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The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About (Part III)

Commissioner Loretta Smith from Multnomah County, District 2 stepped up last week as the first of Multnomah County Commissioners to speak out against the Commentary_pickpocketunfair tax re-MAV issue that has been plaguing detached ADU owners (and aspiring ADU owners) in Portland since tax bills were delivered to their mailboxes a month ago.

Thank you Commissioner Smith for helping to bring a voice of reason to this debacle.

Next, you’ll need to bring that voice to the State Department of Revenue, who are advising the Multnomah’s sneaky tax assessor to steal from the pockets of Multnomah County ADU owners, but just to steal a little less.

(This is Part III of The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About. Part IPart II, Part IV , and Part V are also available.)

View this document on Scribd

 

What the Department of Revenue Got Wrong

On Friday, November 20th, The Department of Revenue (DoR) recognized that Multnomah County’s tax assessor was treating its citizens unfairly, and, as reported in the Oregonian on November 20th, advised Multnomah County to rescind its policy and send out revised tax bills. This sounds like a victory, right?

Wrong.

The reMAV approach that the State DoR is advising still results in drastically increased tax bills than what citizens were promised by County tax assessors. The reMAV approach is not grounded in a Oregon Constitutional laws. This post will attempt to explain this break of public trust in detail.

View this document on Scribd

In advising Mulnomah County, DoR relied on a very flawed interpretation of “rezoning” (first put forward on October 12th, 2015), which still results in re-MAVing the property (but not the primary structure).

At the time when DoR issued this novel interpretation in reaction to Multnomah County’s tax assessor’s brazen discretionary interpretation of the law, DoR probably thought they were suggesting a happy ‘compromise’ approach. But, DoR’s review of this particular issue was seemingly conducted without an appreciation or understanding of the scope or plausible impacts of their broad new reinterpretation.

Said another way, to any tax assessors across other counties in Oregon besides Multnomah County, DoR’s property re-MAV advice to Multnomah County would be considered a radical change to the tax policy and taxing methodology. All other counties’ tax assessors treat ADUs as ‘improvements’ just like Multnomah County had done till 2015, not triggering a re-MAV. Other tax assessors would never dare to interpret the Constitution in this manner with direct orders from DoR.

DoR’s broad interpretation of “rezoning” used to justify the re-MAV is actually more damaging to all of Oregon’s counties than Multnomah’s county-limited interpretation ever could have been.

Four Reasons why the Oregon Department of Revenue’s Interpretation is Totally Wrong (and very scary)

1) Redefining “Rezoning” to be as Broad as a County Itself

DoR is advising Multnomah to apply an extremely broad definition of the word “rezoning”.

“The Department of Revenue has concluded that the allowance of detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on most residential lots in Portland constituted rezoning under ORS 308.156(2). The subsequent construction of detached ADUs on residential lots is use consistent with the rezoning”

Here’s a look at the Measure 50 regulatory language from ORS 308.156(2) regarding the term “rezoning“. We’ll examine each of these definitions of “rezoning” in detail. First, this is the paragrapm from Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) and the Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) Oregon Adminstrative Rule OAR Section 150-308.156(5)-(B)

150-308.156(5)-(B)

Rezoned Property — Calculating Maximum Assessed Value (MAV)

(1) For purposes of determining MAV under ORS 308.142 to 308.166:

(a) “Rezoned” means on or after July 1, 1995, the governmental body that regulates zoning:

(A) Made a change in the zone designation of the property on the zoning map;

(B) Made a change in one or more conditions or restrictions affecting the authorized uses of the property in the zone that is applicable to the property; or

(C) Made any other change in the authorized uses of the property.

REZONING” means when a property is “REZONED”

An example of rezoning is when a property is turned from “residential” (eg. R5) to Multifamily (R1) or, multifamily (R1) to commercial (CG). There has been no rezoning for properties that have added detached ADUs.

These residential properties have not changed their zoning. They have not been REZONED

These have been, are, and will likely always be, zoned residential.

No planning or zoning officials would claim that there has been a “rezoning”. The constitution should be read literally in this case – only an actual re-zoning could trigger a re-MAV.

I don’t know how to communicate this more clearly. But, I can repeat it using different fonts if that will help.

These properties have not been REZONED.

These properties have not been REZONED.

These properties have not been REZONED.

I’m certain that DoR’s novel re-interpretation of the term “rezoning” was not the understanding or intent of those who voted on the passage of Measure 50 in 1997- a law apparently written with the explicit intention of keeping property taxes from ballooning.

An actual “rezoning” should be the first basis for DoR claiming that a property has been “rezoned”. What definition of the term “rezoning” is the State Department of Revenue conjuring here? Anything that falls very short of an all-out rezoning should be not be categorized as one for the purposes of Measure 50. Voters who voted for Measure 50 probably read the law in a straight forward manner, and for DoR to reinterpret “rezoning” in a such a different way than it was originally intended to be interpreted is a break of public trust.

2) There has been NO CHANGE IN AUTHORIZED USE

Perhaps the State Department of Revenue would realize, “Ok, the property was not ‘rezoned’, but the City has allowed a ‘new use’.” That would be great it if were true, but it isn’t.

I’m now referring to the 2nd clause:

(B) Made a change in one or more conditions or restrictions affecting the authorized uses of the property in the zone that is applicable to the property;

The City has allowed ADUs on residential properties since well before Measure 50, which was put into law in 1997. The earliest documented regulatory allowance of ADUs was in 1991 (see the APPENDIX – REGULATORY HISTORY ACCESSORY STRUCTURES on page 94 of the Accessory Structure Code Update document).

So, while there has been a change in the size, scale, look and feel, design, and structural forms that can house an ADU, the “use” of the residential property has not changed.

Let’s try the font trick again (it seemed to work the first time).

The authorized use of the residential property has not changed.

The authorized use of the residential property has not changed.

The authorized use of the residential property has not changed.

If fact, there’s explicit language in Portland’s ADU program guide (p.4) about how properties with ADUs have no impact on how a property in a residential zone can be used.

“The total number of residents that can live in both units (the ADU and the primary house) is limited to the total allowed for a household. Under the Zoning Code, a household is defined as follows:  Household. One or more persons related by blood, marriage, legal adoption or guardianship, plus not more than 5 additional persons, who live together in one dwelling unit; or one or more handicapped persons as defined in the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, plus not more than 5 additional persons, who live together in one dwelling unit.”

3) The Scariest Interpretation of Them All

Changes to the size, scale, look and feel, design, and structural forms on a residential property happen all the time with good zoning codes. For clarity, we’ll refer to these changes as “regulatory design changes”.

Since Measure 50 passed, there have been more than a hundred regulatory design changes in Portland alone. If DoR is referring to “rezoning” as one of these many regulatory design changes that occur from year to year in every city, town and county, where and how exactly is DoR going to draw the line in the sand on which of those regulatory design changes can suddenly be classified as a “rezoning”?

What about the all of the regulatory design changes changes that have occurred in the City of Salem, Oregon since the passage of Measure 50 in 1997? For example, a wholesale zoning code update was adopted by City of Salem’s in June of 2014. There are regulatory design changes that effect where and how structures can be placed on properties all the time.

