Multifamily Housing Design Standards

Three attached housing units in a row.

The City has set design standards and other regulations to make it easier for you to develop multifamily housing in Salem. Adopted in March 2020, the changes:

  • Provide greater flexibility in how multifamily design standards can be met

  • Reduce the number of design standards for small multifamily housing projects

  • Simplify the regulations for three and four-unit projects

  • Reduce parking requirements for multifamily projects of all sizes

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


​Three or four units are no longer considered "multiple family development." That means they do not have to meet design standards for multifamily housing.

Instead, they must generally meet:

  • Minimum design standards (SRC 700.081) , which include having a pitched roof, articulating the primary entrance, and facing the primary entrance toward a street or common open space. If you cannot meet these standards, you can apply for an adjustment (SRC 250).

  • The same development standards as single-family houses. For example, in the Multiple Family Residential zones, the maximum height for a three- and four-family dwelling is 35 feet.

Developments of five to 12 units must meet limited design standards (SRC 702.015). These requirements include the following:

  • Primary entrance face the street
  • No parking between buildings and streets
  • At least 20% of the site is common or private open space
  • Pedestrian connections to sidewalks, common open spaces, and parking
  • Reduced setbacks for smaller buildings

​Developments of 13 units or greater have more detailed development requirements (SRC 702.020). However, flexibility has been provided to make it easier to meet the requirements. Examples of the updated requirements are as follows:

Open space

  • At least 30% of the site must be a mix of common or private open space (SRC 702.020(a)).

    • At least one common open space must be provided. Its minimum size is based on the number of units in the development.

    • The square footage of an active recreation space such as a children's play area is counted twice toward the requirement. 

    • The requirement can be reduced by 50% if the development is within ¼ mile walking distance of a public park.

  • Projects with 20 or more units must provide at least 20% of units with private open space (e.g., balcony or patio).

Setbacks and compatibility

  • Buildings next to single-family zones must be set back 1 ft for every 1 ft of building height (SRC 702.020(e)(2)), with minimums:

    • 1-story building: 14 ft setback 

    • 2 or more-story building: 20 ft setback

  • Setbacks must be landscaped and have a 6-ft tall fence or wall. A 5-ft reduction in the setback is allowed if an 8-ft tall fence is provided.

  • Balconies facing properties zoned single family must have fully sight-obscuring railings (SRC 702.020(e)(3)).

Building mass and articulation

  • Buildings cannot be more than 150 ft long.

  • The vertical face of buildings 80 ft or longer must incorporate design elements such as covered entances, offsets, or covered balconies.

  • Rooflines cannot be more than 100 ft long without a 4-ft change in elevation or cross gable.

  • The first story of buildings must be distinguished from upper floors through color, material, or molding.

  • Common entrances can serve up to 4 units.

​No minimum parking requirement for housing with three or more units if they are located (SRC 806.015(a)):

Otherwise, the following minimum parking requirements apply (SRC 806.015(a)):

  • 3-12 units: 1 space per unit
  • 13+ units: Based on bedroom size of unit
    • Studio or 1-bedroom: 1 space per unit
    • 2+ bedrooms: 1.5 spaces per unit
    • Allow parking reduction for affordable housing

Reductions to parking requirements apply to developments with five or more units:

  • 25% parking reduction for affordable units (80% of Median Family Income)

  • In addition to that, up to 25% parking reduction for transit access, on-site car share, or more covered bike parking

Projects with 5 or more units that meet all standards

Projects that meet all of the design standards will be reviewed by staff. Public notice is not required

Projects with 5 or more units that cannot meet all standards

  • You can apply for an adjustment to specific standards. Public notice will be provided, and staff will review the application and make a decision.

  • Adjustment decisions can be appealed to the Hearings Officer.

  • City Council can call up decisions that have been appealed (Class 2 adjustment).


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.

In 2019, the State Legislature passed House Bill 2001, which requires large cities like Salem to essentially allow:

  1. A duplex on any lot that is zoned for residential use that allows development of a single-family detached dwelling.

  2. Up to four units in areas zoned for residential use that allows development of a single-family detached dwelling.

The City expects to start a project to implement the bill's requirements through a code amendment late this year after detailed rules are set by the State. There will be opportunities for public input.

The City has until June 30, 2022, to implement the bill.

​Visual examples of multifamily designs


A house divided into three units.

Example of a triplex

Multifamily housing - five units or more

Example of 5+ units

Apartment complex showing more than 13 units.

Example of 13 or greater units

Apartments with lawn in front.

Example of articulation

Child's play structure in apartment complex.

Example of play area

Food garden in multifamily housing complex

Example of food garden

Contact us

Eunice KimLong-range Planning Manager
8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
555 Liberty ST SE RM 305
Salem OR 97301
Follow us
City of Salem