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Consultants present information about St. Helens housing needs as work begins on anaylsis report

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL-PACHECO - Todd Chase and Tim Wodd, consultants with FCS Group, gave a brief presentation about housing needs and expected population grownth in St. Helens on Tuesday, Dec. 11. The consultants are expected now do complete a buildable lands study to determine where needed housing can be located in the city.Over the next 20 years, St. Helens is expected to need nearly 1,400 new units of housing to accommodate population growth.

Those figures come from a brief report produced by FCS Group, a Lake Oswego-based financial, economic and utility consulting analytic agency working with the city to create a housing needs analysis.

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, consultants Todd Chase and Tim Wood from FCS Group gave a brief presentation about the current state of housing in St. Helens.

According to the Portland State University population forecast, the city is expected to grow by 3,617 people over the next 20 years. If the ratio of owned-versus-rented properties stays the same, and St. Helens continues to utilize the same mix of single-family and multifamily dwellings, that equates to needing 1,398 new housing units within the next two decades, Wood and Chase explained.

Tuesday night's meeting drew a small crowd of about 10 people. The St. Helens Planning Commission, which is acting as the oversight committee for the housing study, also attended.

Many people who spoke during the public comment period voiced concerns about not just housing, but also having access to resources like mental health services and transportation, and the long-term livability and quality of life in St. Helens. Others noted that access to senior housing or alternative housing units, like cottage clusters or tiny homes, should also be considered when addressing the city's housing needs.

Tuesday night's event was the first of several meetings that will be held while the housing needs analysis is assembled. Chase and Wood expect to host another meeting in February to discuss the city's buildable lands inventory as the next phase of the process.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature passed a bill requiring cities with populations larger than 10,000 people with at least 25 percent of the population being categorized as severely rent-burdened, or paying more than half of their income on housing needs, to conduct housing needs studies and develop plans to address those needs. According to 2016 census data, 27 percent of people in St. Helens qualify as severely rent-burdened.

The Department of Land Conservation and Development received an appropriation of funds to help cities update their comprehensive plans by hiring consultants to address their needs.

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