Home building

A house under construction in Baker City. A recent housing needs analysis projects the city will need between 235 and 460 home units, including duplexes and other multi-family dwellings, by 2040.

The Baker City Planning Commission wants to know what residents think about the city’s housing situation, including zoning rules.

The Commission is inviting the public to attend a hearing on that topic on Wednesday, June 16 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 1655 First St.

The public hearing is part of the city’s effort to update its comprehensive plan and development code, with a focus on housing issues including:

• Updating the housing chapter of the comprehensive land use plan.

• Consider which housing policies will be most effective for the city in the future.

• Easing restrictions for duplexes in residential zones, making review standards the same as for single-family dwellings.

Earlier this year, consultants finished two studies for the city related to this process — a housing needs analysis and a buildable lands inventory.

Those studies conclude that based on the city’s projected growth rate, it will likely need between 235 and 460 more homes by 2040, including single-family homes, townhouses, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and apartments.

According to the housing needs analysis, done by Johnson Economics of Portland, Baker City has added just over 300 new housing units since 2000, a growth of about 7%.

During that same period, the number of new households in the city is about 440, “indicating that housing growth has not kept pace with growing need.”

The analysis noted that the number of households in the city has grown at a faster rate than the population, due to a decreasing trend in the average number of people per household.

“As of 2020, the city had an estimated housing stock of roughly 4,738 units for its 4,313 estimated households,” the housing needs analysis states. “This still translates to an estimated average vacancy rate of over 8%. Much of this discrepancy is likely due to second home and short-term rental units, which are counted as vacant as they have no permanent resident.”

The buildable lands inventory shows the city has more than enough residentially zoned property to meet the projected need of 235 to 460 more homes by 2040 — the inventory can accommodate about 2,440 additional homes.

With housing prices rising dramatically over the past year, the timing is ideal for this update, said Holly Kerns, director of the Baker City-County Planning Department.

“The housing market is very tight right now, and Baker City needed up-to-date information on housing needs in order to make decisions that will help meet all of our community’s needs going forward,” Kerns said in a press release. “The data from the housing needs analysis gives us a clear picture of where we are now, and what the needs are projected to be in the future. Baker City has enough residential land available but there are current demands for housing of all different price levels that aren’t currently being met. We need the community’s input on how the City can play a role in addressing housing needs going forward.”

In addition to adopting the housing needs analysis, the Planning Commission is considering making other changes to the development code, including:

• Modifying setback requirements for self-storage facilities

• Modifying the maximum size allowances in the General Commercial zone

• Correcting Development Code errors.

The Baker City Council is scheduled to have a joint meeting with the Planning Commission on July 14, and later this summer, probably starting in late July, the City Council will also have public hearings on the proposed changes to the development code and comprehensive plan.

The City Council has the final authority on those regulations.

A list of proposed changes, as well as copies of the housing needs analysis and buildable lands inventory, is available on the city’s website, http://bakercity.com/2157/Planning-Department.

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