City council to hold hearing on rent burdens

The Keizer City Council is hosting a public hearing on rent burdens in Keizer at its meeting Monday, Dec. 2. 

Residents can show up at the meeting, at 7 p.m. at the Keizer Civic Center, and sign up to talk about how rent burdens have affected them and what solutions might be pursued. Written testimony can also be mailed to: Tracy Davis, City Recorder, P.O. Box 21000, Keizer, OR 97303, or dropped off at the civic, 930 Chemawa Road N.E. (deadline is 5 p.m on Dec. 2). 

How to tell if you are rent burdened:

If you rent a home or apartment and spend more than 50 percent of your gross household income on rent, you and your family are considered severely rent burdened. 

However, you are not alone. Last year, the City of Keizer received a letter from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Services designating Keizer as one of more than two dozen cities that fall into the severely rent burdened category. For the state, it means more than a third of Keizer’s renter households meet the rent burdened standard. 

A more detailed look at Keizer’s rental picture was revealed as the city considered its future housing needs. That study found 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. Nearly every family making less than $35,000 annually in Keizer is rent burdened and it includes elderly residents facing rising costs in manufactured home communities throughout the city as well as younger residents just starting out. 

When Keizertimes asked Facebook followers about their experiences with rent burdens, multiple commenters noted their rent has climbed by leaps and bounds in recent years, often with little or no renovation to the facilities themselves. Some reported their rents had increased by $500 or more in the past six years and several had taken on additional work to make ends meet. For others, high rent impacted them when it came to making decisions about meals and what medication to take. 

What’s been done so far:

The city has spent the past year looking at how to meet its forecasted growth for the next 20 years. At the moment, the city has chosen to absorb growth within the existing city boundaries. That could mean increased rents and mortgages because space is already at a premium. 

The city has made some changes to its development code in hope of spurring redevelopment that include housing components, but the same study that resulted in those changes also suggested that there is little in the existing market to light a fire under the property owners. 

Keizer also allows accessory dwelling units – think mother-in-law cottage – and the requests for permits are increasing, but it’s uncertain whether rents in those spaces will be any lower than more traditional home or apartment rentals. 

According to the housing needs study, 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).

The Oregon Legislature has also taken action that affects the entire state. A bill approved earlier this year essentially ended the practice of single-family zoning in cities the size of Keizer and larger. It means that multifamily housing, such as duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes, will be permitted within the same areas.

The city council meeting Dec. 2 is unlikely to be the end of the discussion, but will be one of the more high profile chances for residents to make their voices known.