If DoR is going to claim that the regulatory design changes that allowed for building a ‘detached ADU’ instead an ‘attached ADU’ was a “rezoning”, then they are are broadening the use the term “rezoning” far beyond its literal or common meaning. DoR’s interpration is not even remotely close to what was intended by this clause.

Did they build fences on their property since 1997? A shed? A garage? Build an addition? Add a dormer? Build a deck? A trellis? Plant a certain kind of tree? Cut down a certain kind of tree? Add a rain barrel? Add solar panels? These are all common property improvements that people make that very likely have had regulatory design changes since Measure 50 passed in 1997.

If someone builds a fence that is 8′ high instead of 6′ high, because their city told them they could do so beginning in 1998, would their property be reMAVed too?

It was one of types these regulatory design changes in 1998, which allowed detached ADUs instead of only allowing attached ADUs. So, which of these other myriads of minor regulatory design changes constitutes a “rezoning”?

Will the Department of Revenue officials start to enforce this broad property tax interpretation of “rezoning” within Marion County (where Salem, Oregon is located), forcing a re-MAV of their own employee’s properties?

Now, multiply 100 regulatory design changes like those that have occurred in Portland since Measure 50, across all of the cities and towns in Oregon, and DoR has a administrative nightmare on its hands.

If they want to advise Multnomah County to re-MAV a property with this broad new re-interpretation of “rezoning”, then logically, they would also have to advise counties to re-MAV properties if there were any improvements on their property that fall under this hugely broad and patch-worked category of confusing regulatory design changes that have occurred since Measure 50.

Without much greater discretion from DoR about where the arbitrary distinction is being drawn that constitutes a “rezoning”, this overreaching interpretation could stop anyone from wanting to do any legal improvements on their property for fear that their County may also opt to suddenly classify a minor improvement such as adding an 8ft fence to a proeprty as a “rezoning”, and re-MAV the property.

If the rules of the game are suddenly redefined in such that any form of physical ‘improvement’ made to a property for which there has been a regulatory design change since Measure 50, can suddenly and arbitrarily be classified as a “rezoning” by a County, we will see a lot of illegal construction and remodeling across homes in Oregon.

Here is a list of the zoning code updates that Portland alone has made. Each of this update packages contains tens to hundreds of regulatory design changes.

4) No other Counties are re-MAVing their Properties after ADU construction

Steve Anderson, a property tax appeal specialist with 1st Class Properties, called the following counties to investigate how they were treating ADUs. None of them were re-MAVing the land or the primary house on properties with ADUs.

Counties Not Being Told to Re-MAV Counties Being Told to Re-MAV
Klatsop Multnomah
Clackamas
Washington
Lincoln
Lane
Marion
Jackson
Deshcutes
Jefferson
Wasco
Hood River

The State Department of Revenue is knowingly advising Multnomah County to do something that no other county is doing. Advising Multnomah to re-MAV its properties with detached ADU is not fair, given that the DoR has not done any open, public rule on this interpretation. This kind of “special treatment” for Multnomah County is not acceptable. Government should attempt to apply a uniform approach, and not single out a particular jurisdiction.

If DoR reaches out and tells all other counties that they should also follow this practice to change the 2015 tax roll, DoR will get confused questions and pushback by baffled tax assessors who treat ADUs as improvements, such as “But, there’s been no change in use” and “We can’t re-MAV a property that hasn’t changed its zoning”. Sending out a directive like this will cause chaos and confusion, and lend credence to the incredibly poor logic that Multnomah County’s tax assessors have been using that has caused such a stir here in Portland. Is this a battle that DoR wants to engage in with constituents across the whole state?

City of Portland and Multnomah County officials need to call out the DoR on this “special treatment”. We can’t stand by and let our City or County be treated like this, especially in the middle of an affordable housing crisis. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Why is DoR “advising” Multnomah County to do something that DoR is not any other counties in Oregon to do?
  • Has this property re-MAV interpretation ever been applied in similar or analogous situations?
  • If no such analogous situations exist, why is this new interpretation preferable to the common “improvement” interpretation that is being used everywhere else in the state and was used in Multnomah County till this year.
  • And remind your colleagues in other counties and cities that allowing DoR to set a precedent to use this overly broad constitutional redefinition of ‘re-zoning’ is legally dangerous for their jurisdictions too.

Political Logic

There has been a far-reaching consensus that the correct course of action was to compel Multnomah County’s tax assessors to rescind their awful tax policy change. Oregon Department of Revenue’s is advising Multnomah to keep its same egregious interpretation of “rezoning” but to use a revised taxing method. Though DoR offers a more generous taxing methodology than Multnomah County’s methodology, the interpretation of the basis for re-MAVing is still utterly flawed at its legal core.

Back on October 12th, 2015, DoR probably thought they were striking a ‘compromise’. In August and September, I told DoR that the “improvement” method was the standard approach that Multnomah had always used and should be using for ADUs. But during this same period, Multnomah County’s tax assessors were lying to everyone (County officials, their own communications staff, me, City officials, the public) about whether they had made any tax policy change on detached ADUs at all in 2015. Therefor, it is fair to assume that the tax assessor was also telling DoR that re-MAving the entire property, including the primary house. The assessor was likely explaining that this was the correct method that they’d been doing all along.

In the Portland Tribune article on October 22nd, Multnomah County’s chief appraiser “insisted…that the county hasn’t treated ADUs any differently” since Measure 50, instead, shifting any blame to the City for promoting the construction of ADUs.

Sally Brown, Multnomah County’s chief appraiser, insisted to the Portland Tribune last month that the county hasn’t treated ADUs any differently since voters approved two property tax-limitation measures in 1996 and 1997. Since then, Brown said, the county has been obliged under state law and administrative rules to revise a property’s tax assessment when there is a new use made possible, such as via a zone change.

“What’s new,” she said, “is the push by the city and the developers to promote the construction of ADUs.”

Later in that same article, the tax assessor said that the ‘DoR wouldn’t force the county to change how it’s treating ADUs’.

Multnomah County Assessor Randy Walruff said the state agency’s determination won’t force the county to change how it’s treating ADUs.

“They have decided not to take action with Multnomah County and telling us we’re doing it wrong,” Walruff said.

Walruff wouldn’t concede the county is adopting a new policy in the 2015-16 year, but did depict the county’s approach as evolving. After a meeting with a city planner two and a half months ago, Walruff said, county assessors learned the city is being more liberal about allowing ADUs than previously thought. Part of the problem, he said, is the city is not technically making a zone change to allow ADUs, but is changing allowable uses of single-family lots.”

The City wasn’t “changing allowable uses of single-family lots”, as the tax assessor contended. What is this change in allowable use of which he speaks? This seems to be the issue on which DoR’s interpretation hinges. However, there aren’t any allowable changes in use when adding an ADU to a property.

Finally, after enough media scrutiny and public pressure, the tax assessor caved and admitted in an Oregonian article published on November 4th, that they had make a change to their tax policy.

Walruff acknowledged that his department may have been incorrectly assessing properties with detached accessory units until this year. But the sudden spike in their construction caused his employees to take notice, he said.

The article provided room for the assessor to explain his reasoning.

Walruff’s explanation for the tax hikes is that the county didn’t recognize until this year that the booming market for new detached accessory units was caused in part by a zoning change Portland City Hall made in 1998. Before then, only attached accessory units – such as a studio over the garage or a basement apartment – were allowed. (Attached accessory units are unaffected by these tax hikes.)

