Keizer at least 500 ACRES short of growth space

Keizer will come up short of the space it needs to absorb expected growth over the next 20 years, by at least 500 acres.

The news was delivered by Bob Parker, a project director at ECONorthwest, at a meeting of the city’s Housing Needs and Buildable Lands Inventory Task Force Monday, March 25.

The projection also takes into account a substantial reduction in the estimate of vacant and redevelopable land. At a February meeting the task force gave a preliminary estimate of 450 available acres to grow or redevelop. After removing areas constrained by flood plains and other elements, the number shrunk to 250 acres, Parker said.

During the next two decades, Keizer is expecting almost 10,000 people to move into the city. Accounting for the average size of a household, roughly 2.7 people, that means the city would need about 3,650 new dwelling units (single-family residences, duplexes, apartments, etc.). Keeping pace with expected growth means enticing developers to construct 191 new dwellings per year between now and 2039, and the city has never reached numbers close to that.

“Between 2000 and the third quarter of 2018, Keizer only had 1,800 new dwelling units constructed,” Parker said.

Under the current circumstances, Keizer doesn’t even have room for that many

dwellings without razing significant portions of the city and starting from scratch. Parker said a conservative estimate of additional land needed is 400 acres, but that would be only for housing and streets.

“That would not include space for parks, schools and utilities. The rule of thumb is adding 25 percent for those and would bring the total need to 500 acres, but that usually underestimates the actual need,” Parker said. 

Keizer is taking part in this analysis for two reasons. First and foremost, 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 state offered rent-burdened cities extra funds to look at the situations in their towns and look for solutions. A secondary goal is to lay the groundwork for any attempt to expand the city’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) that hems in urban sprawl.

The question that arose repeatedly during the evening was what would happen if Keizer did nothing. In all likelihood – given the numerous factors limiting Keizer’s growth from sharing its UGB with Salem and the only option for expansion being pristine farm land – there isn’t much the state could force it to do.

That may mean the most pressing question for the group is to determine what housing policies are needed moving forward to show a “best effort” in meeting the need. That discussion was on the agenda but never broached during the meeting Monday.

“The big question is what type [of housing] and what will we do to address the needs not being taken care of,” said Felicia Squires, a member of the task force.

The greatest need in Keizer is for low income, very low income and extremely low income housing (the three categories roughly 47 percent of the overall need).