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However, home prices have made entry-level quality homes difficult for some people to afford

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Applications for residential planning permits has remained steady the past three years.

City planning applications for residential home construction suggest that building is likely to continue at the same rate as the past couple of years.

According to data compiled by the City Planning Director Josh Smith, builders have requested permits for 74 single-family dwellings in 2018 as one month remains in the calendar year. This number is slightly higher than 2017 when application for 70 units was received for such structures. Smith went on to note that data kept during the city's fiscal year likewise suggests a similar rate of development. From July to December 2017, the city received application for 29 units, and developers have applied to build the same number of units during the same timeframe in 2018.

This rate of development coincides with a time in which Crook County has been named the second-fastest growing county in Oregon by the Portland State University Population Center. The last time the county held this distinction, a housing boom resulted in developers applying for and building homes at a breakneck pace.

Smith, who worked for the city planning department during the housing boom years of the prior decade, remembers people "subdividing property like crazy" and building multiple homes before they had a buyer.

That is not happening this time, Smith says. Most of the time, developers are building a home that somebody has already agreed to buy.

While those scenarios differ, one way present day is similar to the housing boom is home prices. Smith notes that home prices have gotten so high that many can't afford an entry-level quality home. As a result, demand for housing far outpaces supply, despite the steady application to develop single-family dwellings.

So far, in 2018, some applications have come in for smaller homes in subdivisions like McKay Meadows, Smith notes, but the rest have been for areas like Pahlisch Homes, IronHorse and Crystal Springs where covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) and homeowner association requirements demand the building of higher quality, and therefore more expensive, homes.

This situation is also spurred by the fact that developers are mostly applying to fill lots that were already subdivided during the housing boom and left vacant after the market crashed.

"There are a lot of vacant lots on the ground," Smith said, noting that more than 200 still remain, many of them in the Pahlisch and IronHorse areas. He added that the planning department has fielded few requests to create new lots for development.

Building could very well continue at the same pace as last year. Smith pointed out that late 2017 and early 2018 numbers were boosted by a mild winter that resulted in virtually no home construction slowdown. Another mild winter could result in the same situation and long-term weather forecasts call for warmer and drier conditions than usual.

Whether that helps meet local demand remains to be seen, although Smith contends that the housing problem has more to do with prices than inventory.

The picture might get clearer next year. Smith said that the city will be completing a housing needs assessment at some point in 2019, which will focus on what the community lacks and what to do about it.

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