Due to Multnomah County tax assessors’ brazen lies in August and September about how they had been taxing ADUs, DoR was probably convinced that Multnomah had been using this re-MAV method ever since 1997.

Due to his convincing rhetoric, DoR perhaps also probably did not realize that NO OTHER COUNTIES IN OREGON treat ADUs differently than than they would treat any other property improvement (eg. additions, finishing the basement, detached bedrooms etc). No one had ever suggested treating ADUs or other property improvements as if they were “rezoning” before, so DoR apparently didn’t know how to appropriately deal with this issue.

It would have been good if DoR had done some basic research with other counties before issuing their opinion that properties should be re-MAVed after development of an ADU, but they didn’t. They probably thought were ‘striking a balance’ between Multnomah’s (radical/extreme/outlier) approach and the standard improvement approach. But it was ‘compromise’ made during a time in which they were being fed a false and distorted view of how to properly tax ADUs because of Multnomah’s County tax assessors’ ongoing lies.

With the information laid out in this post, the DoR should correct the course and tell Multnomah’s tax assessor to rescind the re-MAV tax policy altogether this year, and revert to the “improvement method” for detached ADUs that all other counties in Oregon use. Any other action places DoR in the embarrassing position of serving as an accessory to Multnomah’s tax assessors egregious misbehavior.

In the light of day, the Department of Revenue can do a rule making on this if they wish. If the rule making reveals that a re-MAV is the appropriate process for this type of improvement, DoR can then provide guidance to help decipher when, why, and how this rule should be applied in practice.

I guarantee that any attempts at guidance on this matter that leads to re-MAVing will be fraught with legal challenges and nitpicking over arcane regulatory obscura, and fought tooth and nail for years by remodelers, homebuilders, architects, homeowners, cities, and counties across Oregon.

pie-face1But, at least, using an open rule making process, citizens in Multnomah and beyond would be entitled to fair and just treatment and sense of predictability, rather than having a pie thrown in their face for building affordable housing in their backyard.

We would like fair and uniform treatment afforded to all citizens in all counties in Oregon, including Multnomah’s.

Little Brother Is Watching You Big Brother

Here’s a sample of some of the recent coverage of this story, all of whom are recognizing that Multnomah County citizens are getting screwed.

The City of Portland’s Mayor Hales has now committed to resolving this matter through state legislation, if needed. See minute 11-13 of this clip on KGW’ Straight Talk: Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.

Here’s a supporting quote from an Oregonian article,

We have to fix this crazy mix up in taxes here. We have the city saying ‘build ADUs’ and the county saying, ‘Gotcha!'” he said. “You have my commitment to work on that problem.”

Thank you Mayor Hales for stepping up.

And thanks again to County Commissioner Loretta Smith (District 2) for stepping up.

Progress is Imminent

As of Friday, November 20th in an Oregonian article, Multnomah’s tax assessor has said,

“We are evaluating the impact and preparing the changes to individual tax bills. We will be contacting affected property owners over the next few weeks”. 

But, we need the DoR to correct its guidance to Multnomah’s tax assessor before they send out modified tax bills to reflect the intention of the constitution, and not to suddenly reinterpret it.

So now, City Commissioners need to step and so do County Commissioners.

And if that doesn’t bring the pressure required to resolve the matter quickly, then State Legislators will need to step up and then the Governor will need to step up.

A final thought for our local and state government officials

There’s been a rush of damaging policies for detached ADUs in Portland in the last few weeks. As if this tax drama weren’t enough stress for the lowly detached ADU, there is another compelling and nuanced local regulation policy story underway regarding a proposed amendment to the Accessory Structure Zoning Code Update, which also targets detached ADUs.

Incidentally, ALL of these proposed design changes in the Accessory Structure Zoning Code Update, could be construed as “rezoning” by Multnomah under the DoR’s new broad reinterpretation of “rezoning”.

Here’s the thing.

Detached ADUs didn’t do anything wrong and they desperately need to have some therapeutic time off to recover from this regulatory barrage. There has not been a deliberate, coordinated approach to undermine detached ADUs. However, both of these current events (the tax debacle, and the 11th hour proposed amendment to the zoning code update) have nonetheless both accidentally targeted a cherished, grassroots form of affordable housing–detached ADUs.

There’s got to be something out there that merits being tackled besides detached ADUs. I don’t know…. coal exporting, climate change, terrorists?

About Kol Peterson

Kol is an ADU advocate with a background in environmental planning. Read more here: accessorydwellingstrategies.com

39 comments on “The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About (Part III)

  1. Randal Groves
    November 23, 2015

    As the lucky receipiant of a $6,000 tax increase due to this bizarre tax calculation, thank you Kol for drawing attention to this debacle .
    My mortgage payment will be increasing $1,080 per month and will esentually force me out of my property. $580 a month of the increase goes towards taxes and another 500 to pay back the escrow. My total tax liability whent the from $1200 year to $7,200 a year with no real warning. I anticipated a tax increase after building the ADU of a few thousand a year but this is crushing .
    I have been looking at brand new property’s selling for 700 k in my neighborhood with a tax liability of $2600 what kind of system is this .

    Confused and frustrated ,

    Randal groves

  2. Lisa Kernan
    November 23, 2015

    My husband and I are both artists and we built our ADU this year as a place for us to live in our retirement and provide affordable housing for others in the main house. Multnomah County pulled the rug out from us when we were hit with a $3500 tax increase. We applaud the DoR for trying to put the rug back by disallowing the reMAV of the exiting structure, but they need to go all the way and also repeal the reMAVing of the land. It’s a tragedy that this wonderful ADU program is being sabotaged by a few tax assessors who are trying to squeeze a few more tax dollars out of hard-working homeowners. We are providing affordable housing and preserving Portland’s beutiful older homes.

    Lisa Kernan

  3. Ross Kevlin
    November 23, 2015

    Yikes! DOR is saying any “change in the allowed use of a property” constitutes a rezoning? So regulatory changes to allowed fence heights, whether homes can have solar panels, the allowed size of garden sheds… all of these are rezonings that when homeowners actuate them will trigger a re-MAV, and pretty huge tax hikes for most? How many dozens of new staff will county assessors need to hire to catch up to the hundreds of changes in development regulations (sorry… I mean “rezonings”) that have happened throughout Oregon since 1997? And how many thousands of homeowners will see giant tax spikes due to re-MAVs — for things like building a bigger shed? If they think this Portland ADU debacle was like whacking a hornet’s nest, this current interpretation will be multiplying that by a thousand — seriously! Angry taxpayers throughout the state will be complaining to county tax officials, legislators, neighbors, the media, and anyone else who will listen about a massive, unreasonable tax bill “gotcha.” If it were me, I’d think this through a lot more carefully.

  4. Paul Carrier
    November 23, 2015

    I believe there is one other step the Kol has left out, the removal from government service those who would lie to their employer, the citizens.
    These are positions of great trust and responsibility therfore those holding the position must live up to a high standard of conduct.
    I haven’t been affected by this change yet because we are in the planning stages. I can alter the plan and build an attached ADU but what is there to stop them from deciding to treat us as poorly as they are treating t he detached ADU folks.
    In fact what is to stop the county from making up any arbitrary rule and reMAV the property on anyone who made any improvement ?

