In its most recent meeting, the task force looking at housing needs in Keizer ran out of time to discuss the last part of its agenda: policies that might alleviate rent burdens and ensure that housing of all types are available in city limits.
While the task force has yet to offer comment, a draft of potential actions the city might take is available on the city’s website, www.keizer.org.
The report outlines some of the avenues the city could pursue through development code and policy changes to increase the amount of affordable housing available in Keizer. Keizer lacks capacity for residents who are designated as extremely low income, very low income, low income and for those in the middle income brackets. However, it’s the lack of high end housing that has had the effect of driving up housing prices for middle income homes. High-end buyers end up purchasing below their ability to secure Keizer addresses.
This article is not meant to be a comprehensive look at all the options, but to highlight the ones with the biggest potential impacts.
Adjusting residential lot sizes
Keizer already allows lots as small as 4,000 square feet, but some cities have adopted sizes as small a 3,000 square feet. Frequently these small lot sizes are intermixed with larger lot sizes.
Another option would be putting a cap on all new residential lots. Keizer does not have a cap currently, but a cap could reduce sprawl and allow the city to chart the course of residential areas as new spaces come online or older ones are redeveloped.
Encouraging higher density
The city currently requires construction of four dwellings units per acre in low density residential areas. However, the city could double that amount to absorb some of the expected growth. Increases to medium and high density could also be increased.
Recouping space by discouraging car travel
Throughout the country, the design of cities has catered to the use of private vehicles, but aside from the space every two-car household requires there are other costs in terms of environmental impacts and livability. By reducing or eliminating off-street parking requirements, the city could slight uptick in available space. Keizer has also taken steps to reduce street width, another step in deterring car travel.
Allowing more attached multifamily housing
While there are a number of duplexes mixed in with residential neighborhoods, Keizer could do more in this regard by encouraging development of triplexes, quadplexes, townhouses and row houses. Implementing zoning or development codes to encourage this type of development would check two boxes for Keizer: increasing density with more affordable rents.
One of the largest obstacles to new development of any sort right now is derived from city’s inability to entice investment through monetary means. The city already has some of the cheapest building costs around in terms building and permit fees and system development charges (SDCs), but the report suggests even these might be waived. While that might get developers salivating, any roads and infrastructure built to sustain new neighborhoods and homes are eventually turned over to the city and money to maintain them “has to come from somewhere” according to a comment on this particular suggestion.
Alternately, the city could allow developers to pay SDCs over a longer time period and reduce upfront costs.
The city could also establish Urban Renewal Districts that would allow tax increases for a predetermined amount of time to go back into improving the areas within the district. While these are often enticing to those who live within a proposed district, it can create strains for other taxing agencies, like Marion County, the Salem-Keizer School District or Keizer Fire District. Keizer Fire fought hard to end a previous urban renewal district in the city when it began throttling revenues for fire protection.
The city could also make use of a Construction Excise Tax. The Oregon Legislature granted authority to levy such taxes – a percentage of the overall valuation of a new development – to generate funds for affordable housing. There are several restrictions on how such money can be used, but the amount raised would probably be minimal at best given how few spaces are left for large developments within Keizer.