SALEM — An affordable housing project targeting Redmond received unanimous approval Monday from a House panel.
The House Human Services and Housing Committee voted 9-0 to advance House Bill 2336 to the full House with a “do pass” recommendation.
Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, is a co-sponsor of the House bill and a member of the committee. Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, also sits on the committee. Both voted “yes.”
The bill would allow Redmond to win retroactive approval for the 485-unit Skyline Village development plan with a 50-50 mix of affordable and market priced homes. The project covers approximately 40 acres.
The committee hearing room in the Capitol was full with people who had come to testify on Senate Bill 608, which would enact statewide rent control.
Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland, chair of the committee, said she hoped the Legislature would deal with both supply and demand in tackling the affordable housing problem. She noted the Redmond bill was the first bill of the 2019 session to receive the committee’s approval.
“We’re trying to get at the supply side,” she said. “It’s an important discussion.”
Zika said he was “very excited” by the bipartisan support. The committee designated Zika to carry the bill on the House floor.
Both Keny-Guyer and Zika said they had heard of no opposition in the House.
The bill attempts to remedy an unintended consequence of 2016 legislation that called for two pilot projects to allow cities to develop affordable housing projects in areas outside their urban growth boundaries.
Under the program, the winning entries would be able to circumvent the laborious process normally required by expansion of the boundary.
The state would measure the results and then decide whether to expand or shelve the program.
State officials expected several proposals, but only Bend and Redmond submitted projects. The Bend plan was approved for a pilot program. The city will develop 394 units between U.S. Highway 20 and Bear Creek Road. The 35-acre project will include a mix of affordable units and market-rate homes.
Because of language in the original legislation, the Redmond project could not be picked as the second pilot project. It required that one of the two projects go to a city 25,000 population. No smaller cities applied. Redmond, at just over 30,000 population, was above the size cutoff mark.
House Bill 2336 removes the population requirement if no city in the smaller category submits a project. The committee on Tuesday unanimously approved an amendment restricting projects to those “eligible for selection on or before” Aug. 17, 2018. Only Redmond meets that criteria.
Zika told the House panel that while the Bend project is on private land, the Redmond project is on county land.
“That basically gives the state two sets of data” on projects that are similar, but distinct, he said.
Senate Bill 564 had a hearing Monday before the Senate Housing Committee. It would accomplish the same goal as HB 2336. It is common for lawmakers to dual track an issue in each chamber, so that any opposition is apparent early in the process.
The bill that moves forward the fastest becomes the main vehicle for a legislative concept, while the other is either withdrawn or dies in committee.
“It’s important that both chambers hear the reasoning,” Doug Riggs, lobbyist for the Central Oregon Cities Organization, said before the Senate hearing. The group supports the Redmond project.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, who is a co-sponsor on both the House and Senate bills, testified to the Senate committee that both had the goal of putting “a dent” in the shortage of affordable housing in Deschutes County
“There’s no more important issue than putting a roof over people’s heads,” Knopp said.
Zika, who is also a co-sponsor on both bills, testified in favor of the Senate bill. The panel also took testimony by telephone from Redmond Mayor George Endicott.
“Across Central Oregon, the price of housing has outpaced wages,” Endicott said.
Knopp said either the House or Senate bill would accomplish the same goal, though the House version is further along the legislative process.
“The House vehicle has the engine started and is moving forward,” Knopp said.
While HB 2336 includes Democratic co-sponsors, SB 564 lists only Knopp and Zika as sponsors.
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