Bend and Redmond are both starved for affordable housing. They both deserve to win the Legislature’s program to allow more affordable housing outside a city’s boundaries.

The state shouldn’t have to pick one winner because that means Oregonians lose. When the Legislature reconvenes next year, it should expand the program.

The Legislature passed House Bill 4079 in 2016. It created a pilot program for cities to create affordable and market-rate housing outside of a city’s urban growth boundary without having to go through the normal, extensive UGB process.

The program doesn’t allow cities to completely subvert Oregon’s land use laws. Allowed sites could be only up to 50 acres and could not be located on high-value farmland. Requirements included guarantees that the affordable housing would remain affordable for 50 years, and the city must demonstrate it is trying to promote affordable housing within its own boundaries.

Bend submitted an application for property on the city’s eastern border off of U.S. Highway 20. The city’s plan is for 550 homes. Of those, 153 would be restricted to families making less than 80 percent of the area median income and 102 would be restricted to families making 60 percent or less of the area median income. The rest would be market-rate housing.

Redmond’s plan is for 400 to 500 homes on 40 acres of county land east of town. Half of them would be for families making 80 percent of median income and the rest would be market rate.

Why is it good that only Bend or Redmond can win? Why can’t other towns be allowed the same flexibility? The Legislature should turn this pilot into a permanent program.

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