Bend

New Bend housing workgroup will focus on ‘missing middle’

Group wants to support more workforce housing

By Kailey Fisicaro, The Bulletin, @kaileyfisicaro

A new work group launched by Bend 2030 will seek to come up with new tools and policy that could provide more workforce housing.

The Collaborative Housing Policy Workgroup was first piloted in June at the Bend Livability Conference, meant to inform residents about urban planning, growth, transportation and urban development. Erin Foote Morgan, executive director of Bend 2030, a nonprofit focused on managing the city’s growth by engaging the public, said she hoped the work group would continue beyond the conference.

“This particular cross section of Bend is very broad,” Foote Morgan said of the group, made up of about 25 housing stakeholders, ranging from builders and landowners to developers and real estate agents.

The work group, which has a steering committee of nine, plans to put out a request for proposal today for project management.

Foote Morgan, who sits on the steering committee, said a project manager, whether a firm or an individual, will help the group see ideas for supporting workforce housing come to fruition.

The group is choosing to focus on workforce and middle-market housing for people at about 80 to 175 percent of area median income, as opposed to affordable housing for low-income earners, because it sees “the city of Bend is leading the state on work in affordable housing,” Foote Morgan said.

The group will look at things like the city’s development code, which is in need of an update since the urban growth boundary proposal went through city approval and is headed to the state for approval, according to Foote Morgan. It will also consider rezone plans to make it easier for builders to build high-density housing.

The group will be funded by a combination of grants and donations from local organizations. The Central Oregon Association of Realtors has pledged donations to the group for this year and next, and the work group is also submitting a $15,000 grant application to the National Association of Realtors. The national association previously gave $5,000 to the Livability Conference to help support the pilot meeting of the group.

People earning a middle income aren’t able to find housing, Foote Morgan said, “not because people can’t afford it, but because it’s not there.”

“Businesses can’t recruit good candidates because people simply can’t find a house to live in,” she said.

Kim Gammond, communications director for the Central Oregon Association of Realtors and another member of the steering committee, said the housing market sector the work group is zoning in on is being called the “missing middle” in current research.

Beyond researching tools and policy to pitch and support at the state and local level, the work group plans to lead programs such as a “yes in my backyard” campaign and other philanthropic work.

“There’s a very large portion of our community that understands how much we need this,” Foote Morgan said, adding, “Mixed housing makes us a more vibrant community.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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