Something missing in Bend: 'Middle housing'

City council to hear work group's recommendations

Wheres the middle market-

BEND, Ore. - (Update: More from work group officials)

As most residents know all too well, the housing market can be tough in Bend.  A scroll through Zillow can put a shockwave through any newcomer.

That's why the Bend Collaborative Housing Workgroup spent the past 12 months coming up with 12 policy recommendations, released Tuesday.

They're intended to spur middle market housing development in Bend, as defined by housing affordable to those households making 80 to 175 percent of area median income, or households making $40,000 to $90,000 a year.

Erin Foote Morgan is the executive director of Bend 2030 and was involved in the workgroup.  

"If we're not doing enough to increase housing supply and reduce costs, we're going to lose our teachers, nurses, our firefighters -- these middl- market folks that make up the real fabric of the community," Morgan said. 

Karna Gustafson, the Central Oregon Builders Association's vice president for government affairs and legal counsel , said it can be tough for middle-income people to stay in Bend. 

"There was concern, from employers and others, that people that work here can't afford to live here," she said.

The slate of tools is the product of more than 500 hours of work made up of diverse stakeholders representing a variety of interest groups and views across the political spectrum.

The tools range from moving quickly to align the city's new comprehensive plan and its zoning map to creating mixed-use urban transportation corridors, allowing a "vertical housing tax exemption" and allowing parking districts while reducing parking requirements as an incentive for in-fill housing such as accessory dwelling units or multi-plexes, cutting building costs and providing more development flexibility. Another proposal: allowing four-plexes in the standard residential (RS) zone.

“The workgroup is a rare collaborative approach to developing practical policies for increasing middle market housing in Bend,” said Kim Gammond of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors. “The recommendations reflect a spectrum of our community values: sustainability, home ownership, livability and attainable housing.”

The recommendations were released in a report that will be shared with the Bend City Council on Wednesday and can be found on the Bend 2030 website.

The workgroup will ask the council to support and follow up on the recommendations through public processes as part of the city’s work to implement the new urban growth boundary plan, which calls for a major increase in housing to accommodate the dramatic growth Bend will experience in the coming decade.

Answering the demand for more affordable housing has been difficult for homebuilders, given high land costs in the area, but these recommendations offer tangible solutions to the challenge, the workgroup said.

“COBA believes implementation of these recommendations will reduce real barriers for builders and developers as they aim to respond to the need for middle market housing,” Gustafson said.

The workgroup also will offer to host a number of public meetings in the summer and fall that explain the recommendations and give community members the chance to provide important input on key questions councilors may have about the tools.

The format of the meetings will follow the outline of a workgroup “summit” held with community members in May, which helped the workgroup refine and finalize the recommendations.

“The 12 tools in the report are valuable because they represent the input of such a variety of stakeholders,” Foote Morgan said,  “They help prioritize solutions to our housing crisis, which may be implemented with strong support from a broad cross-section of community members and organizations.”

"We think these things are too hard or we think there aren't real solutions, and we sit on our hands," she said. "We've got to take the steps to address the systematic challenges the barriers to provide that housing, and the time is right now." 

The creative housing workgroup model also was a focus at Tuesday's Innovation Day, held at OSU-Cascades. The recommendations also will be shared and discussed at a City Club of Central Oregon forum on July 20 entitled, “Economic Development in a Housing Crisis: Real Solutions for Solving Our Middle Market Housing Crunch.”

Visit to access the report.

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