While touring what soon will become Bend’s largest affordable housing complex, gubernatorial candidate and former Rep. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, saw potential for the rest of the state.
“If Bend can do it, other places can do it,” Kotek said.
On Thursday, Kotek made her first stop in a two-day campaign tour through Central Oregon at Stillwater Crossing, a 240-unit affordable housing complex currently being built in south Bend off U.S. Highway 97.
The first 24 units have been completed and leased out, and cost roughly $1,100 a month, depending on the unit, according to Justin Metcalf of Wishcamper Development Partners.
Kotek’s time in Central Oregon will mostly be focused on learning and talking about housing issues in Bend.
Kotek was the longest-serving speaker of the House in Oregon history but resigned in January to run for governor.
In an interview with The Bulletin, Kotek said her goal if elected governor would be to give local communities the resources they need to address housing shortages and remove barriers that keep development from occurring efficiently.
That could mean figuring out ways to make Oregon Department of Transportation land available, or getting the state involved in putting in public works infrastructure like sewer lines in more undeveloped areas — such as southeast Bend — to facilitate development.
It is also important to reduce the upfront cost of building, Kotek said, and she suggested letting developers pay system development charges after people are in units instead of at the beginning of the project.
“I just think we need to put everything on the table to be creative and move barriers to do projects like (Stillwater Crossing),” Kotek said.
Because communities are relatively limited by how much revenue they can generate from property taxes, Kotek said investing more resources into local communities will be important in tackling the state’s housing shortage.
“We just can’t wait. We can’t sit around for five years and say we have to do this,” she said. “We have to do this every year for the next 10 years to get ahead of this.”
Kotek said she supports exhausting all options, such as figuring out how to build as much as possible within the urban growth boundary and doing targeted annexations. Then, there needs to be a faster process to move the urban growth boundary, she said.
Kotek also toured the Second Street homeless shelter operated by Shepherd’s House Ministries on Thursday.
“We need an emergency, urgent plan to get people stabilized,” Kotek said. “It’s hard to get people into housing until they’re stable.”
Kotek said getting more resources to local communities to help pay for the work that needs to be done to reach people and stabilize them is a priority. Making Medicaid funding more flexible to reimburse services that are already happening is one approach, she said.
“We just have to prioritize that,” she said.
On Friday, Kotek is scheduled to hold a roundtable at Oregon State University-Cascades about child care and tour Central Oregon Veterans Village.
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