Rezoned areas put small dent in housing needs

Keizer learned how deep its housing deficit was two years ago. Rezoning the city’s main commercial areas to mixed use helped, but not much. 

Members of the Keizer City Council and Keizer Planning Commission met virtually Monday, Feb. 9, to discuss new findings and look toward the future. The meeting agenda had only one item: an update of Keizer’s Housing Needs Analysis/Buildable Lands report. 

Keizer comes up short in a variety of ways based on projected needs for the next 20 years, but the meeting focused on whether Keizer closed any of the gaps with a major zoning revision of its commercial areas more than a year ago. 

“The earlier analysis showed the city lacked the space needed for 2,248 dwelling units. The deficit dropped to 1,964 dwelling units with the implementation of the River Cherry Overlay District (RCOD),” said Beth Goodman of ECONorthwest, a consulting firm that worked on the plan two years ago and is continuing the work on the update. 

The drawback to relying on RCOD to majorly shift the number of spaces available is that it’s dependent upon property owners choosing to redevelop their properties to include residential spaces. Owners can decide to reinvest in Keizer, but it would be more likely to them to wait for some sort of incentive program provided by the city. The latter is unlikely given Keizer’s severely constrained tax base. 

“We think redevelopment of existing properties will be very slow,” said Goodman. 

Since commercial properties were rezoned, Keizer did attract one developer who constructed a mixed use space with commercial offices on the street-level floor and apartments on top, but that was a new development. 

The city completed a version of the HNA/BLI report in 2019, but that report was based on projected housing needs within the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) that includes both Salem and Keizer, Keizer-specific numbers are expected this spring and the city is laying the groundwork for an larger update. 

Keizer is expected to grow by roughly 10,000 people during the next 20 years, or about 25%. If that holds true, and Keizer is required by the state to have land available for the growth, changes will likely be needed in the UGB that binds Salem and Keizer together and hems in sprawl. 

“A few years ago, Salem had a big surplus of space for single-family and medium-density housing,” Goodman said. She was also a consultant on a similar project for Salem. 

If Salem has the capacity to absorb all the growth for both cities, state officials could come back to Keizer and say there is no need for the city to expand. If the Departent of Land Conservation and Development determines that Keizer must absorb a significant share of the growth, a solution to the UGB entanglement would need to be found. 

Keizer has roughly 235 acres of developable land and would need to add 192 dwelling units per year for the next 20 years to house another 10,000 people. 

The new draft of the study is expected to be complete by June. Once adopted by the city council, it will trigger the need for a housing production study. A housing production strategy must include a list of specific actions that the city shall undertake to promote development within the city to address housing needs identified in their HNA.