On current path, new Keizer families will have limited space


If Keizer attempted to absorb all of its projected growth within the existing city boundaries, the next 3,800 families moving into new, single family homes would be placed on one-tenth of an acre each , roughly 5,100 square feet.

Bob Parker, a projector director at ECONorthwest, a consulting firm assisting the city in a housing needs and buildable lands analysis, told members of the committee reviewing the data that Keizer has only 450 acres of vacant and partially vacant land. Even that is a generous estimate because it takes into account privately-owned large lots that could be subdivided further. Reaching the 450-acre capacity would require motivating the owners to develop their property to the maximum possible extent.

However, it’s not time to sound the alarm, yet.

“The important part of this process is strategies to accommodate housing for the next 20 years. It’s pretty clear that the city will have unmet housing needs,” Parker said.

That means the Housing Needs and Buildable Lands Inventory Task Force will be doing some heavy lifting in the months to come. The group met most recently on Feb. 21.

Topping the list of needs is accommodation for families making less than $35,000 per year. Keizer was recently designated as rent-burdened by state officials. 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.

“The city is not producing enough housing to accommodate those making less than $35,000. We need to find a way to work with the market and encourage the market to address those needs,” Parker said.

Community Development Director Nate Brown said the city has run out of “green field” development spaces that attracted developers looking to capitalize on Keizer’s low property taxes and equally low system development charges.

“I think we need to fill in the gaps. If we zone it they will come. I feel like we need to be picky and get what we need out of it,” said Nick Stephenson, a member of the committee.

Parker said the current market isn’t forcing redevelopment at this point, but that some space could be recouped by changing some commercially-zoned land to mixed use, given that the need for commercial land needed in the past might not be as great in the present.

Rick Kuehn, another member of the committee, said the city is between the proverbial rock and hard place.

“From a business perspective, Keizer needs to grow. From a residential perspective, I want it to stay as we are,” Kuehn said.

Brown countered that a “business need” for the city to grow has not yet been identified. He said the task force needs to help determine whether such a need actually exists and how to balance growth with sustaining services for existing residents.

“Can we continue to meet our needs [such as adequate funding for public safety services] while investing in new infrastructure for expansion? Developers will only pay for their share for constructing new homes, not expansion of capacity,” Brown said.

A public input session following the meeting and recapping prior work only drew a handful of residents and stakeholders.