Bend eyes affordable housing

City Council will decide whether to offer public property for development

By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin / @hborrud

Published Jun 13, 2014 at 12:01AM

Bend officials will ask the City Council to offer two city-owned parcels of land for sale next month, as a short-term option to ease the shortage of affordable housing.

The parcels are both in northeast Bend: one on Butler Market Road and the other on Daggett Lane. A third potential affordable-housing site — two pieces of land near the Cascades East Transit operations building on Northeast Bear Creek Road — will take a bit more work to prepare it for sale, Affordable Housing Manager Jim Long said on Wednesday. The city will put out a request for proposals from developers for the first two properties in mid-July, Long said. “It’s going to be up to council whether they want to sell those for the maximum amount of money available,” Long said.

In the meantime, the housing committee will continue to discuss additional options to increase the supply of affordable housing, and rental housing for all income levels, throughout the summer. Long said City Manager Eric King recently asked him to develop recommendations by the end of the summer for policy changes that would increase the affordable housing supply. They will then be presented to the City Council.

City planners and members of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee acknowledged that any increase in rental housing could also bolster the city’s case for the state to allow Bend to expand.

“In order for some parts of the (urban growth boundary expansion) to proceed, they need parts of this policy to show how we’re going to densify,” said Andy High, staff vice president of government affairs for the Central Oregon Builders Association and a member of the advisory committee.

On Wednesday, members of the committee also discussed several potential changes to city development code aimed at increasing the supply of affordable housing. Members of the committee said they are concerned not only about providing housing for low-income households, but also want to ensure there is reasonably priced housing for middle-income people. Proposals to change the development code include creating a “density bonus” that would allow developers who include affordable housing in a project to build more houses, on smaller lots, that otherwise would not be allowed in a particular zone. Committee members also discussed a possible code amendment to allow larger accessory dwellings, such as apartments above garages, to make them more economically feasible to develop, and a change that would make it easier for property owners to build them.

“This one’s going to be brutally unpopular with certain segments in the population,” Long said during the meeting on Wednesday. Nonetheless, accessory dwelling units have been popular in Portland and the program led to the creation of thousands of new units of rental housing, Long said.

Jim Landin, an architect and member of the committee, said the current requirement for a conditional use permit for accessory dwellings at pre-1998 homes in Bend makes it easy for one neighbor who dislikes the project to shoot it down. If the city makes it easier for people to build these types of apartments, it could encourage infill in existing neighborhoods and allow individual property owners, as opposed to major developers, to help increase the housing supply, Landin said.

The committee also discussed a “cottage code” to allow projects with smaller houses clustered around a central parking area.

City Councilor Scott Ramsay attended the meeting and said he has heard more interest in developing rental housing now that Oregon State University-Cascades is expanding. City councilors support the university’s expansion, and know the community will need more housing for students, Ramsay said. “I think there’s a really solid appetite for this,” Ramsay said.

Long said the next step will be to bring the density bonus, accessory dwelling unit and cottage code proposals back to the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee one at a time for more in-depth discussion in July and August.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829,