parking, however, could lead to people seeking parking on neighboring streets, which can be a problem for everyone in the area.  
    • Currently, Clackamas County code requires all multi-family residential developments to provide 1.25 to 1.75 parking spaces per housing unit, depending on the number of bedrooms. The code does not allow for a developer to ask for a lower parking requirement even if the development will be serving low-income households with fewer cars, or if the development is located near a public transit station.  
    • Modifying parking standards could provide expanded housing opportunities.
  3. Affordable housing bonus
    • Some jurisdictions allow a developer to build more housing units or a larger building and have flexibility in other standards (such as parking, landscaping, etc.) in exchange for ensuring that some of those housing units are affordable for lower income households. This type of flexibility is commonly referred to as an “affordable housing bonus”.
    • Currently, Clackamas County has a minimal and rarely used affordable housing bonus program -- 1 additional unit allowed for each affordable unit, up to 8% of base density.  (For example, if the allowed density is 100 units and a developer proposes to make eight or more units affordable, they could add up to eight units to the project.) We are considering ways to provide a more meaningful affordable housing bonus that would provide incentives for developers to build affordable units.
  4. Transitional shelters

Phase 2

  1. Middle housing (HB 2001)
    • House Bill 2001 (HB 2001), passed by the state legislature in 2019, requires the county to: 
      • allow a duplex on any urban lot zoned for a detached single-family home, and 
      • allow triplexes, quadplexes, cottage clusters and townhouses in urban areas zoned for a detached single-family home. 
    • Required under state law; effective July 1, 2022  
  2. Clear and objective standards (S1051)
    • The county is required to have a “clear and objective” path for all types of housing development. This requires an audit of the county’s standards for development of individual housing units and for residential land divisions.
    • Required under state law (Senate Bill 1051, approved in 2017) 
  3. Comprehensive Plan policies for rezoning in low density residential districts
    • Comprehensive Plan text amendments to clarify zone change policies and potentially restrict zone changes in urban low-density residential areas.

Context for strategies

The strategies were developed within the context of:

  • Current local, regional and state regulatory framework
  • Available resources, including staff time and budget
  • The Clackamas County Regional Housing Needs Analysis from September 2019
    • Identified needs
    • Recommendations
    • Does the strategy increase places for new housing units?
  • The Housing Affordability and Homelessness Task Force from 2018-2019
    • Does the strategy address task force recommendations and policies identified to address housing affordability and homelessness in the county?
  • Equity, including:
    • Does the strategy improve access to housing?
    • Does the strategy improve housing stability?
    • Does the strategy limit potential for displacement?
  • Legislative mandates, including:
  • The 2019-21 Long-Range Planning Work Program


Board and Planning Commission

Dec. 2 Board of Commissioners Business Meeting
10 a.m.
Nov. 3 Board of Commissioners (for deliberation only)
9:30 a.m.
Oct. 6 Board of Commissioners Public Hearing
9:30 a.m.
Aug. 23 Planning Commission Public Hearing
6:30 p.m.
July 12 Planning Commission Study Session
6:30 p.m.
June 15 BCC Policy Session
2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
packet video
April 28 BCC Planning Session
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
packet video
June 30 BCC Policy Session
Update on Rulemaking for House Bill (HB) 2001 (2019), related to “Middle Housing” and HB2003 (2019), related to “Needed Housing" (Virtual Meeting)
Feb. 11 BCC Policy Session
Jan. 27 Planning Commission meeting
background presentation
Dec. 10 Housing Affordability and Homelessness Task Force Priority Recommendations and Final Report
Update of Department of Transportation and Development Housing Strategies Project
Sept. 23 Joint Board of County Commissioners / Planning Commission Work Session
memo presentation

Technical Working Group

Jan. 21

3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

agenda Phase 1 Strategies Update Housing Strategies and Health Equity Lens Survey Results Meeting Notes, Oct. 21, 2020

Oct. 21

1 p.m. to 3 p.m.


Sept. 2 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. agenda

Project Timeline

Project Timeline

Public Engagement

Equitable public engagement and involvement are integral to the success of this project and will take place throughout all phases.  The primary public engagement objectives are to:

  • Understand the community’s priorities and concerns with regard to potential changes that may take place in their neighborhoods as a result of implementation of these strategies.
  • Collaborate with community partners to advance socioeconomic, racial and transportation equity in Clackamas County to create a set of potential solutions that will be responsive to the different needs of diverse communities.
    Lay the groundwork for updating policies and regulations to ensure the updates will be responsive to the needs of urban communities in the county.
  • Help ensure successful passage of code amendments through the adoption process.

There will be many varied opportunities for interested people and organizations to be involved with this important project, including community work groups, webinars, online questionnaires, presentations to community groups, etc.  For more information, contact Martha Fritzie at  

Learn More

Interested in learning more?  Want to know about future meetings (virtual or otherwise) and actions related to this project?  Let us know who you are and how we can reach you and we’ll add you to our email list.

Just send an email to Ellen Rogalin at with your name and email address.  Thank you!



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