Employee housing could be coming to Sunriver if Deschutes County chooses to change the rules about what can be built in the Sunriver Business Park.

Sunriver Resort LLC wants to build housing for about 90 seasonal employees on a nearly 4-acre parcel it owns in the Sunriver Business Park. It’s an ideal location because it sits close to the resort and The Village Center, meaning employees without cars could walk or bike to work, said Tom O’Shea, the managing director of Sunriver Resort.

But that area of town, which houses businesses including Camp Abbott Trading Co. and Sunriver Brewing, is meant for light industrial and commercial uses.

So the resort is asking to change that, and allow employee housing as a use in the area, O’Shea said.

“What’s driving the decision is really the low unemployment rate,” he said. “The housing market has tightened, and with the unemployment rate so low … we need to do something to relieve the shortage.”

At the peak of summer, Sunriver Resort has about 1,000 employees. Because tourism in Central Oregon is seasonal, a large portion of them are only hired to work for the summer.

Right now, the company finds and rents out homes throughout the county for their seasonal employees to live in, O’Shea said. But that solution is an inefficient, time-consuming one.

“Central Oregon is very seasonal … so we have a high demand for labor for a limited time of the year,” O’Shea said. “We thought: What could we do long term to help alleviate the shortage for employees working here seasonally?”

What kind of housing would be built hasn’t been decided or designed yet, as the resort is waiting for the zone change, O’Shea said. But the vision would be some form of dormitory housing that could house employees up to six months of the year.

The timeline for when this housing could be available is subject to whether this zoning change is approved by the county. Ideally, the resort would like to have housing available for its employees by summer 2021.

“What we know for sure (is) there is a tremendous shortage for rental units,” he said. “We would look at 90 beds to start with.”

A public hearing on the zone change will be Nov. 14.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com