A majority of Bend residents support building taller and denser housing within the city in pursuit of more affordable options, according to a survey conducted by the Bend Chamber of Commerce.
The survey, which was conducted in August by GS Strategy Group and Gallatin Public Affairs, asked 250 likely voters about growth, housing affordability and what solutions should be considered to address both. Survey participants ranged between 18 to over 65 years old, and represent a roughly equal split between Republicans and Democrats.
The survey also includes people who have lived in the area between one year to more than 20 years. However, 43% of participants fell into the category of living in the area for more than 20 years. The survey did not appear to ask whether the respondent was a renter or homeowner.
The survey was released Tuesday and will be presented to the Bend City Council at its Wednesday meeting.
The goal of collecting this data was to get a sense of how the community felt about the housing shortage so it could be provided to local government bodies as they consider housing policies and other decisions, said Katy Brooks, executive director of the chamber.
“It’s easy to hear from folks who show up to City Council meetings,” Brooks said Monday. “But there’s also an added benefit of having raw data from the community as a whole.”
Roughly two-thirds of participants said they knew someone who couldn’t move to Bend or had to move away from Bend because they couldn’t find somewhere affordable to live.
“This is way beyond crisis level,” said Brooks.
In general, 68% of people surveyed were supportive of building more infill housing, and 57% supported expanding the city’s urban growth boundary, which delineates where the city can develop.
Just over half of survey respondents supported “increasing the height of buildings to six stories specifically in areas designated for affordable apartments and condos,” according to the survey.
The survey is the first of its kind for the chamber, Brooks said, but her sense is that community support is a change in attitude toward housing than has been seen in the past.
Brooks also noted that more survey respondents, 58%, thought rising rents were a bigger housing problem than rising purchase costs. Brooks believes this is tied to the local labor shortage businesses are reporting, which reflects how difficult it is for people to live in Bend.
Median rent for rental homes in Bend is up 22% and for apartments it’s up by 19% from the beginning of this year, according to data from Dwellsy, an online inventory for rentals nationwide.
“Building single-family housing exclusively, or as a majority, is probably not going to happen. It’s just going to be too expensive,” Brooks said. “The survey was pretty clear in saying we need a wider variety in housing types.”
Despite this, 50% of respondents said Bend should still hold on to “its small-town character and resist changes like allowing taller multistory buildings in the downtown area for apartments and offices,” versus 45% of respondents who said those kinds of developments should be embraced, given that Bend is a medium-sized city.
The chamber hopes the survey will help launch initiatives that push for broader housing types, as well as to help identify employers who are interested in developing workforce housing, Brooks said.
There are several ways employers can participate in the development of workforce housing, including by donating land or investing in a developer’s project in exchange for securing a certain number of units for their own workers, Brooks said.
Industries can come together to invest in housing, as well. For example: Bend’s breweries could come together to invest in a housing development that would house brewery employees, Brooks said.
Increased wages alone can’t solve the employee shortage most employers are facing, Brooks said.
“The gap between affording rents and affording a mortgage in Bend cannot be entirely made up across the board by increased wages. It’s just too big,” Brooks said. “There’s not enough actual physical places for people to live here.”