(Update: City of Bend not invited to roundtable)
Infrastructure costs, goals at cross purposes are key sticking points
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Central Oregon’s challenging affordable housing issues were the focus of a lively 90-minute roundtable discussion in Bend on Monday, held by former state lawmaker and GOP gubernatorial nominee Christine Drazan.
“We have got to solve the affordability crisis we have in Bend, and I believe that the people that are the leaders across the community are the right ones to get this done,” Drazan told reporters afterward.
Organizers said the roundtable was part of Drazan's new effort called A New Direction, a 501(c)4 organization "focused on advocating for solutions to Oregon's most pressing issues outside of an election cycle." A 501(c)4 is defined by the IRS as a "social welfare group," to which donations are not tax-deductible, unlike 501(c)3 nonprofits.
Those on hand included state Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp (who’s also the vice president of the Central Oregon Builders Association), Redmond City Councilor Cat Zwicker and Pahlisch Homes Vice President Cory Bittner.
The city of Bend was not among those invited to take part in the event. An organizer told us, "Our room was already pretty full, because we wanted to make sure it was a broad cross-section of folks."
Drazan told the group, “A new direction is all about change from the ground up. It’s an opportunity for Oregonians themselves to continue to have conversations in the community, to continue to meet together and work together to solve problems, and to apply pressure to our elected leaders."
Zwicker voiced concerns about infrastructure costs, and often conflicting goals for state and city leaders, when it comes to housing needs and land-use planning requirements.
She said Gov. Tina Kotek is directing action on housing needs, “and on the other hand, we are having people like Oregon Water Resources and some of our other partners handicap us by putting limitations on what we can and can’t do to meet those needs.”
Pahlisch Homes’ Bittner said while most companies obviously build homes for profit, even when they forego the profit, there are too many hurdles.
“People that do this are for profit, builders and developers, but there are people that are not for profit ... and we're working with some of those now in our communities,” he said. “And the process that they tell us they have to go through is just mind-blowing.”
The high cost of infrastructure was a common topic. Knopp noted nothing will change until government focuses on the factors they can control.
“You can’t pay $50,000 for SDCs (system development charges) and building permits per home, and $250,000 for a lot, and expect to build something ‘affordable,’” he said.
Drazan said she believes difficult conversations like this are the only way communities can achieve needed change.
“If our priority is to make this a community that people can afford to settle here and raise a family and live in this incredible, beautiful region, we need to make some hard choices,” she said.