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Planners consider Madras plan an innovative model as home building surges locally

PAT KRUIS/MADRAS PIONEER
 - The model home is going up in the Willowbrook subdivision in north Madras. MonteVista Homes plans to build 153 houses here. The goal to attract developers to Madras has gone better than planners expected.

Home building in Madras obliterated the city's goal for 2020. The city set a goal to build 33 new homes in 2020, developers built 58. In most cases, people have already moved into those houses, with even more houses going up.

"I feel terrific!" says Madras Community Development Director Nick Snead. "It's an amazing accomplishment." Snead credits city leaders for attracting developers to invest in Madras.

The city devised a way to help developers pay the costs of infrastructure. "Any public piece of infrastructure, sewer, water, transportation that are connected to the development but not directly adjacent to it comes at a high cost," says Snead. ""What we've learned through our research is that tends to make or break a project."

Usually developers pay for the streets, sidewalks, sewer and water up front, before they begin realizing income by selling the homes. Madras created a Housing Urban Renewal District (HURD) which pays for that groundwork with the taxes they expect to receive from the increased value to the property.

Developers noticed.

"Anytime a city that needs job growth and has housing issues has an avenue to help a developer," says Steve Wilson, vice president of marketing at MonteVista Homes, "it's going to make a city more competitive to attracting developers."

MonteVista Homes is building a 153-lot subdivision, Willowbrook, in north Madras. Wilson says the Central Oregon housing market is hot right now. Affordability gives Madras an edge.

"When you look at price differential of $100,000 between Redmond and Madras, then the 40-minute commute doesn't look that bad."

IMAGE COURTESY OF MONTEVISTA HOMES
 - An artist's rendering of the MonteVista Homes model home at the Willowbrook subdivision."Madras is incredibly innovative in approaching the housing crisis," says Scott Edelman with the Department of Land Conservation and Development. Edelman represents Central Oregon and says the housing shortage hurts all the communities in the region. "I can't think of any city doing as much (as Madras). They're working hard."

Edelman says it's unusual to see a city with population less than 10,000 taking these kinds of steps. "This could provide a model for other cities as well."

"That's fantastic," says Michele Reeves, a planning consultant with the firm Civilis Consultants. Reeves agrees these efforts are unusual for a community this size and especially a rural community. "I think Madras has been really innovative looking at their urban renewal funds, and really nimble in looking at new ways to use their investment funds."

Reeves steers the plan for revitalizing the Madras downtown core. She appreciates how more housetops in broader Madras invigorates the downtown. "You have a chance to really cherry pick the kind of interesting people who will open new and interesting businesses downtown."

Reeves expects to use Madras as an example when she consults with cities across the country.

Wilson says more houses, at a variety of price points, will attract companies to locate in Madras. "We're really excited about Madras because the vibe in downtown Madras is starting to be fun."

Snead believes this is the beginning of better things to come. "As long as interest rates stay low and the stock market stays high, as long as there continues to be housing shortages in Central Oregon and the Portland area, as long as more people want to leave urban areas for smaller communities, I think Madras will continue to see housing development."


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