It seems that Bend’s city councilors did the right thing Wednesday night — sort of — in regard to the affordable housing fee attached to new building permits.
Some background: Any builder seeking to do what they do, must get a building permit. Since 2006, a fee has been attached to the permit (one-third of 1 percent of permit valuation) that would benefit Bend’s affordable housing, a project that has raised about 2.7 million dollars. Currently, construction is ongoing in the “Shady Pines” neighborhood on Parrell Road (near China Hat Road and just east of Highway 97) where nine green-build houses are planned to provide for young, working families.
Last night, a compromise was reached between a divided council at the Bend city council meeting. At one point, there were four options on the table, but the basic decision to be made was do we A) continue the program as is B) continue the program but reduce the fee rate, meaning less money for affordable housing C) scrap the plan, which would only take one dissenting vote (a vote which Kathie Eckman seemed damn close to making).
After much bureaucratic backing-and-forthing, the members agreed to keep the fee but reduce it to one-fifth of one percent (option “B”). This means a $250,000 home would net affordable housing about $500, versus around $834 under the old fee structure.
Here’s one notable anecdote to be filed in the “these dudes are out of touch” folder: One councilor described those who “made less than $100,000 a year and those who make more like $30-40,000 a year,” as lower income. Huh? Yo: some of us make MUCH less than that.
Also discussed was implementing a cap on the fee so as to reduce the total amount paid by the builder (see The Boot May 25th issue, “Tearing Down the Affordable Housing Fee”). Pretty sure if you can afford a $100 million commercial project, a few extra thousand toward affordable housing isn’t going to be a deal-breaker. A cap would, as councilor Jim Clinton wisely noted, make the fee disproportional. Jodie Barram and Mark Capell both seemed on board with the fee structure as it was, with Clinton even joking about raising the fee.
Council member Tom Greene, a realtor, was pushing for suspending collection of the fee for a year and was generally not in favor of the program. “I feel like Robin Hood,” said a disgruntled Greene.
Um, we’re pretty sure Robin Hood was fairly popular with the people.