An Example Of How This City Council Is Failing Bend:  Workforce Housing

Presently, city councilors operate in a closed system.  Rather than set policy and provide leadership, they follow the directions of city staff and staff-appointed citizen committees.  This system fails to utilize the talents of experts excluded from those committees and discourages examining how other cities are addressing the same problems Bend has.  

Bend’s city councilors sit on these committees and make suggestions, rather than provide leadership and direction for new policies.  Barb Campbell is an example of how the present system is failing; she ignored two opportunities to secure more workforce housing for middle-income people.  

In 2015, Councilor Campbell voted to permit whole-house short-term rentals (STRs), rejecting Portland’s code, which only allows STRs in owner-occupied homes.  Now, Bend has over 1,000 whole-house STRs, with more being permitted daily.  Other jurisdictions are imposing moratoriums; not Bend.

In 2019, the Legislature passed House Bill HB 2001, which required cities to allow duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes on single-family residential lots.  The goal was to encourage developers to build smaller housing units that middle-income people can afford.  This wasn’t a big deal for Bend, which already allowed duplexes and triplexes on such lots.  But allowing such construction is not the same as incentivizing it:  this city council chose to ignore how other cities were accomplishing that goal.

Portland had a problem because developers were replacing older houses with larger, more expensive single-family homes (McMansions) instead of multi-unit buildings.  Portland hired Johnson Economics, which studied the economics of construction in Portland and recommended a development code that would add approximately 24,000 new housing units and result in a 56% reduction in rental units.

Portland decided to encourage developers to build smaller units by regulating the Floor-to-Area Ratio (FAR), which is the total square footage of the building (i.e., all floors).  

The new Portland code sets the FAR for a single-family home at .5.  On a 4,000sf lot, the total building cannot be more than 2,000sf.   But for a duplex, the FAR is .6, so the total building size can be 2,400sf, allowing two 1,200sf units.  The FAR for a triplex is .7, allowing a 2,800sf building of three 900sf units.  These smaller units are more affordable.

Beaverton has adopted a similar strategy.

In contrast, Councilor Campbell voted to approve Bend’s code, which does nothing to encourage multi-unit buildings.  It allows a 4,400sf McMansion on a 4,000 lot, a residence only the wealthy can afford.  See BDC Table 2.1.700.

We need city councilors who provide leadership.