  5. Abby
    November 23, 2015

    Thank you, Kol as always for your documentation and clear explanation. It’s quite striking to read it all in one place and wonder what the county had up its sleeve when it created this mess. Aside from all of the chaos, stress and potential forced life changes the Re-MAV has caused which is heart breaking to read, it seems obvious there’s been a rush to judgement/change without a thorough understanding of the ADU. The state seems to be ‘guiding’ the county but I don’t know that an answer can be reached in an afternoon meeting after what seems like a cursory review of the law. I appreciate both Commissioner Smith and Mayor Hales’ thoughtful approach to diving into the issue and finding a legal, fair, reasonable and transparent solution here instead of the knee jerk reactions that seem to have come about thus far. These properties have not been rezoned nor has their use changed and unless the county can prove that incorrect, I don’t see how they can change taxes based on those qualifications. Other than that… they simply have taken it upon themselves to do so.

  6. Craig
    November 23, 2015

    We built our ADU after extensive research on how it would impact our taxes. We understood that our taxes would go up about $1500. We knew the formula that was supposed to be used. In fact, this spring our assessor told me to my face that the improvement formula would be used. At the time, I thought nothing more than, “Well, of course – that’s what I already knew.” When I got my tax bill I was stunned. A re-Mav of any kind is legally wrong and ethically a freaking joke! I feel lied to and cheated by the County. Now the DoR is supporting this lying, deceitful behavior. I did nothing wrong. I built an affordable home for my disabled mother to live in. This is a joke and I’m pissed off that I have to spend so many hours fighting this. At some point the County needs to admit they screwed this up. The County needs to keep the promise they made to me and others so that we can remain in our homes. My monthly payment will also be going up by more than $1000 because of my increased tax bill of more than 350%. The legal mess this potentially opens could be catastrophic for Counties and the DoR.

  7. Pingback: The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It | Accessory Dwellings

  8. Pingback: The Death of Detached ADUs in Portland and What To Do About It (Part II) | Accessory Dwellings

  9. Angie Garcia
    November 24, 2015

    As a single mom of two, the almost $5000 increase in my property tax, has our family reeling financially. I so appreciate all the efforts being made to draw attention to this sudden and confusing tax hike.

  10. Elliott
    November 24, 2015

    Dear DOR,

    The compromise deal you’ve suggested still amounts to an unfair interpretation of what constitutes re-zoning. Homeowners who’ve tackled the lengthy ADU development process should be celebrated for furthering the city’s density and affordability goals – not slapped with enormous tax bills! Please make things they way they once were…

  11. Heather
    November 24, 2015

    I agree with Lisa: “We applaud the DoR for trying to put the rug back by disallowing the reMAV of the exiting structure, but they need to go all the way and also repeal the reMAVing of the land. It’s a tragedy that this wonderful ADU program is being sabotaged by a few tax assessors who are trying to squeeze a few more tax dollars out of hard-working homeowners. We are providing affordable housing and preserving Portland’s beautiful older homes.”

    My wife and I are in the middle of constructing a father-in-law unit to house my wife’s boomer father. My father-in-law moved here this year from Massachusetts (where he worked as a Senior City Planner) in part because Portland and Multnomah County are so forward thinking when it comes to city planning and urban development. This unit we agreed to build him is the only way my father-in-law could affordably move out west to be close to family and the only way we can house him long term.

  12. Jason Luoma (@jasonluoma)
    November 24, 2015

    Thanks Kol for writing about this. As a person who has been planning an ADU, this is are really important topic. I have needed to reconsider whether I’m even going to go through with the construction. This whole debacle has definitely harmed efforts to create more affordable housing and increasing density, at least in the short run. The newly proposed compromise does seem arbitrary and confusing and I hope the state and county will further consider whether this is a wise course or whether it might have unintended consequences that will do further harm to affordable housing and density.

  13. loveydove
    November 24, 2015

    I was affected by this as well, and am completely disappointed in the lack of transparency, and by the apparent lies that have been told, and the backroom dealings, or whatever it can be called. I cannot afford this illegal increase, and fear how we will pay for it. I’m a single mom with two girls and thought building an ADU could be a way for me to live in my neighborhood and also provide housing to another family, or join forces with another single parent home. I simply cannot afford this tax increase from $1900 to $7100. I did all my due diligence and research on what to expect before I bought and built, and now all that work is being thrown out the window. So upsetting.

    And I don’t think the “new math” is right either. Why is Portland being picked on? It needs to be fixed ASAP!

  14. farmart
    November 24, 2015

    This whole ordeal is shameful. I hope that our elected officials who we select to represent us can reverse this illegal cash grab that county tax officials had hoped would go unnoticed. It seems like it’s a ploy to force less fortunate people out of inner neighborhoods and possibly to aid in the demolition of modest single family homes in favor of these mc mansions popping up all over my neighborhood. Thanks to Loretta Smith for finally coming out against these ridiculous tax hikes.

  15. Brian Zoeller
    November 24, 2015

    I’m thankful to the authors of this Blog and their unending group of supporters trying to right a wrong.

    Mayor Hales said it best that citizens see government as one in his remarks about the issue of ADU re-maving by the County. And his comments came after the City and its partners worked so hard over the last years to popularize ADU’s. So, how is it that two government agencies (hopefully not three) are so opposite on something that helps solve so many issues surrounding flexible housing solutions in a rapidly growing city? How opposite can they be in how they communicate their anticipated treatment of a subject matter? It makes me cynical that this was somehow almost personal, a way to take advantage, an attempt at sneaking something in. I’m sure there are other examples of this on other issues…but this is now my issue.

    Most of us who built ADU’s would never have built them had we known of the tax disadvantages that only compound with time. This is especially true for those who built them to provide familial housing assistance. The County cannot assume that everyone is doing this for profit, even though some clearly are. And even if they are, is it so bad that a non-developer partially benefits in creating affordable housing options, building density and setting themselves up to continually live in Portland affordably to cushion against the rapid cost of living?

    I am absolutely confused by tax treatment of how an existing garage conversion is treated just like an added new structure. And both are treated so differently than a new addition to an existing structure or renovation of an existing home. I built my ADU, in part so I, my neighbors, renters and the City could be confident that it was done with safety, health and security in mind; The last thing I want is to rent something out that puts me or anyone else at risk. I also partially built mine because even if I rent today, tomorrow I may use it as an office or for a mother-in-law. When I sell the house, the new homeowner may use it for entirely different purposes which may have nothing to do with AirBnB or rentals.

    What the County has really done with this decision is to heavily encourage folks to build or add underground. In that scenario (actually happening now due to a growing lack of trust), people will create unsafe and unhealthy structures. What is most perplexing too is that the County, unlike the City, is dramatically hurting its own self-interests. The County stands to miss out on the reasonable incremental tax revenue, multiplied by all the people who would have built legally. If you make something unaffordable, people will find a way to do it anyway. This notion has been proven in so many sectors, policy structures etc… In this case, the added benefit of keeping something affordable is that you ensure better structures…a main reason we have codes in the first place. You also ensure rising tax revenue as they are built more prolifically.

