Planners talk reduction in rent-burdened’ households

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
The Planning Commission met Wednesday, April 20, to discuss a drop in the number of Lebanon households categorized as “severely rent burdened.”
The Oregon Housing and Community Services Department reported that, in 2019, 35.8 percent of Lebanon renters fell under that classification, where households spent more than 50 percent of their income on rent and utilities. That figure dropped to 32.9 in 2020, then to 29.2 in 2021, and currently sits at 26.1.
Community Development Director Kelly Hart attributed the decrease to an influx of new apartments over the last few years. She said that people who paid higher rents for single-family homes were saving several hundred dollars with apartments.
“The numbers constitute people moving around,” she said. “It’s not new people coming in, although we get plenty of that, but it’s people being able to shift in their living cycle, which they haven’t been able to do before.”
According to Hart, several factors contributed to this explosion of multi-family units.
“The (medical) college creates market demand for it, the people coming into our region creates market demand for it, the fact that we’re more affordable in comparison to Corvallis and Albany makes the market demand for it,” she said.
Now developers are approaching the city with applications for subdivisions. In fact, Hart said, there have been no pre-application meetings with a developer for apartments this year, and she anticipated more subdivision growth as the west side interceptor progresses.
“The more you open up the southern half of the city with the west side interceptor, the more you are going to get the pull for single-family,” she said.
Commissioner Don Robertson, who’s served on the commission for a number of years, said he’s seen development trends come and go. Many subdivisions went in long ago, with apartments being the more recent trend. He agreed, however, that the single-family homes trend would return with the interceptor.
He expressed fascination with developers’ understanding of the area, knowing what the market demands in Lebanon are, and even how long it would take to fill apartments.
“They’ve done their homework,” he said. “When they come in, they already know the market, they know the trends and they’re ready to go. We as a planning commission kind of ride that wave.”

In other business, the commission:
♦ Held a public hearing for and approved the annexation of a vacant .25-acre lot on the east side of Cascade Drive between Wagon Wheel Drive and Seven Oak Middle School. The developed residential neighborhood is zoned residential mixed density. Surrounding the lot are residential properties within the county with improved single-family homes. The public right-of-way is within city limits, making the property eligible for annexation. Public facilities are within reach for access.
Developer Scott Shaw informed the city of his intention to build a single-family home on the lot, but that process isn’t part of the annexation hearing, according to Hart.
♦ Appointed Don Robertson to Planning Commission chair, with Jeremy Salvage as vice chair. These new appointments are made annually.