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Wanted: Right-Size Housing for Seniors

Oct. 26 conference in Portland will focus on big living in a smaller space

A key finding, said director Margaret Neal, is that Portland does not have enough affordable and accessible housing to meet the demand of older people.

Earlier this year, the City Council adopted the Portland Plan, which lays out the city's vision for the next 25 years. It acknowledges the need for more housing options for older people.

Barriers to building small

But space is at a premium in the Portland area, where sprawl is controlled by zoning laws.

As a result, contractors try to maximize profits by building up, creating two- or three-story houses that are not always a good fit for older people who have difficulty with stairs, said contractor Eli Spevak, owner of the building firm Orange Splot and a sponsor of the conference.

He said the city could encourage smaller, single-story homes by charging less in building fees for smaller homes.

"There are a lot of incentives for home builders to build big homes on a single-family lot," Spevak said. "There are fixed costs to purchasing the land. You're paying the same impact fees [for sewer lines, roads, parks and other infrastructure elements] whether you're building a 1,000-square-foot house or a 5,000-square-foot home."

City planners, mortgage brokers, architects and speakers from AARP Oregon will attend the conference on the PSU campus. The public is invited. Registration costs $95. Visit the Cascadia Green Building Council to sign up.

Lynne Terry is a writer living in Portland, Ore.

You may also like: What's a livable community? »

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