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City faces steep climb to meet housing needs

BY ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

A consultant from ECONorthwest set the stage for another conversation of Keizer growth at the first meeting of the Housing Needs and Buildable Lands Inventory Advisory Committee Monday, Jan. 14.

Bob Parker, a projector director at ECONorthwest, led a presentation and brief discussion about what committee members can expect in coming months and what Keizer is looking at in terms of housing needs. 

The big takeaway from the evening was that construction of new residences has never kept up with the city’s need and it isn’t ramping up to meet future demand. 

“We will need 3,820 dwelling units [by 2039] and an average of 191 new units per year,” said Parker. “It’s a challenging target.”

The city is projected to grow by nearly 10,000 people over the next 20 years, which pencils out to the 3,800-unit need when accounting for the average size of Keizer households. However, the population projections themselves are something of a moving target, the state is expected to issue new forecasts in 2020 and the number may shrink substantially. To date, Keizer has never been issued a population estimate separate from Salem because the two cities share an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). The current figures are being used so the city can begin having conversations about if, how and where to grow. 

Without an expansion of the UGB, it means Keizer will need to shrink its stock of single-family detached housing by about nine percent and increase its single-family attached housing (e.g. townhouses and duplexes) by three percent and multifamily housing (e.g. apartments) by 6 percent, according to the ECONorthwest report. 

That task is complicated by several other factors. 

“We will have to look at redevelopment potential and that might mean trading more affordable units for less affordable ones,” Parker said. 

While such change might look good on paper in terms of higher property values, the greatest need in Keizer is for low income, very low income and extremely low income housing (the three categories comprise roughly 47 percent of the overall need). 

Parker said that the buying power of a dollar is another factor to consider.

“If buying power continues to erode, it will exacerbate the need on the lower end of the spectrum,” he said. 

According to the report, many residents are also making major trade-offs simply to have a roof over their heads in this city. About 54 percent of renters in Keizer are paying more than a third of their monthly income on rent, and 25 percent of homeowners are in the same situation when it comes to their mortgage. 

Parker said the free market alone is not likely to meet current or future housing needs, but the situation is not hopeless.

“There are lots of strategies that we will talk about during the policy discussions that can provide a map for providing safe, decent and affordable housing for all households,” he said.