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Housing study population growth projections questioned

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Villebois still retains a good portion of Wilsonvilles available residential development capacity under Metro regulations. With an extensive analysis of Wilsonville’s housing stock already underway, city councilors now are questioning some of the fundamental assumptions underlying the study.

A Dec. 2 work session held jointly by the Wilsonville City Council and planning commission saw Mayor Tim Knapp and others strongly challenging growth projections used by consultants to craft a plan for future residential development in the Frog Pond planning area on the east side of the city. They said that not only do growth projections used in a draft report not apply directly to Wilsonville, they fail to take into account the projected growth in jobs the city is expected to experience as a result of projected industrial development.

Failure to do so, they said, could render useless the current study, which is largely focused on how to plan for residential development on the east side of the city.

“The assumptions you accept make a huge difference,” Knapp said.

EcoNorthwest planning consultant Bob Parker said at the work session that annual growth projections ranging from 1.8 percent to 2.8 percent are being used to gauge the future housing needs in the Frog Pond area, a 181-acre parcel of land bordered on the east by Stafford Road and on the south by Boeckman Road. The former figure comes from Metro and represents projected annual population growth throughout the region over the next 20 years. The latter figure represents the actual growth rate in the metro region over the past 20 years.

The study is required by state law and state long-range planning goal 10, which requires cities to maintain adequate housing stocks in a variety of categories. Wilsonville currently has 477 acres of developable land available for residential use, including Frog Pond. And because the city already has an excess of multifamily housing — 57 percent of its housing falls in this category — it could choose to plan the Frog Pond area mainly with single-family homes.

The big question there is how many homes to build.

“I find it troubling that the official analysis is that we are growing at 1.8 percent, and yet in the last 10 years we’ve been growing at 2.8 percent and the last 20 years we’ve been growing at a 4.9 percent average,” Knapp said.

If the historic 20-year growth rate of 4.9 percent is applied to the next 20 years, he added, it could mean up to 10,000 more households in Wilsonville.

“That means we’re guessing somewhere between 3,700 and 10,000 households, depending on which assumptions we accept,” he said. “How do you plan with no greater certainty than that? How do we make an intelligent choice other than just by the seat of the pants?”

As envisioned by the draft report, the Frog Pond area could be the future home of between 738 and 1,256 new residential units, mainly single-family detached homes, if growth rates of 1.8 or 2.8 percent are applied to planning for the area.

When combined with Wilsonville’s current limited supply of housing, however, housing across the entire city based on the first figure would leave the city hundreds of units short of projected need before the next 20 years are up.

In the end, Parker said that Wilsonville does not have to choose to accommodate a 4.9 percent growth rate.

It’s not really Wilsonville’s choice, responded Knapp, who pointed to preliminary estimates that Wilsonville could see up to 9,000 more jobs created in the next two decades as a result of expected development.

“Much of the regionally designated significant industrial ground is sitting on our doorstep,” he said. “We didn’t ask for it, they gave it to us. So if we’re going to be responsible partners, either we’re going to have to be willing to live with a lot more traffic or we’re going to have to live with a lot more housing, or both.”

Councilor Scott Starr emphasized that the addition of roughly 1,000 apartment units to the mix in just the last two years is “going to radically change what’s going on” when it comes to planning.

“If jobs come here and there’s available land for housing, we’re going to grow because of demand,” Starr said. “And we’ve seen how good that forecast is so far. To that end I’d say it falls on us. We can control it depending on how we choose to develop in the future.”




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