By ERIC A. HOWALD

Of the Keizertimes

The City of Keizer embarks on yet another growth-related discussion when the Buildable Lands Supply and Housing Needs Analysis Advisory Committee meets for the first time on Monday, Jan. 14. 

Input from all residents is encouraged during the advisory committee meetings. The Jan. 14 meeting begins at 6 p.m. 

What Keizer can actually expect in terms of growth is currently a topic of some debate. Because Keizer shares its Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), past growth forecasts were issued for the entire area contained within the shared UGB.

Keizer is receiving additional funding from the state to look at the issues because Keizer is now labeled as a severely rent-burdened city. The designation means that more than a quarter of renter households are paying more than 50 percent of the household gross income on rent.

In the overall picture, Keizer is just over the line that triggered the designation, but the city is required to address the issue. City officials must convene a public meeting to discuss the causes and consequences of the of rent burdens, the barriers to reducing rent and possible solutions. 

The issues the advisory committee will examine hit a nerve for Keizer residents. Finding volunteers to serve in these types of advisory capacities is typically akin to pulling teeth, but more than 30 applications were received to serve. 

It led to the formation of an 11-person committee, up from the originally needed seven people. James Hutches, Danielle Bethell, Ron Bersin, Blaze Itzaina, Carol Doerfler, Felicia Squires, Nick Stephenson, Stefani Iverson, Rick Kuehn, David Dempster, and Mike Kerr are all expected to be part of the committee. 

Committee members will forward recommendations to the city council even though they will not have any direct authority to enact them. 

Housing needs

The current population for the combined cities is roughly 204,000 people. In 2032, the population is expected to swell to approximately 308,000. Until recently, there was no agreement as to how much of that growth Keizer would be expected to absorb. 

Now, Keizer and Salem have determined an amenable split, but it will still need approval from state officials. Given that Keizer comprises just 15.6 percent of the UGB, Keizer’s revised 2032 growth estimate is about 48,000 people. That is still about 10,000 more than residents than are currently in the city, and it will likely require a seismic shift in current approaches to housing. 

The state requires that every city have enough housing to absorb the residential growth, and Keizer is coming up short on almost every level. 

Buildable lands

The advisory committee will be reviewing Keizer’s housing lands as well as housing needs. That component includes vacant land, lands that are likely to be redeveloped during the planning period, land ready for construction within a year of receiving a building permit, and lands with other constraints such as wetlands and environmental sensitivity. 

According to a 2011 report provided by the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments, Keizer’s current boundaries included only about 60 acres of vacant land, most of which is zoned for commercial or industrial use. Slightly less than 12 acres is zoned for mixed use. Some of those spaces have since been turned into low- or medium-density developments.