Like every city in Oregon, Springfield faces a number of housing challenges, Katie Carroll and Erin Fifeld told City Club on February 2. At direction of the Council, they aid, staff is pursuing several alternatives to achieve the strategic goal of the Council: to make Springfield a welcoming community for all people in every stage of life. The PowerPoint presentation can be found HERE.
Ms. Carroll, the City’s Housing Analyst, described the existing housing stock as challenging. Over 70% of housing in the City Is either single family or duplex, with only about 30 percent in three or more unit buildings. It is also older stock, she said: over 80 percent of the housing is more than 20 years old. Although new multifamily housing grew in 2022, that was after a significant decline in 2021.
Housing is also, she said, becoming more and more expensive. Springfield prices, which averaged under $200,000 in 2015 rose to almost $450,000 by the second quarter of 2022. tenants in rental housing face even greater challenges, she said. While almost half of rentals are under $1,000 per month, a significant portion grow up as high as $1,500. This is particularly problematic since the annual income of renters is significantly below the median of all residents. As a result, almost half of all renters are “cost-burdened” in that they are paying more than 30 percent of their income to cover the cost of housing.
In addition to these challenges, homeless appears to again be on the rise in the community.
To address the challenges, Ms. Carroll said, the Council has directed staff to pursue number of objectives. These include implementation of an overnight parking program, a program to permit temporary RV occupancy on private property. The City is also seeking to establish a new Egan Warming Center site.
Ms. Fifeld, the City’s Economic Development Analyst, pointed to several initiatives designed to encourage the development of affordable housing. In addition to federal funds that are available, the City has been authorized a $3 million grant in state funds to create a manufactured dwelling park. The state funds can be used to purchase land which would then be developed by a non-profit partner. The City is now looking for partners or other agencies that have available land to take advantage of the grant.
The City also will waive certain development fees for non-profit organizations who wish to develop affordable housing and will offer a 20-year property tax exemption for low income development. The Council has also allocated up to $300,000 in waivers of systems development charges for projects which can offer affordable home ownership. This is in line with the Council’s goal to prioritize home ownership. SDC waivers to present challenges, however, since the revenues collected from SDCs are essential if the City is to construct the infrastructure necessary to support future development. Most recently, the City took steps to ease the development of accessory dwelling units, which allow for increased residential density. In response to a question, City staff said that 48 ADUs have been approved since the program was begun in 2018.
The City is also taking steps to support the affordability of rental housing. Already in place is a property tax exemption for Low income rental property, and the City may consider a property tax exemption for multi-family housing in the near future. The City is making available some one time Community development Block Gant COVID funding for rent assistance for low income households.
For low-income homeowners the City also has its home repair program which can offer homeowners up to $10,000 for repairs. Last year 78 homeowners took advantage of that program as well as its home ownership program under which the City can loan up to $25,000 toward the down payment related costs of buying a qualified home in Springfield. The loan is interest-free and repayment is generally not required until the home is sold, refinanced, or transferred.
Finally, the City is moving ahead with its Land Development Code update, which generally refreshes the code relating to land development and also responds to the action of the state legislature under House Bill 20-01 which requires that duplexes up to fourplexes be allowed in all areas =zoned for single family residential housing. Part of the response to that requirement is an increased focus on what is described as “middle housing” – denser development that allows for townhomes and cottage cluster development.