How to Handle the Housing Crisis? | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

How to Handle the Housing Crisis?

As a UGB proposal is approved by the City Council, Bend 2030 works toward solutions on other parts of the home front

In 2014, Bend 2030 sent out a survey asking locals to weigh in about housing. They received 600 responses from people of all walks of life—many who have had difficulty finding housing.

A Sampling of Responses:

"My family had to find a new home this past April due to our landlords deciding to sell the home we lived in for the past 6 yrs. We could not find a single 3-bedroom home for under $1,400 (we were paying $1,100 before) and no landlords would allow us to have our German Shepherd. We are now in a smaller, more expensive house without our dog."

"I have a college degree. No criminal history. Good credit. No children out of wedlock. No pets. I have worked for government in various capacities, been responsible, paid my taxes, volunteered. I'm down to renting a room and ready to throw in the towel on Bend."

That was two years ago, and the problems haven't eased up.

With thousands moving to Bend each year and very few houses and apartments being built, the current housing crisis just comes down to math.

In June, Bend 2030 held the Bend Livability Conference, with the intention of discussing those concerns—but more importantly, what (if anything) the city and outside groups can do about it. A Bend 2030 working group came up with possibilities, and last week released a report based on those findings.

Ideas included increasing building height limits, decreasing open space and parking requirements for builders, and allowing for a greater diversity of housing types. The group also talked about potential incentives for the development of workforce or multifamily housing.

Bend 2030 is working to help the growth problem in Bend, but is focused especially on what they call "gaps" in the housing market.

"The city is leading the way in the state for providing affordable housing tools," explained Erin Foote Morgan, executive director of Bend 2030. "The part that is really missing is that middle market housing. Workforce housing, for people who can totally afford to pay $1,500 a month in rent. So our goal with this group is to work together to research and develop some new tools and policies to hit that middle market. Professionals who are just trying to find a place to live."

The organization created a working group of what it calls "diverse stakeholders" in the community, and has released a Request for Proposal for a Bend Collaborative Housing Workgroup Project Manager.

Meanwhile, Bend 2030 is not the only organization planning growth. In 2009, the City of Bend presented its Urban Growth Boundary plan to the state of Oregon—but because of strict land use laws, state officials rejected that version. The city tried again and the new plan was approved by the City Council on Sept. 7.

"We pulled together 60 different people in the community to look at housing, to look at employment, to look at the boundary," says Nick Arnis, director of the Growth Management Department with the City of Bend. "And from that a lot of consensus was done. Whereas in 2009 we had people that were opposing the Urban Growth Boundary. We have really come together as a community. So now it's up to us as a community to implement the plan."

Although the new plan still has to be approved by both the county and state, the city is moving forward as if the plan will be approved. Still, that long-sought UGB plan is only meant to last until 2028.

"The way Bend is growing, as soon as we get done with this, we will probably go right back into looking at how fast is it happening, where is the area filling up?" he explained. "It's a constant analysis of demand and supply."

Morgan expects the working group to come up with a solid plan in 12 to 18 months, and then it will work on how to implement that plan. But with the city's new comprehensive plan one step closer to approval, it's now the priority of Arnis' department to focus on implementation.

"So now it's time to take all that great energy and put it into how we are going to implement it," Arnis says. "It's an exciting time to be in Bend.

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