Rent discussion ends in whimper

Anyone holding their breath that city officials might make moves to alleviate rent burdens in the city should stop. Having fulfilled the mandate of state officials to look at the issue within Keizer, city officials opted to continue having conversations but prescribed no specific relief. 

“This is very market driven and we are going to have a difficult time controlling it,” said Councilor Elizabeth Smith. “Until the market balances a bit more between single family homes and multifamily units, we are going to have to continue to revisit this and allow the market to continue to correct itself.”

Mayor Cathy Clark noted the city’s continued involvement in efforts to alleviate local homelessness, but that only affects one part of the problem. 

Resident Sarah Anderson was one of only two members of the audience to speak up on other aspects of the rent-burdened picture. 

“The people who are seeing the rent spike are the same ones that are unable to become homeowners,” Anderson said. “Is a rent increase supplementing new taxes and fees or putting money into new cars and savings accounts?”

Recent actions by the Oregon Legislature to put a cap on rent increases is having a detrimental effect in the short term, Anderson added. 

“Renters are seeing even more of an increase with the caps coming next year,” she said.

Last year, Keizer was designated as one of several rent-burdened cities in the state. 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. 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. 

Resident Mike DeBlasi suggested that city officials look at reducing parking requirements in its development code and increasing the desired mix of multifamily housing going forward. 

“We might want to be a little more aggressive in changing the overall housing mix,” he said. 

On the matter of state-mandated rental caps, which are different than rent controls that would prevent rents from rising above a given figure, City Manager Chris Eppley said they were just as likely to prevent rent rates from decreasing as they otherwise might. 

“There will be a disincentive to reduce rent as the supply and demand curve would have allowed. The market will find its way around controls,” Eppley said. 

Keizer’s hands are tied in many ways regardless of other external factors. The city’s low tax rate, low development fees and lack of green field space to develop prevent it from offering incentives to entice more varied development. 

Brown said the best course of action in the near future is continuing to work with regional partners facing the same issues.