I’m an architect based in Eugene, and if you’re curious about the implications of “middle housing,” I’d encourage you to walk through any of the century-old neighborhoods served by Eugene’s historic streetcar system, which was constructed in 1907, peaked in 1913 and transitioned into bus service in 1927.
Eugene’s streetcar system existed decades before the city’s first zoning code and long before any local neighborhood plans were implemented. Walking near these lines you’ll find an eclectic mix of housing types, including duplexes, fourplexes, bungalow courts, two-story apartment buildings and single-family homes all nestled among tree-lined streets.
Planning for the streetcar system and the growth resulting from it created the Fairmount and College Hill neighborhoods. Fairmount was the first streetcar line in 1907, extensions along Blair Blvd. and toward River Road were the last in 1912. In several places, traditional middle housing types were built as natural complements to this transit system. Though the streetcar is gone, many of these homes still exist. This is a testament to how easily middle housing types can adapt to change; they represent long-term resilience at the residential scale.
Looking a century down the road, it’s obvious that having diverse housing options, along with a robust, non-carbon-fueled transportation network, will be critical to Eugene’s success. Today, the average local household spends nearly 60 percent of their income on housing and transportation costs alone, according to the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index.
The only way for that metric to improve is if we create more diverse and affordable housing options near where we work, shop and play. What is old is new again; creating more walkable neighborhoods with easy access to transit is a key step in helping to alleviate our housing crisis and would be a lasting contribution to our future.
Colin Dean, AIA