Like many other fast-growing cities and towns in the country, Newberg is wrestling with the challenge of a lack of affordable housing. While the issue isn't as endemic as it is in cities like Portland, it is a growing problem for the city of Newberg.
At its March 1 meeting, the Newberg City Council accepted a housing needs analysis and a housing strategy that provided suggestions to alleviate the burgeoning crisis. The analysis provided key data that can guide policy decisions moving forward, officials said.
"The City Council originally accepted a housing needs analysis report in 2019," Community Development Director Doug Rux said. "Subsequently, Portland State (University) came out with new population forecasts and we then decided to update our housing needs analysis based on those numbers. We also wanted to recognize the absorption of land by development over a two-year period."
Newberg's population is expected to increase by nearly 8,000 in the next 20 years, an increase of approximately 32%, with an average annual growth rate of 1.39 percent. Rux said the city has a surplus of low-density residential land but faces a deficit of land parceled for medium- and high-density residential properties.
Cost is a central issue, too.
"One of the challenges that Newberg is facing, obviously, is rising housing prices," Rux said. "In 2018, the median sales price of a home in Newberg was $340,000. In 2020, that number had risen to $430,000. The median family income level had risen to about $92,100, but that didn't match the rise in housing costs."
A family making 30% of the median income in Newberg can afford rent of $690 a month – a figure almost nonexistent in Newberg. Someone at 50% of the median can afford $1,150 a month, or a home priced between $138,000 and $160,000, Rux said.
Most households in Newberg fall within the 30% to 80% range compared to the median, and the city anticipates an additional need of 3,169 housing units over the next two decades.
"There will be policy choices for the City Council in the future of how to address this deficit of land to accommodate the number of dwelling units based on the population projection," Rux said. "(On March 1), the council accepted the report which provided the data upon which their future policy decisions will be made."
The housing strategy accepted by the council has three major components: an adequate supply of land on which to build affordable housing, opportunity for a wider variety of housing types and a series of mandates and incentives to promote the development of affordable housing.
While the numbers show an uphill battle in the next 20 years to make Newberg a more affordable place to live, Rux said the acceptance of these reports is a crucial step toward taking action on the matter.
"The underpinning of all of this is how we can address housing affordability in Newberg," Rux said. "Fifty-three percent of renters are cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. 28.5% of our renters pay 50% or more of their income. How do we adjust the dial to address this affordability issue? That's the question we'll be asking and the council will be taking action on in the coming years."
Complete PDFs of the housing needs analysis and housing strategy are available on the city's website under the city council pages. The details of those plans can be found under March 1 council business, and any further updates regarding the issue of affordable housing will happen at the council level, too.
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