City will get to plan for fewer new residents

Keizer may not need to accommodate nearly as many new residents in the coming decades.

Two years ago, the city was asked to plan for nearly 10,000 new residents. New, tentative population estimates cut the forecast by more than half. Despite the radical change, some on the Keizer City Council and the Keizer Planning Commission urged the city to continue confronting the housing challenges in the city.

“I wouldn’t want to take this as an opportunity to rest,” said Planning Commissioner Jeffrey Watson. “I think this makes the kind of strategies we were discussing have even more impact. We should still talk about parking requirement reductions, smaller setbacks and increasing multi-use areas.”

Mayor Cathy Clark said it was an opportunity for city leaders to dig into balancing residential and commercial-industrial needs in the city.

“It puts us in a very unique position in terms of planning and opportunity. We can take time to think about what we believe is going to create the most balanced city going forward,” Clark said.

The population forecast for Keizer plummeted from 9,958 new residents by 2041 to 4,586 new residents. It means that Keizer only needs to plan for roughly 1,800 new dwelling units. Some of the increase will be absorbed with recent revisions to the city development code and state-imposed zoning changes, but Keizer will still need to find space for about 200 new dwelling units.

The forecast drop reflects not only statewide trends, but global ones. Last year, birthrates in Oregon dropped below the rate of death, in part as a result of COVID-19, but it is expected to continue. Globally, according to a recent report by The New York Times, birthrates have fallen below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per family.

Another factor is that there are fewer people moving within Oregon and to Oregon from other places. Much of the in-state population is remaining in place as they age.

It is also the first time Keizer has received a population forecast distinct from Salem’s; the two cities share an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). Prior to this year, Keizer based its estimates on a percentage of the overall expected growth within the UGB.

Consultant Beth Goodman with ECONorthwest said Salem has a much larger supply of available land to accommodate growth without an overall expansion of the UGB, a process that can be both lengthy and costly.