City endorses affordable housing bond
In discussions about Metro's affordable housing measure during last Monday's Wilsonville City Council work session, councilors expressed uncertainty about how the measure slated for the November ballot would work in practice and acknowledged that it isn't a solution to the region's housing quagmire.
But Wilsonville City Council felt the issue of housing cost and scarcity was too pressing a matter to ignore. The council voted 4-0 to officially endorse the measure and a constitutional amendment that would allow governments to collaborate with developers to produce housing, which is another ballot measure, at the council meeting that evening. Because of the vote, the council will be listed as endorsers of the measures on official ballots.
"It seems to me that housing is a significant issue, as it is across much of the U.S. and I believe that we collectively have some responsibility to try to ameliorate those conditions," Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said. "There's no such thing as curing it or fixing it. It's only a question of doing more or less to help the situation."
The $652 million bond would be paid for via a tax of 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. This would go toward building housing units for people making 80 percent or less of the region's median income, which was $65,120 for a family of four according to the ballot measure. Wilsonville City Attorney Barbara Jacobson pointed out that the tax would cost about $65 a year for a household with an income of $250,000, though the average house in Wilsonville's assessed value is higher than that figure.
Metro projects that the measure would provide housing to 7,500 residents. That number could rise to 12,000 if voters pass the constitutional amendment to allow public-private collaboration.
"This is not a fix but it's a question of do you want to do something or do you want to ignore what is really affecting people in Wilsonville and the broader community," Wilsonville Councilor Kristin Akervall said.
Knapp said the bond could allow the City to develop projects similar to Creekside Woods — a publicly subsidized complex for seniors in Wilsonville.
Wilsonville Councilor Charlotte Lehan said the measure could benefit Wilsonville citizens even if new affordable housing units weren't added to the city because an influx of affordable housing across the region could drive down rents in Wilsonville.
"Providing more affordable housing anywhere assists affordable housing everywhere," she said.
Wilsonville Council President Scott Starr was absent; Knapp said Starr was more skeptical about the measure and probably would have voted against endorsement.
Wilsonville City Councilor Susie Stevens said she heard harrowing stories of people unable to afford housing and believes that the region's affordable housing scarcity is a crisis.
"To do nothing is unacceptable," she said. "We have to address this in some way."
After considering feedback from open houses, the Town Center Plan Task Force, Wilsonville Planning Commission meetings and online surveys, the City of Wilsonville has inched closer to completing a plan that would finalize a long-term vision to aid in planning the future of Town Center.
Town Center Master Plan
During the council meeting, Planning Manager Miranda Bateschell presented Town Center Plan designs and updated councilors about the overall plan.
The draft plan contains possible changes in land uses for various areas of Town Center, as well as alterations to the street network.
The plan would call for the addition of a "Main Street" featuring mixed-use facilities, small shops and pedestrian and bike facilities. It would be surrounded by green spaces, a street network for various modes of transportation and other mixed-use areas.
"We heard excitement about Main Street. People are excited for the taller buildings. They're excited for mixed uses," Bateschell said. "They're excited about small, local businesses, keeping the ones we have ... and hopefully seeing more diversity when it comes to that."
The proposed plan also contains a promenade, which would have mixed-use buildings containing residential, retail, entertainment and office spaces as well as benches, trees, a green wall or mural, a space for bicyclists and a pedestrian crossing.
Akervall asked if the plan included attractive surrounding areas to lure people to Main Street.
"In some ways I think we're hoping that's what the promenade will do," Bateschell said. "That's a very dynamic space."
Bateschell said — based on feedback from the public —the City designated the proposed park on the north end of Town Center near the proposed pedestrian and bicycle bridge over I-5 as a scenic gathering space but not a full-fledged park that would rival other local parks in the area.
"They don't want to put another park on the edge, by I-5. They'd rather that it is a gateway. It should draw people into the
Town Center," Bateschell said.
Bateschell said the planning commission and taskforce advised City staff to forge more stringent design requirements on Main Street so the City can more precisely create its vision while the peripheral mixed zoning areas would have less stringent requirements. Knapp identified limiting building footprint as an important factor for planning the redevelopment.
Though Bateschell said staff will go into further detail about parking at the next council meeting, Lehan said she would prefer parking that is not alloted to specific retailers but the area as a whole. And she said parking is an impor-tant aspect of the planning process.
"I think we need to be up front about parking and not treat it as an invisible thing and we're just gonna show all the pretty pictures with people without cars and assuming they aren't there," Lehan said.
The plan is expected to go before city council for approval this fall.