Julia Shumway
The Bulletin

Allowing fourplexes, changing how development fees are charged and allowing less open space on lots are among the first tools the city of Bend may use to provide more housing for middle-income families.

The Affordable Housing Advisory Committee decided Wednesday to tackle five of the 12 recommendations from a Bend 2030 work group that looked at middle-market housing. The committee should have recommendations to the city council within the next couple months, committee chairman Andy High said.

“We have a housing problem in the city of Bend, not just an affordable housing problem,” High said.

The tools are:

Changing system development charges

Every developer pays a set of fees, called system development charges, meant to help with increased use of the city’s streets, sanitary sewer system, water and parks. Developers now pay the same amount, whether they’re building modest homes or McMansions, so there’s an incentive to build larger, pricier homes to make a larger profit.

The Bend 2030 work group recommended deferring these fees or offering long-term loans to developers building homes for families who make up to 125 percent of the area median income (about $65,500). Most affordable housing assistance is for families who make less than 80 percent of the area median income (about $42,000 in Bend), and families who make slightly less or more than the area median also struggle finding homes in a tight market.

The group also recommended using a tiered system for development charges: Developers would pay a smaller fee for a smaller home and a larger fee for a larger home.

Calculating density differently

The city caps how many homes can exist per acre depending on what type of zoning is in the area. This ranges from a maximum of four units in a low-density residential neighborhood to a maximum of 43 in a high-density neighborhood.

But even high- and medium-density neighborhoods often end up with fewer than allowed units per acre because of existing development. Density now is measured by lot, but the work group suggested instead measuring it with a radius — taking into account empty land or less dense development nearby.

Allowing fourplexes in residential neighborhoods

Fourplexes can fit aesthetically with single-family homes, but they’re not currently allowed in the standard residential zone. Duplexes and triplexes are.

Owners also have an easier time getting a mortgage on a fourplex than on a larger rental unit, making it an attractive option for small landlords. Lenders consider up to a four-family building the same way they do a single-family home, said committee member Julie Nash, a senior mortgage loan officer at loanDepot.

And changing city code to allow fourplexes is an easy change, High said.

“There’s not much to tackle,” he said. “They should just do it.”

Linking open space requirements to nearby parks

The city now requires developers to include open space, such as a yard, when building homes. However, when developing near parks, the work group suggested reducing this open space requirement.

The committee should consider trails as well, said Karna Gustafson, vice president of government affairs for the Central Oregon Builders Association.

“Maybe you allow trails as part of an open space requirement if you’re further from the park because the trails will help you get to the park,” she said.

Increasing the allowable lot coverage for multifamily housing

Currently only 40 percent of a multifamily lot, like an apartment complex, can be used for housing. The work group recommended increasing this to 60 percent, allowing developers to build more units in the same space.

It may run into issues with requirements that developers have onsite parking, committee member and architect Jim Landin said.

“The reality of (this tool) is parking,” Landin said. “Increasing my lot coverage does absolutely nothing unless I can solve my parking problem.”

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

Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. In the original version, Julie Nash’s last name was incorrect. The Bulletin regrets the error.