It’s no secret that housing has become a hot topic all throughout Oregon.
So what got us into this situation? Some people would be quick to blame “greedy developers.” But the fact of the matter is, no housing unit, anywhere, will ever cost less than the land under it. And the vast majority of the land in Oregon is undeveloped. Some of that is due to federal ownership, some is simply because of geography. But much of it is regulatory.
That’s even the case here in Clackamas County. I’m familiar with the burdens associated with developing properties, as my family has done it in the county and other places over the years.
The way they’re written now, there is little to no flexibility in the county’s codes that would make it easier to develop properties and increase the supply of housing. It should be easier, for example, to build housing in the rural parts of the county. There are ways to get this done without turning those small towns into suburbs. However, some of our current commissioners have been getting in the way of making the changes needed for this to happen.
Between the state and county governments, developing a piece of property is not a user-friendly process. And it needs to be, if want to actually address this issue in a way that’s going to fix it.
The solution isn’t to create more government agencies and programs, give them a bunch of taxpayer dollars and expect the problem to magically be solved. That’s what has been attempted and it clearly isn’t working.
In the bigger picture, the reason housing is so expensive in Oregon is because the demand is greater than the supply. Government policies are largely responsible for keeping that from occurring.
Think about it this way—is a developer going to go out of their way to spend money acquiring a piece of property, obtaining building materials and hiring a crew to construct housing, just to charge less for it than it cost to build? Of course not, and nobody should expect them to. No business owner is going to go out of his or her way to lose money on a project.
I’m also not advocating for those developers to be subsidized by or through government programs, because that has the potential to go wrong in many ways. But I do believe, based on my direct experience of managing development projects, that state and county agencies can adopt policies that would make it easier for developers to create the additional housing stock and supply that is so badly needed right now.
Some of it can be easily achieved through better customer service. What business owners and developers do like is predictability. They want to make sure that their investments pan out.
Time is money when it comes to development projects. Anything that the county can do create the best conditions for homebuilders, including flexibility and manageable timelines without causing needless delays, will go a long way towards helping to solve this difficult problem.
As your next Clackamas County Commissioner, I will make all of these things among my top priorities, so we can get down to business and have the housing we need for our current and future growth.