    I highly suggest that we all come back together and focus on what matters most when we look at our city/county 20-30 years from now. I hope the County and State will just drop this non-sense, and embrace bringing in reasonable, affordable and safe structures into the built environment. It does all of us good if we can just look at the long view.

  16. Tom Frisch
    November 24, 2015

    I can only assume that the county tax assessors are constantly bombarded with angry citizens who are upset about their taxes, and they have probably built up quite a wall to defend themselves over the years… But man, the unapologetic deception and the bald faced lies about what they are doing make it very hard for me to give them the benefit of the doubt. This situation needs to be rectified immediately. I can’t imagine the State Dept of Revenue had this in mind when they gave an opinion on what a “change of use” means. It would be very easy to just go back to the previous method of taxation, in which people who build ADUs pay an increase in taxes based on the value of the new building. That still generates money for the county.

    ADUs are a great tool for many of the housing and environmental problems we face here, we should be encouraging them any way we can, not penalizing them with unfair and illegal taxes. If this doesn’t change, you can look forward to more rising rent, growing home prices, and more high-rise condos.

    Kol- thank you for spearheading this opposition. It’s people like you that make me proud to be a Portlander.

  17. Pamela Parrish Wilken
    November 24, 2015

    After eight months of back-and-forth planning with the City of Portland, we had finally come up with an excellent design plan to build an ADU for my mother. The plan provided for better parking than we had had before, continuity of design between the primary house and the ADU, perfect setbacks, all safety and building codes were respected, and neighbor’s privacy and sunlight retained. Perfect, right? Wrong. The very week I was to turn in my design plan to the City in order to receive all of the proper building permits, the Multnomah County Tax debacle for ADUs hit the news. Our project is dead in the water. My mother’s future is in limbo.

    Here’s the thing: we are Oregonians for generations back, and we are Portlanders. My mother sold her houseboat on Hayden Island in order to take care of her parents, and could never again afford to move back into the Portland market after her parents passed away. Next, she retired on a Friday in September of 2008. The following Monday, the market crashed–75% of her retirement portfolio disappeared. Needless to say, SHE DID NOT RECEIVE A BAILOUT. Now, she needs family care and regular access to medical offices in Portland. We sought to build this ADU for her as it was THE ONLY AFFORDABLE OPTION at our disposal, and because it provided a way for my mom to live in mature dignity (with her own tiny house, complete with small kitchen, bath, and washer and dryer, totaling 520 sq ft), while still having the ability to rely upon her family for help with shopping and appointments, as well as the ability to share regular, invaluable, quality time with grandchildren and children. Walking to the backyard and knocking in order to “visit grandma” is called LIVING THE DREAM!

    Our home is located in a modest SE neighborhood, and it is PAID FOR. This fact is the backbone of our existence. No mortgage allows me to be a stay-at-home mom to our two children; it allows me to serve our schools and community in many ways from fund raising, to sports teams, to Scouts; it allows me to help my VA ICU nurse single-mom sister with child care; it allowed me to take care of my elder sister when she gave birth to premature twins; and now, it allows me to help my mom. From our experience, it is my opinion that every extended family needs at least one stay-at-home person at their disposal–someone who can help tend the daily needs and fill in the various gaps that all families need in order to keep functioning. Our “paid for” land is zoned R5a. The “a” is for “accessory structure,” such as an ADU. We have learned all of the zoning and have worked cooperatively with the City of Portland to come up with a design that meets our family’s needs, our neighbor’s needs, and that adheres to all safety and building codes.

    Imagine if I had turned in my design plans to the City the week before the news of Multnomah County’s unprecedented and unannounced tax hike on ADUs came out last October 22! Imagine the scenario:

    One “Paid For” home harbors one stay-at-home mom who in turn keeps both her nuclear family and her extended families running. The Paid For home builds an ADU (because it is zoned to do so), so that it can now also support grandma (whose retirement savings of a lifetime were taken away from her, due to the predatory lending practices of the same investors who made billions themselves, while also ultimately creating the HOUSING CRISIS we are all now experiencing). Multnomah County jumps up and changes the taxation methodology (without telling anyone they were going to do it, to boot, and entirely breaking with precedent in the process)–Multnomah County now says there is rezoning where there IS NO REZONING, and blasts the taxes out of reach of the family in the PAID FOR HOME. Now, the stay-at-home mom is looking for a job; the nieces and nephews don’t have childcare; the aunts are unsupported; grandma has no help and no home; the PAID FOR HOME IS POTENTIALLY LOST; the ENTIRE family, nuclear and extended alike, finds itself made completely unstable and broken. TALK ABOUT THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT!

    –OR–Conversely, the story could go like this:

    The State Department of Revenue could stop Randy Walruff from making a new tax precedent example of Multnomah County. Then, the family referred to above (my family) could still build their legal and conforming ADU for grandma behind their PAID FOR HOME (and still pay $1,000-1,500 more per year in taxes, based on the traditional way of taxing the ADU as a property improvement without a re-MAV of any kind). The stay-at-home mom could continue to care for her nuclear family, her extended family, and could enjoy the pleasure and solace of having coffee with her mom each morning, splitting up her Costco purchases to fill her mom’s pantry, having her mom near for after supper walks to the park and yoga in the backyard when the weather is fair. Grandma can attend violin recitals and swim meets, soccer games, and marching band performances. Teen grand kids have a place to go and complain about their parents in safety; young grandkids have a place to bake cookies. Everyone gains someone who always has time to listen. In short, the stay-at-home mom who cares for everyone could be replenished daily from her mother’s inspiration, wisdom, and example. And her mom could daily feel the love of her family all around.

    Isn’t there defendable value in this second scenario?

    Isn’t there defendable value in stating clearly that Multnomah County’s twisting of words relating to “zoning and use” are not representative of truth where ADUs in residential neighborhoods are concerned?

    Isn’t there defendable value in stating clearly that our housing crisis has arisen from corrupt corporate lending practices that have already robbed our population of their homes, their retirements, and their security? And that Multnomah County’s newly proposed tax formulation for ADUs is just another injustice and financial burden added to the backs of an already financially strained populace after the fact of the corrupt corporate lending practices which caused the financial collapse in 2008 that brought us to this Housing Crisis in the first place?

    Again, talk about the House that Jack Built.

    There are so many more ironies involved in this scenario, as cooked up by Randy Walruff, our Multnomah County Tax Assessor, yet they cannot fit into this forum, and I have already written overly long. My eighth grader was writing a report on The Boston Tea Party just as the news of the ADU Tax Debacle was breaking. For me, reviewing the key events leading up the the American Revolution as a backdrop for this ADU Tax Debacle was more than a little ironic. Yet, it reminded me that we are strong when we stand together.

    One good has come from this Tax Debacle for ADUs, and that is the emergence of Kol Peterson’s voice and tireless leadership. Together with brave support from commissioner Loretta Smith, and the pledge from mayor Charlie Hale to help sort this ADU Tax Debacle out, perhaps the County and the State will correct the error–and the injustice–sooner, rather than later.

    I do hope Deborah Kafoury gets on board with protecting her constituency and supporting us by joining voices with Loretta Smith.

