Editorial: UGB discussion needs to consider affordability

Should the city of Bend expand its borders or increase the density of development inside the existing limits?

If the new City Council agrees with the state and moves toward greater density through infill, it will be a significant departure from the course previous councils have pursued.

As they grapple with the complexities involved, we hope the councilors will keep the issue of affordability front and center.

Unlike some other recreation meccas, such as Sun Valley in Idaho, Bend has remained relatively affordable. People of various incomes could manage to live here, even during the boom.

But if additional land isn’t available for development as the economy climbs out of the recession, housing costs are likely to rise sharply. That could look good to home- owners looking to recover lost value, but it also could change the nature of the community if people at lower incomes must commute because they can’t afford to live here.

The city’s plan to expand its Urban Growth Boundary, or UGB, was rejected in 2010 by state officials who said the city didn’t prove it had done enough to increase the density within the UGB, and therefore hadn’t proved the need for the additional 8,500 acres it proposed to add.

After a lag caused by the economic slowdown, the issue will soon become more urgent. Construction permits are picking up, and the city estimates they’ll soon be back to the level of the projections used for the UGB proposal. Meanwhile, the Legislature is expected to consider some changes to state land-use law in its current session, which could alter the city’s approach to revising its UGB proposal.

It’s also worth considering what prospective buyers and renters are seeking. 1000 Friends of Oregon, which supports infill, has argued that the market is shifting, with suburban living losing its appeal. We’re more impressed by the notion that people don’t move to Central Oregon because they’re seeking high-density living.

The council’s decision is likely to have far-reaching implications for Bend’s future. The best choices will come from rejection of partisan viewpoints and a focus on Bend’s unique attributes.