With roughly two weeks left in the 2019 session of the Oregon Legislature, two bills introduced by state Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, deserve more attention than they’ve received so far.

House Bill 3450 would give the city of Bend the right to adopt rules allowing mixed-use housing in areas where the land is zoned for employment. The bill is tailored to Bend, and it would give the city the right to approve such things as buildings with commercial space on a bottom floor and housing above along Third Street.

The measure received a first reading in the House on June 10 and has been assigned to the rules committee. No hearings or other action have been scheduled.

House Bill 3242 would speed up the state’s process for selling surplus lands. Helt plans to amend the original to set specific timelines, among other things

While the original measure is aimed at the state’s Stevens Road property east of Bend, it doesn’t mention that land specifically. That was a problem for some lawmakers who worried that it’s too broad and could be applied to other properties outside the Bend area. Helt’s proposed amendment would apply specifically to the Stevens Road property.

Helt, in the bill’s only public hearing, makes valid points in defending HB 3242. At the rate the proposed sale of the Stevens Road property, which could be used for housing, is progressing, she told members of the rules committee, it’s likely to be 20 years from the time talks began to the time the sale becomes a reality. That’s too long. One solution, she believes, would be to allow several steps in the process to be completed simultaneously. Finally, she told the committee, it’s the Legislature that created the convoluted and time-consuming process, and lawmakers should correct the mess they’ve made.

If they were approved, Helt’s bills wouldn’t solve Bend’s severe housing problems. They’d help, however, and that’s the whole idea.

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