Designing duplexes and triplexes that look like single-family homes could be the key to boosting housing for Bend’s middle class.
On Monday, hundreds of Bend residents headed to the Tower Theatre in downtown Bend to hear a national expert weigh in on solutions to Bend’s housing shortage. The presentation comes as Bend 2030, a local nonprofit aimed at managing growth, is convening a team of residents, from architects to real estate agents, to create policy proposals to increase housing options for working-class residents such as teachers, nurses and police officers.
“We all need to step up and think differently about a toolbox that’s needed to address your housing issues,” said Daniel Parolek, an urban planner and architect. “It’s at a crisis level, and it’s going to get worse unless we all play a role in addressing this issue.”
Figuring out how to build enough housing to meet Bend’s low- and middle-income residents’ demands has stumped government officials and real estate professionals for years.
Dozens of new residents move to Bend each month, but the construction of new units hasn’t kept up. Central Oregon employers say the housing shortage is hurting business, with Bend’s high cost of living deterring potential job applicants.
On Monday, Parolek, who coined the term, “missing middle housing,” spoke about ways to encourage developers to build more units without changing the desirability of existing neighborhoods. Parolek, who lives in Berkeley, California, said he aims to address the issue without using terms such as “density” and “multifamily housing,” which often garner pushback from existing residents.
In general, those terms conjure images of poorly designed, block-style apartment buildings that don’t blend with the current neighborhoods. Parolek said the key to building more units is designing duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and cottages to look similar to existing single-family homes. A fourplex, for instance, may look like a large house, but offer homes for several families.
“It acts and behaves like a house,” said Parolek. “It just happens to have multiple units.”
Parolek explained that residents’ demands for housing are changing. Many people — especially millennials and Baby Boomers — are willing to live in smaller units in order to live in desirable neighborhoods that are within walking distance to shops and businesses.
But sometimes, city parking requirements reduce the number of units developers can build on a property. Parolek said some cities have allowed developers to forgo parking requirements in exchange for providing passes to transit, bike- and car-share programs.
“We have done a better job providing spaces for our cars than spaces for our people,” Parolek said.
It could only be a matter of months before Bend residents see some of these changes on the ground. In May, Bend 2030 is planning to discuss potential incentives and code changes with city councilors, who can choose whether they want to adopt the new rules. Bend 2030 is an advocacy organization, not a policy-setting body.
So far, the solutions include tax credits for developers building tall apartments, as well as reducing parking requirements. Lowering or allowing developers to defer system development charges — fees charged to developers to build things such as sewers, roads and parks — are also being considered.
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