Updating Multifamily Housing Design Requirements

15-unit apartment complex with 5 attached buildings, three stories each.

We’ve updated our multifamily design standards 

The City has updated Salem’s design standards for multifamily housing as a result of the Multifamily Housing Design project. The project aimed to help meet our community's housing needs by removing barriers to the development of multifamily housing and ensuring that new development is compatible with our neighborhoods.

The City Council approved the proposed multifamily housing design code changes in February 2020. The changes are now effective.

You can learn more about the changes on the multifamily design standards page:

  • Provide greater flexibility in how multifamily design standards can be met.
  • Create new design standards for small multifamily housing projects.

You can view the code changes here.

The changes are based on input from local officials and the public, including neighborhood association representatives, developers, and others. Outreach has included focus groups, a survey, and public meetings.

Sign up to receive project updates and meeting invitations.

Approved Multifamily Housing Design Code Amendment9342 KB2/26/2020
Central Salem Development Program Area Map552 KB2/12/2020
Cherriots' Core Network Map968 KB2/12/2020
Revised Multifamily Housing Design Proposed Code Amendment10631 KB1/2/2020
CA19-05 Staff Report for Planning Commission Meeting November 19, 20195 KB11/19/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Proposed Code Amendment8151 KB10/16/2019
Multifamily Design Public Workshop Agenda for 4/30/19310 KB4/30/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Public Workshop 4/30/19 Presentation1165 KB4/30/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Handout - Refined Code Concepts941 KB4/30/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Public Workshop 4/30/19 Summary 605 KB4/30/2019
Draft Code Update Recommendations216 KB2/28/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Public Workshop 2/27/19 Presentation887 KB2/28/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Public Workshop Agenda - 2/27/1992 KB2/27/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Initial Code Concepts10539 KB2/27/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Public Workshop 2/27/19 Summary192 KB2/27/2019
Multifamily Housing Design Posters - Refined Code Concepts9451 KB4/30/2018

Housing needs

The City of Salem completed a study called the Salem Housing Needs Analysis (HNA) in December 2014. It examined if there was enough land within Salem’s portion of the Urban Growth Boundary to meet anticipated housing needs over the next 20 years.

The study determined that there is a projected deficit of 207-acres of land for multifamily housing. This deficit must be addressed so the City can ensure there is enough housing for residents. One of the ways the study recommended meeting this deficit was to lower barriers to multifamily development by revising the City’s design standards.

Work plan

In February 2016, the City Council directed staff to begin working to address Salem’s projected deficit of multifamily land as outlined in staff’s work plan. The City has completed the first task on the work plan, which was allowing accessory dwelling units in Salem.

This project is identified in phase 2 of the work plan. Specifically, the work plan states that staff will explore creating a menu of design standards options for multifamily housing.

Existing regulations

The City’s existing regulations require multifamily development - three or more housing units - to go through multiple family design review (Salem Revised Code Chapter 702). Such development must meet a list of design standards, which address everything from landscaping to building design to pedestrian access. If just one standard cannot be met, the project must go through a public hearing process for approval. This has been identified as a potential barrier to the development of multifamily housing in Salem.

The existing design standards are generally geared toward large, suburban-type projects and are therefore not well suited for smaller multifamily housing projects. The standards have thus been identified as potential barriers to development.

Assistance and funding

The City is working on this project with a consultant, 3J Consulting, and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) through its new Oregon Housing Planning Project. The state project provides local governments with technical assistance to promote housing availability and affordability. The state legislature appropriated funding for the work during the 2018 legislative session.

The City applied for technical assistance through the Oregon Housing Planning Program during the summer of 2018. DLCD selected the City to receive the assistance in the fall.

Contact us

Eunice KimProject Manager
8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
555 Liberty ST SE RM 305
Salem OR 97301
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