City of Wilsonville unveils draft of affordable housing plan
After months of conducting online surveys, talking with residents, consulting with various bodies and analyzing mountains of information, the City of Wilsonville has released a draft of its plan to foster more affordable housing in the community.
"This plan is the first step in a change from business as usual," the draft plan reads.
Here's a rundown of some of the plan's ideas, aspirations and potential strategies moving forward.
For the past couple years, SMART (South Metro Area Regional Transit) Director Dwight Brashear has expressed enthusiasm about a potential affordable housing complex at the Wilsonville Transit Center on Barber Street. This idea is the first project listed in the draft plan.
One of the benefits of the project, according to the study, is the merging of two factors that can benefit low-income communities: affordable housing and access to transit.
"The Wilsonville Transit Center is one of the City's limited opportunities to provide true transit-oriented development within the community," the draft plan reads.
The plan outlines the possibility of conducting a study to more specifically examine the project and its feasibility. In an interview, City of Wilsonville Senior Planner Kimberly Rybold said the project likely would require a partnership with a nonprofit organization, and some funding could be attained through Metro's recent general obligation bond measure designed to spur affordable housing.
The plan also states that the current grounds for the police and public works building and community center near City Hall as a potential affordable housing site.
Another idea listed is exploring tax abatement programs that would provide developers with incentives to build affordable housing. Some more specific possibilities include vertical housing development zones, which provide incentives for developers to construct buildings with ground floor retail and housing above; tax exemptions for newly rehabilitated or multifamily rental housing; and a multiunit property tax exemption that also can incentivize multifamily housing with certain features.
"By reducing ongoing operating costs for housing through a housing tax abatement, the City could help to incent developers to include affordable units as part of larger development projects," the plan reads.
The plan also includes the idea of the City purchasing land that could be developed with affordable housing, reducing parking requirements to lower builder costs, and exploring ways the City could reduce system development charges (SDCs, one-time charges to developers to pay for impacts to public infrastructure).
"Developers working in Wilsonville have stated that SDCs have a big impact on project costs, even though Wilsonville's SDCs are comparable to the regional averagew," according to the plan.
However, Rybold said that idea hasn't been fleshed out and could be tricky to execute because the City needs SDC money to maintain public facilities.
"The biggest thing we'd have to look at from the City is how you offset the cost of needed infrastructure if you're waiving SDCs," she said. "The money has to come from somewhere to make those improvements."
Additionally, the plan states that exploring homeownership support programs and potentially creating standards that make homes more accessible to those who are impaired or disabled as potential initiatives.
"Many residents expressed a desire to see more one-level homes. This speaks to the need for more accessible homes that can accommodate people with mobility challenges," the plan reads.
By the principal of supply and demand, it would stand to reason that allowing for more dense housing would lead to cheaper housing process.
However, the plan doesn't address density other than stating that the City would comply with House Bill 2001, a state bill that will require medium and large cities to allow for more middle housing such as duplexes and triplexes.
"The purpose of this project isn't to look at larger plans for development," Rybold said.
The City listed a few funding sources that could be applicable to this project.
One option is using tax increment financing (TIF) zones, which spark development by collecting taxes associated with increases in property values and uses that toward public infrastructure projects. The City currently has three TIF districts.
"Wilsonville should review its current TIF districts to determine if there is potential project funding available for housing development (that would comply with the district plan) and the legal capacity for the City to expand or establish new TIF districts that could include allowances for housing assistance," the plan reads.
Another idea is to approve a construction excise tax — taxes added to permit fees that would go toward affordable housing projects. The plan calls for the City to study how much revenue such a tax could generate and the impacts it could have on development activity.
The City could also more easily fund projects by collaborating with private organizations, Clackamas County and the State of Oregon to build affordable housing, the plan states.
Some of the goals listed include creating better outcomes for people of color, students, seniors and people with disabilities as well as fostering lower medical expenses and more stable employment. Citing research, the plan posited that affordable housing can positively impact all of these populations and factors.
The plan calls for the City to develop performance measures to assess how implementation progresses.
Some measures listed include documenting information about how many affordable homes are produced, how accessible new homes are to public services, conversations with property owners, homeowners' associations and developers, the share of rent-burdened residents and about mortgage applications and denials.
Notably, the plan states that the City intends to advance some of the projects listed in the next two years.
Rybold said the citizen task force created to help develop the plan, as well as the community at large, played important roles in bringing the idea close to fruition. And she appreciates their help.
"I think we're just really appreciative of different ideas we've gotten from the community and task force," she said. "It's a pretty big topic that doesn't have clear answers, but we've got a lot of interesting ideas out of this and it will be really neat to see moving forward how these ideas can be further explored and try to address some of the issues everyone faces."
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