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Madras needs housing, and a program that cuts SDCs to hopefully inspire builders is a good step toward the city reaching an aggressive goal of 165 new homes in five years

The city of Madras is stirring the pot to try and get more houses built in town.

A 2017 study the city had EcoNorthwest conduct showed that an alarming number of people are commuting to work in Madras. That's great that the jobs are here, but it is also screaming proof that people are choosing not to live in Madras, for whatever reason.

Using 2015 data, the study indicated that there were 2,248 people coming to town to work and 1,436 leaving Madras to work. I assume that includes many people who live on the outskirts of town, outside the city limits, coming a couple miles into town to work, which skews the numbers.

But there's no doubt that Madras has a problem with many of the community's workers — certainly in its relatively well-paid jobs with the school district, other government offices, state prison, etc., but also in its blue-collar manufacturing jobs — choosing to live elsewhere.

The housing issue is only part of that problem, of course. But it's one that the city could attack relatively quickly. It did, issuing an incentive plan to reduce system development charges for new housing construction.

According to Madras Community Development Director Nick Snead, there is a housing stock shortage of about 850 homes within the city limits. Largely because, as the city has grown over the last 15 years, housing construction has dwindled. In the boom, 2005, the city had 254 building permits. In 2017, that number was 91 for the entire county, with 18 in Madras. In 2018, the county total was 82, with only 12 in Madras.

While we have long climbed out of the Great Recession, local home building still thinks it's 2011.

Whatever the city can do to spike home development is probably a good idea. SDCs that Madras charges are generally close to what other Central Oregon communities are charging, but they make up a larger percentage of the builders' profits than they do in Redmond and Prineville, where prices are higher.

Under the program, the city would give a builder 75 percent SDCs discount on a multifamily project; 50 percent for a home selling under $240,000 and 25 percent for one selling for more than that. In an aggressive five-year plan, the city hopes it can add 40 homes for lower income people ($30,360 total annual income), 75 for middle income ($30,360 to $60,720) and 50 homes above middle income.

That's 165 homes in five years, within the city limits. That's a nice goal that would revitalize the community.

With the economy as strong as it has been for several years, you would think Madras could draw more home construction action, and prompt more people to choose Madras, than has been occurring. The city's move to prime that pump is a good one.


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