By Jason Boone
With the city of Bend, Oregon, making progress toward an expansion of its urban growth boundary, some observers of the real estate scene might think that the market for homes — both owner-occupied and rental — will relax from the last couple of years of tight inventory and rising prices.
But although the boundary expansion is designed to provide enough land for 17,000 homes, it will take a nontrivial amount of time before shovels hit dirt and homes come to market.
The Bend City Council approved the latest iteration of its expansion plan Wednesday night, moving the process further along. The working version of the expansion plan targets about 2,300 acres that could be developed under urban standards instead of governed by Deschutes County’s rules.
State law mandates cities create an urban growth boundary, to constrain the creep of urbanization into forests and farmlands. Bend’s planned expansion is hoped to account for population growth through 2028.
Having more buildable land inside Bend’s urban boundary should be a welcome event for developers and residents. The attractions of this once-sleepy mill town have led to a slim inventory of homes for sales, rising sales prices and a rental vacancy rate that has been less than 1.5 percent for four consecutive years.
“The biggest element of the lack of affordable housing is the lack of affordable and developable land within the urban growth boundary,” Tim Knopp, executive vice president of the Central Oregon Builders Association, said this year. “Until we start annexing land and getting a consistent urban growth boundary, we’re going to have affordability issues in the Bend market.”
Once the city council and the Deschutes County Commission approve the expansion plan, it still has to pass muster with the state. And that’s not a slam dunk. An earlier expansion plan — one that included more than three times as much land as the current plan targets — was rejected by the state in 2010.
State approval will come at the earliest this winter, a city planner said, according to a Bulletin article.
And once the state signs off, it’s not as simple as planting survey sticks and pouring foundations.
The expansion plan proposes neighborhoods that are, so to speak, self-contained. The new developments are envisioned to be convenient for foot and bike traffic, with workplaces and residences as well as amenities such as grocery stores. Designing such neighborhoods and bringing plans to fruition are complex, lengthy processes. Think years, not months.
So, although the urban growth boundary expansion holds out the promise of more housing, that promise doesn’t come with an expected due date.