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Corvallis city vote impacts affordable housing initiatives

The council voted to be in compliance with a state law, that conflicts with the city's charter.

Posted: Feb. 8, 2018 6:31 PM

CORVALLIS, Ore., -- A city council vote that happened Monday in Corvallis could have an impact on the city's affordable housing initiatives. 

Barbra Bull, Corvallis City Councilor Ward 4, and Jim Moorefiel, the executive director of Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services agree Corvallis needs more affordable housing options for residents. To be able to do that, they recognize the need for acquiring more land through annexations. 

At the meeting Monday, the council voted to take the decisions of land annexation away from voters to comply with Senate Bill 1573, a 2016 Oregon State law. However, the problem is that the law conflicts with the city's charter. 

For the past few decades, the residents in the city have been able to vote on what land they want to be annexed and how to use it. This was something residents wanted.  Now, the state law is forcing them to rethink the way they do it. 

"What has happened was the state law says don't send it to a vote but go ahead and follow your own local laws," Bull said. "Well our local laws say the city council reviews it but the voters have a final say. So we are trying to figure out if we aren't sending it to a vote, what laws do we use, how do we interpret them in order to make a final decision using laws that weren't meant to be a final decision."

In the meantime, the City can't move forward with some of the big land annexations that have been considered. If they were able to annex that land, it could be used for developments. One of the areas that could be annexed is 118 acres, which is large enough to add about 1,000 new homes. 

Moorefield also said there is a current lack of land in the city that can be developed, which is part of the problem. 

"Homes sit on land, it's really simple," Moorefield said. "Without more land to build homes we are going to have a continuation of the affordable housing crisis."

Moorefield said 1 in 3 people spend more than half of their monthly income on housing. He said housing costs go up when there aren't enough homes being built. To build more homes, he said they need more land to build on. If they can do that, they could alleviate the problem.

The City is involved in a lawsuit to fight the state law. For now, councilors will consider their options and will meet again in 90 days to find a solution to the gap between state and city laws so they can annex land in the future.

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