    Back at the City of Portland, I applaud the City for staying current with the times, and the needs of those times, by striving to help code and practice work efficiently and safely together. I hope Amanda Fritz can see her way to implement the new code proposals for ADUs on December 2nd (just a plug here: there really shouldn’t be one set height limitation for an ADU with proper setbacks–since the height of the primary structure varies, so should the height of the ADU be allowed to vary…there should be a formula, rather than a set figure, to determine the allowable height for an ADU, and to keep the ADU in proper size ratio vis-a-vis the primary structure).

    • loveydove
      November 24, 2015

      Excellent post, Pamela! You illustrate a perfect example of the detriment this is having on real families. I didn’t explain my situation quite as eloquently, but it is absolutely hurting my little family too. I hope this can get turned around for all of us!

  18. Martha
    November 24, 2015

    Kol, Thank you so much for creating a forum where we can see the litany of wrong decisions that have been made in the ADU taxation issue by the county tax assessor’s office. The evidence is clear and overwhelming that this is an unjust overreach with no basis in the logical readings of Measure 50.

    And also a HUGE THANKS to Commissioner Loretta Smith from Multnomah County, District 2, who has spoken out in defense of home owners effected by this unfair tax re-MAVof our properties. Good job!!

    Several terms have been bandied about by the County in defense of their grab, and clearly one is REZONING. And that is pivotal.

    ADU’s have been encouraged by the City of Portland to promote density, and as a resident of Portland, I took the opportunity to build an ADU for my Mother in her retirement. My property is still zoned R5, still residential, still being used as housing in a city where lack of housing is HEADLINE news. What I am doing on my property, I am doing in full daylight of the city, with proper permitting, at no small cost. I’m following the rules. And guess what, the city DID NOT REZONE MY PROPERTY nor did the county.

    I am currently in building phase, and my property has not been assessed yet, but will be next year I would assume. When I spoke to the county tax assessors office last February as I was crunching the numbers on this project, I was ASSURED, that my taxes would go up according to the value of the new ADU alone. Nothing more. NO mention of my primary dwelling being reassessed. How, pray tell, does that even make any logical sense? I made financial decisions for me, and my mother, based on that answer.

    This sea-change is unwarranted, was unpublished, done in darkness, not daylight, and I would suggest, is unlawful. I will challenge it doggedly, fighting tooth and nail if I have to, but I hope that the county comes to their senses first.

    The county is diddling with petty business here. It is of great significance to individual property owners to be unjustly over-taxed, but the income is not of any measurable significance to the county coffers as a whole. The county should spend their efforts encouraging progressive development that will be the underpinnings of a major expansion, and growth for the county and the economy, as we over the next ten years will continue to welcome people from all of the country who are relocating here.

    Look sharp Multnomah county. We’re in the big leagues as a county now with growth the word of the day. No time for short pants — or short changing the valued property owners and tax payers that we have counted on year after year.

  19. Virginia
    November 24, 2015

    As a citizen of Multnomah County I am incensed by what the county tax assessor is attempting to do to some of our citizens. I do not have an ADU nor do I intend to build one, but this kind of injustice affects all of us. It is obvious that attached ADUs do not cause a rezoning of the property and that they should continue to be taxed as improvements, requiring no re-MAV. The fact that the tax assessor office lied about the changes they imposed this year, that they gave false information to folks who were beginning the process of building ADUs about how they would be taxed, should be grounds for terminating their employment. It is ridiculous that Multnomah county is the only county in the state being taxed this way. Do these little Napoleons think they can get away with it because it only affects 800 or so homeowners? What will they try next? Who will bother to get permits to build if they know they will be subject to such an arbitrary increase in taxes? I am nonplussed by the matter and can only hope that the Department of Revenue looks at this further and that the tax assessor returns to the previous method of assessing these dwellings as improvements.

  20. Nikki
    November 24, 2015

    Thank you so much to all of those doing the work to clarify and keep this fight going. It’s so important for so many reasons!

    I am a mother of twin 2.5yr olds and I can’t afford to put them both through preschool at the same in order to work a full-time job time. In the end, it doesn’t pencil out. I rely on the income from my very small rental when my inlaws aren’t staying in it.

    My husband and I built our ADU with affordable housing for his parents in mind. My in-laws need to live in it for 6 months out of each year and will soon live in it full time when they’re very old or once one of them dies. Our ADU and it’s planned affordability is a major part of a big family financial plan that affects many people. Because of the surprise given to me by my County, our monthly mortgage payment went from $1,350 to $2,100 with no way to prepare. This $600+ a month jump (thanks to the taxes and the escrow payback) is a giant leap for a budget that was already paycheck to paycheck.

    I can’t explain in a short email how much a part of a large plan this 575sqr ft studio was for us all. This tax hike was not only a complete surprise, but it has truly hurt our nuclear and extended family. We’ve been working on this for over 3 years. We did everything right, to only in the end have the county come in with a surprise and take it all away. If these taxes stay the same, my family is financially ruined not only because of what it does to us this tax year but what it will do for years to come.

  21. Matt Gordon
    November 24, 2015

    First off, thanks to Kol Peterson, Loretta Smith, Charlie Hales, and the many homeowners and citizens working on this issue. To me, this really boils down to the interpretation of “rezoning” and “change of use.” And I just can’t figure out any logical, rational, or reasonable interpretation of those terms that coincides with detached ADUs being allowed where as before they were only allowed to be attached. The use is the same! It’s an ADU! It really feels like splitting hairs, and as others have clearly demonstrated, seems to open up countless cans of worms regarding what else could be considered a “change of use” if the current interpretation stands.

    The properties affected by this new interpretation were already residential and already allowed to have ADUs before Measure 50. Now that they have ADUs completed, those basic zoning and uses are still THE SAME. That is, THEY HAVE NOT CHANGED! Thus no re-MAV’ing should be allowed! Not of the main house OR of the land value! It just doesn’t make any sense. Please Multnomah County and DoR folks, take a step back and look at this again. It is severely unfair, unwarranted, and the lack of notice and transparency has caught many many families completely by surprise. Surprise is not the thing you are expecting from your own local government when you’ve done your research and your financial well-being is on the line.

    Let’s all get back on board with the bigger picture: ADU’s provide infill, affordable housing, diverse housing options for multi-generational families, revitalization of older neighborhoods without changing their character, housing options for disabled and/or elderly at $0 to below market rate cost, energy efficiency, and more. Thus the city’s excellent policies regarding promoting ADUs. Can’t we all get behind that vision? If not, and the current scenario prevails, not only will some families be getting super-screwed unexpectedly and have a horrible disrespect for the county’s tax process, but the future of ADUs in the county will be snuffed out, affecting many builders, architects, homeowners, and families, not to mention all of the benefits I’ve already mentioned.

    One more thing: How can the state be advising Multnomah County to be taxing these properties in this new way (reMAV’ing the land) if it’s not also advising all of the rest of Oregon’s counties to do it the same way? Again, this really leaves me scratching my head.

    – Matt Gordon
    NE Alberta St – Portland
    ADU finished in 2015 for mother-in-law rented to her at very reduced rate
    Taxes up from $3400 to over $7600.

  22. sarahcase
    November 24, 2015

    After a very positive experience converting a detached garage to an ADU in 2011 (taxes only increased $600/yr), we moved to a new neighborhood and decided to do something similar with the detached garage at our new house.

