Editorial: Housing “solution” would make new housing problems

Published Aug 17, 2014 at 12:02AM

Bend has housing problems. Rentals are in short supply, and that drives rental rates up. The state also wants increased housing density when the city seeks to expand its boundary.

Putting both problems together is no solution. Bend’s Affordable Housing Advisory Group is apparently poised to suggest that the city substantially ease its rules regarding so-called “granny flats,” apartments or stand-alone small dwellings built on lots with existing homes.

The group proposes a couple of things. Such additions, be they above a garage or in the back corner of a lot, could be larger than city regulations now allow. More important, they would change the rules so it wouldn’t be so easy for neighbors to stop it.

We’ll agree that easing the rules on accessory dwellings could help bring rental costs down, though there’s no guarantee. Were they built and then used as overnight lodging, for instance, they’d have no impact on the problem. Nor is there any assurance they’d be rented at prices that influence the relatively low end of the rental market.

Most of all, neighbors should be given a say in what goes in next door or even down the street.

There are other ways to expand the pool of affordable rentals here, and the best is the one that makes land available to build them. Meanwhile, as city planners will tell you, infill can be achieved by a variety of methods that do not chop existing yards into pieces. Those methods, allowing cottage or cluster development among them, make more sense than changes that encourage rentals in the backyard.

Trying to solve both problems with a single change is likely to backfire in ways that cannot be foreseen.