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Council starts process of adopting zoning change that could spur new housing around downtown Tulsa

A potential way to address some of Tulsa’s affordable housing shortage is now before the city council for adoption, possibly by the end of the month.

A neighborhood infill overlay could be added to the zoning code for many neighborhoods near downtown but outside of the Inner Dispersal Loop. Travis Hulse with the Tulsa Planning Office said those communities have a lack of affordable housing units for a variety of reasons.

"A part of that is just housing choice and kind of opening that up to be more than what we primarily see, predominately see with our single-family detached homes," Hulse said.

The infill overlay would allow additional residential building types, like duplexes, townhomes and small-scale multifamily developments, as well as accessory dwelling units. Those sorts of units have been referred to by planners as the "missing middle," because they fall between the single-family homes and apartment complexes that are allowed in residentially zoned areas.

The overlay would also reduce parking requirements and minimum lot regulations.

The infill overlay will apply to neighborhoods in Councilor Vanessa Hall-Harper and Kara Joy McKee’s districts. Not all near-downtown communities will be affected, however. Owen Park west of downtown and north of U.S. 412, Tracy Park between the IDL and Peoria Avenue at 11th Street, and Buena Vista at 21st and Riverside have been excluded.

Hulse said feedback from those communities was overwhelmingly opposed to missing middle development.

"For Buena Vista Park, similar to the others, was dealing with their historic nature of their neighborhood and wanting to preserve and protect, and feeling like the overlay would open up too many doors or opportunities to potentially get away from what they are currently really seeing in their neighborhood," Hulse said.

McKee said Riverview and Pearl District residents she’s met with want the overlay.

"I think that they see the value of this diversity, and they’ve got some empty pockets that they’d love to have filled and that increased safety of no longer having those empty lots or empty spaces," McKee said.

The overlay should go to a council vote late this month.

A housing survey released last year found Tulsa is lagging behind comparable cities in building new affordable housing units over the past decade, and 90% of respondents were looking for something between $700 and $1,500 a month.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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