    This time, after spending $15k in architectural/engineering/permitting fees, we learned that our current project will trigger a re-MAV of our property. This means that our original motivation for building the ADU is moot – we had hoped to add a unit of affordable housing to our neighborhood and be able to charge slightly below market rent. Now we will be forced to jack up the rent in order to cover our way higher taxes.

    If the county had been transparent and communicative (instead of deceptive) about their change in methodology, we would have scrapped the idea altogether! Instead, we are stuck in the middle of a project that will likely prove to be financially unviable.

  23. goodyearfortheroses
    November 24, 2015

    Thank you, Kol. It is dismaying to read all of the stories and I will register my discontent by adding mine. I had a building permit in hand and paid a contractor a 40% deposit for my ADU when this news came out. I, too, had been told that the ADU (garage conversion) would be taxed as an “improvement.” Unlike some who pay a very small sum in taxes, I already pay $3500 per year. My ADU is planned as a tiny rental in order to allow me to stay in my house as I approach retirement age. Not that I am planning to retire — like so many, I can’t afford to stop working. But I am slowing down whether I like it or not. It is a significant risk for me to build this tiny building and I refinanced my house to do it. The risk seemed worth it though because, over time, I’ll be able to recoup my costs and supplement my modest income enough so that I can have a little balance in my life. There is a misconception that all the ADUs are being built by rich people in order to get richer and this is false. As prices skyrocket in Portland, not just for housing but for food, health insurance and all other consumer goods and services, we all need to find ways to avoid becoming homeless, and many are losing the fight.

    I urge the State DOR and the county to consider the consequences of this draconian tax hike and continue to tax ADUs as an improvement, which is what they are!

    Thanks for reading and keep up the good work!

  24. Leanne
    November 24, 2015

    This assessment has been undertaken by the county with a level of carelessness that borders on actionable negligence. The county blames the city for not communicating with them while simultaneously blaming the property owners for not doing their homework. We did our due diligence and we were blind-sided by the county and now the county blames us for the negligence of its staff and the inconsistency of its policies. The behavior of the assessor’s office has been more about covering up and blaming than it has about information and accountability for their customers.

    In a region where rents are going up at obscene rates, where density is a value to development and where the “sharing economy” has been a prominent feature of public policy, the county’s actions are more than puzzling. We all would have made very different decisions if the County would have operated in a more a public and transparent way.

    The State needs to reconsider its position and re-open the discussion with the County. Unfortunately, neither entity them seems to understand zoning, nor do they understand the impact their decisions are having on property owners. I appreciate the support of Commission Smith as well as Kol Peterson’s the time and commitment to this issue.

  25. Marc Peters
    November 24, 2015

    Thank you Kol Peterson and all other affected ADU owners who have been unfairly targeted by the Multnomah Co tax assessor and have taken the time to speak out on the issue. Kol has very clearly explained the situation and provided a very thorough historical perspective on the issue statewide. I hope the DOR reconsiders their opinion and thinks this issue through a bit more.

  26. Kath Lefebvre
    November 24, 2015

    The guiding tax philosophy for my family: we say YES to libraries, we say YES to PPS for school improvement, we say YES to police and fire retirement, we say YES to the art tax, we say YES because we believe in this city and county and we, in turn, believe(d) our leaders will budget the money appropriately. We believe contribution is our responsibility. My husband and I both work hard to contribute. We are keenly aware that living in Multnomah county, in our case Portland, is a blast and a privilege.

    We are in the permit phase of a detached ADU, and perhaps naively, we expected a fair property tax assessment from Multnomah County upon completion. Reading this article by Kol it is clear that Multnomah County is operating with a different formula than all other counties in the State of Oregon. That is, obviously, not legal. And, as Kol noted, if that is the direction the DOR wants to go, then the process needs to be vetted and rolled out to all counties across Oregon. And if that is the case, we, as a family, will contribute in that way.

    We do not feel good about contributing in a sneaky, dodgy, shift-and-jab environment, as the Multnomah County Tax Assessor’s office has created.

    Multnomah County: do the right thing and correct your formula error.

    Oregon DOR: do the right thing, and require Multnomah County to correct the formula as all other counties are operating, or vet another way for the entire state.

    The way I see it, this situation is analogous to a landlord who saw an opportunity to raise the rent to see if the renter will notice, or say something, or move out. Multnomah County is bullying homeowners to a point of breaking, seeing how far they can tilt the homeowners, how much money can they spill from their pockets. What else can they pull into the formula, our golden retriever?

  27. Kath Lefebvre
    November 24, 2015

    I do not mean to make light of the situation by noting our golden retriever should be pulled into the formula. This is a very real situation for my husband and myself. We are not rich, we are leveraging our house with the hope to work less while raising our 3 daughters, and provide affordable housing for someone within the city limits.

    Our future detached ADU is 386 sq feet. A very small space, but with large financial consequences for us.

    Our ADU gives us a chance at that, not a guarantee, but a chance at some financial stability. We are hard working and we contribute and we only want what is fair, which is a formula from Multnomah County that assesses our ADU as an improvement, not a zoning change.

    I am appalled that the County has not seen their error. I am appalled that the DOR has not mandated correction. Thank you Kol, Commissioner Smith, Mayor Charlie Hales and fellow ADU advocates for taking leadership on this issue.

  28. ashley barton
    November 24, 2015

    I’d also like to thank Kol, Commissioner Smith, Mayor Charlie Hales and all others for their efforts and support around this issue. This tax hike is a financial hardship on me. I rely on my rental income and took out a huge loan for construction.

    I did not rezone my property.

    This is a sudden and unreasonable change in the interpretation of law, departing from years of precedence and multi-county standards.

    This is based on flawed logic.

    I would not have embarked on this project had I known my taxes would hike this dramatically. I am sure many are halting construction, depriving the County of even reasonable tax income.

    Reversing this poor decision would be a boon for affordable housing and reduced sprawl in Portland.

    Thank you to the DOR for attempting to move in the right direction. Let’s right this entirely.

    Thank you!

  29. Ross Kevlin
    November 24, 2015

    Hello, DOR folks reading this! I’ve worked in government, and can appreciate the rough sledding this ADU tax issue has posed for you. By way of trying to help out in the vital work you guys do, I’d like to try and boil down where we’re coming from. I’m an urban planner, and given that we’re dealing with zoning and land use as a component of this problem, I think a planning perspective is useful when you’re considering your response.

    Local governments have lots of regulations affecting how one can use one’s property. Zoning is one of these, and it almost always governs allowable economic uses (e.g. residential, industrial, commercial), “sub-uses” (e.g. gas stations are allowed in the commercial zone, but auto body shops are not), and development density (e.g. units/acre, minimum/maximum lot size). Other development regulations concern the design of development in terms of buildings and site plans, and govern things like whether garages must be attached to houses, whether your maximum house height is 30 or 35 feet, the maximum size of dormers, etc. Our argument is that to apply Measure 50’s “change in allowed uses” to design regulations is a vast over-reach, and violates the intent of the measure. Further, we argue that Portland’s change to allow detached ADUs in 1998 (attached ADUs have been allowed since the early ’90s) is a change to design regulations, not zoning, even though it’s contained in the city’s zoning code (as are design-oriented regulations in many local jurisdictions). The city, in making the regulatory change, didn’t change the underlying use of property (residential) nor the allowed density (one house plus one dwelling) — the only difference is in site design. Looked at another way, what is the functional or economic difference between an attached and a detached ADU? I can’t think of any. So why are they treated differently in terms of taxation?

