New mobile home park sought just outside Bend

Proposals would face several hurdles, but come amid record affordable housing crunch

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

Published Jun 14, 2014 at 12:01AM

Two owners of property just north of Bend’s city limits want to tackle the city’s affordable housing crunch.

Bend resident Gary Knight wants to develop a mobile home park on nearly 10 acres of land he owns east of U.S. Highway 97, across from Deschutes Memorial Chapel and Gardens just beyond the north edge of the city’s urban growth boundary. Any proposal adding to the lower-income supply could only ease a problem many housing officials say verges on a crisis.

The property could potentially include recreational vehicles and manufactured homes — small, portable homes that can be built off-site, then transferred onto a property.

Knight’s plan came to light at a Deschutes County Planning Commission meeting Thursday.

He and a nearby property owner are petitioning the county to change part of its development code to allow new mobile home parks on properties with the type of agricultural zoning Knight’s property is on. The change would also ease the rules to expand existing parks.

Juniper Mobile Park sits just north of Knight’s property. Local real estate broker Alex Robertson represents the Juniper park owner as a co-applicant with Knight on the code change proposal, hoping to expand that park, which includes 53 home lots — all but one of which are filled.

Washington state business records list Seattle wealth management firm Freestone Capital Management as the owner of the Juniper Mobile Park property. The group paid more than $2 million to buy the property in September, county records show.

Their exact proposals aren’t clear. Knight and Robertson didn’t immediately return phone messages Friday.

And no firm plan beyond the code change proposal has been submitted to the county, senior planner Paul Blikstad told The Bulletin on Friday.

Bend’s affordable housing crunch has worsened each year since 2012. A Central Oregon Rental Owners Association survey of more than 3,800 rental properties across the region earlier this year found just 37 vacant units. The average monthly rent on a two-bedroom Bend apartment was $770, up from $704 in 2013 and $629 in 2012.

At a Bend Chamber of Commerce-sponsored State of the Community event on Thursday, “One of most critical issues that came up was affordable housing and the acknowledgment that government can’t be the entity that solves it,” Deschutes County Community Development Director Nick Lelack told county planning commissioners Thursday. Granting mobile home park developers some leeway but cutting down on regulations “is an example of how government can be a partner” to private developers.

Still, Blikstad told planning commissioners at the same meeting that the developers would have to clear several hurdles before building a new park and expanding the existing one. Septic system and fire safety upgrades probably would be required, he said. A new park also would have to meet strict state regulations.

Blikstad said a new mobile home park hasn’t been built in Deschutes County in at least 28 years. During the housing boom from 2003 to 2007, several existing parks were leveled to make way for higher-end housing. But none of the higher-end housing was built, and the real estate crash pushed several of the properties into foreclosure.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com