    I hope this helps folks understand my comments above that to apply the Measure 50 re-MAV rule to changes in benign design rules (i.e. that they represent a “change in allowed uses of property”) is way too broad, and will continue to be drastically problematic for tax assessors, taxpayers and the DOR.

  30. Craig
    November 24, 2015

    Wow! I am struck by how many people are posting here that I do not know. I have been a part of very small groups who have been screwed by the County on this issue, but I am realizing how big this group is and how tragic these stories are. Except for Commissioner Smith and Mayor Hales, no elected officials seem to care that the County assessor has lied to our faces and is trying to cheat us out of thousands of dollars a year for the rest of our lives – or at least until we decide to sell our tax soaked properties.

    I just want to encourage everyone to ramp up the pressure we put on elected officials. I am naive enough to think that there are some fair and thoughtful ones out there. I think they don’t understand the crux of this issue because they have been lied to by one of their own – Randy Walruff. If other County Commissioners are unwilling to step up, we really need to be taking this to state and city officials in my opinion.

    This really is not that complicated. The County needs to do what they promised. This legal drama can play out in the light of day. If it is decided that the County wants to punish people for helping to provide affordable housing, at least potential ADU builders will be acting with that information before they apply for permits and build.

    As angry as I am, I am hopeful that with the size of this group we can appeal to people who have some integrity in this county, city, and/or state.

  31. thomas
    November 24, 2015

    The DOR and Multnomah County bureaucrats that manifested this back door tax hike need to be reprimanded and replaced. You cannot make changes to citizens financial security without warning. This ADU has been a 3 year investment in time and all my savings …… putting it into my community was supposed to be a triple bottom line investment… I’m alarmed that I”ve been made a fool of by a back door tax hike that effects my financial security. We deserve transparency and stability in our property taxes. We deserve transparency and stability in our property taxes.

  32. Walter raney
    November 25, 2015

    I have lived in north Portland most of my adult life one large reason affordability.
    After being encouraged by the City of Portland I redid my garage to put in a bathroom and kitchen for my mother to live in.My taxes went from 1500 to 6100 a year.We have been thrown perhaps a 1000 dollar decrease from this first 6100 dollar figure .we live in a 1100 sq. Ft. 1bath 2 bed.home.This is a 300 percent increase for a 700 sq ft place for my Mom.This is not something we can afford on my retirement.This all seems against the meaning of our laws to push out the poorer of us and cater to all this new found wealth.I am disgusted with the way government wants to treat me I fought for the US A when asked and I will fight this injustice with equal passion.Walter Raney 3714 n haight portland Oregon

  33. Jim
    November 25, 2015

    Thanks everyone for the hard work,

    Clearly not a REZONE.

  34. Pingback: Multnomah Co. re-works tax bills for tiny houses

  35. Jones
    November 28, 2015

    Full Disclosure: I’ve two close friends in the assessor’s office and they are good, kind, and professionally dedicated people happy to serve. They count themselves among the dissenters of the policies.

    That said, can I ask why this Assessor, Randy Walruff, and his Chief Appraiser, Sally Brown, are not immediately removed from employment? They made what amounts to horrific decisions that severely financially impacted people and then lied about it to the press when called onto the carpet. Again, they were both caught LYING to the press about what it was they were doing to the taxpayers of Multnomah County for crying out loud. They told everyone that this had always been the policy, whacking the taxpayers over the head twice by forcing them to spend their time, effort, and hard-earned money only to find out that what they were told was NOT TRUE. These two are not elected officials. Randy Walruff serves at the enjoyment of the Multnomah County Commissioners and Sally Brown serves Randy Walruff.

    I was very disturbed to find out that Mr. Walruff doesn’t even reside in Multnomah County. So, any destructive decisions he makes doesn’t directly affect him, correct? Seem right to you? Yeah, me either. I’m also told that his recently personally hand-picked predecessor and his personal pal, Michael Vaughn, straight from the Oregon Department of Revenue mind you, is now serving as the Deputy Assessor (second in charge) until Mr. Walruff decides, seemingly all on his own, to retire, but Mr. Vaughn also doesn’t reside in Multnomah County. So, let me get this straight, neither the first nor second in charge of the Multnomah County tax system even reside in the county they oversee? What the he$% is going on here? How do you serve the best interests of the taxpayers of Multnomah County if neither himself, nor his hand-picked Deputy Assessor (soon to be Assessor), even reside in that county?

    How much more embarrassment can two individuals bring to the Multnomah County Commissioners as well as all of the hardworking and dedicated employees of Multnomah County before someone above them reacts? Further, how much more financial destruction due to wildly poor decision making will county Chair Kafoury allow those serving her to inflict on the good taxpayers (read: constituents) before she/someone reacts? Commissioner Smith took an important first step, but it was nowhere near far enough. Randy Walruff and Sally Brown’s actions have managed to paint every employee in the assessor’s office in the same bad light of public opinion in this farcical tragedy. Nobody, but these two, and possibly his new Deputy Assessor and second in charge Michael Vaughn, had anything to do with this awful and misguided decision making. I’m betting that if someone dug a little deeper that we would find that this isn’t the only horrendously poor decisions made by these two. This particular one just happens to be one of the more egregious ones that Kol Peterson worked to get out front-and-center by his unwavering tolling of the bell.

    The jobs of those in the assessors office, and how they operate each day, are dictated to them by the assessor and the chief appraiser, not the other way around. They were told this is the law, then ordered to go out and do as instructed. There were many dissenters to this I’m told. I’m also told that all of the lawsuits that will inevitably cascade into the assessor’s office because of this are going to break the backs of those employees ordered to follow Mr. Walruff’s and Ms. Brown’s poor decision making. This will inevitably have a highly negative impact all of their normal daily work. I suggest you prepare yourselves for some very unhappy employees.

    It seems that Mr. Walruff is way past the time in which he could have retired. He’s been in the assessor’s office for more than 30 years so, why on Earth is he being kept around after this? Is he being allowed to feather his PERS retirement bed at the further expense of the Multnomah County taxpayer perhaps? Can someone much smarter and more connected check into that perhaps? It’s time for these two people to go for crying out loud. I’ll offer a bit of unsolicited sage advice to the commissioners and the Chair; before appointing Mr. Walruff’s hand-picked Department of Revenue pal, Michael Vaughn, I would suggest a long, hard look into what message such a cozy appointment would send to the already beaten down taxpayers of this great county. Remember, these appointments come with a great deal of press and scrutiny, folks. Mr. Walruff was appointed before any of you currently serving. The new appointment will fall directly on yourselves this time and should prove to be under a spectacularly bright public light.

    Finally, how many more scandals are we supposed to endure from Multnomah County? Just over the past few years the list is long and embarrassing. The public trust in Multnomah County has completely eroded away at this point. Show all of us that you care and do the right thing. Chair Kafoury, please, escort these two people out the same door they came in. It would be a good start to regaining the public trust this holiday season.

    J.Anderson III

  36. Brian Dag
    December 21, 2015

    That does it. I’m seceding and creating a new county.

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This entry was posted on November 23, 2015 by in Policy & Trends, Taxes.
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