Affordable Oregon’s first annual Local Government Accountability Project (LGAP) was released in early June and the study is creating interest from friends and foes.
Since publicly releasing the study, Affordable Oregon has been fielding calls and emails from local press, jurisdictions included in the study, jurisdictions NOT included in the study who wondered why they were left out, builders, developers and community development organizations. The response, whether negative or positive, is great because it means the LGAP is creating discussion of local government’s effect on affordable housing. Our goal as an organization is to begin the conversation and then seek meaningful action.
Here are some links, responses and questions we have received specifically with regard to the LGAP. In some cases, the study has become intertwined with the upcoming Metro Property Tax Increase debate. Affordable Oregon has taken a strong position against the measure and is actively working to defeat the proposed $652.8 million dollar property tax increase on the ballot in November.
Article today in the Portland Tribune:
Our Executive Director talks about the LGAP plus the Metro Tax and the Tribune was nice enough to put a photo of his ugly mug with it. Avert your eyes and read the article, its pretty good!
North Clackamas Chamber Public Policy Committee:
Presented the LGAP to a group yesterday that included several local jurisdictions (all of which were included in the study). Several excellent questions, mostly surrounding methodology.
Questions from jurisdictions via email:
“How did you arrive at your time to market estimates? We don’t even know that here (City)?”
A fair question. Jurisdictions have zero incentive to track the total time it takes for a project to move through their process. If a project moves through in a timely fashion, then it should have. If it gets stuck, well then the bureaucracy has failed right? There are not a lot of good reasons to bring heat on yourself.
Our estimates came from local planning and engineering firms that work projects in dozens of jurisdictions. They have the best idea (other than developers who stick with a project from inception to completion) of how long it is taking to get an approval in nearly every phase of the process. Some of these folks even do building permits, so we were able to get information there as well. We certainly would like this data set to be better in the future, so we are all ears for suggestions.
“While your study does highlight some of the issues cities have, doesn’t this oversimplify the problems? Working in this industry, you know it costs money for each city to do its job and someone has to pay for it. It seems like this just makes it harder for us to do our jobs.”
For years, the building industry has listened and endured as jurisdiction after jurisdiction has justified added expense to the cost of building homes. Whether you work in multi-family or single family construction, the ever rising cost of putting a home through the regulation process has reached a tipping point. The LGAP merely points out the enormous pink elephant in the room: We cannot achieve reasonably affordable housing options without addressing ALL of the factors leading to increased cost. Government regulations, specifically fees, charges and timing delays, are making housing less affordable in Oregon. The LGAP highlights these costs and now jurisdictions have to address the issue.
“It seems like your study favors jurisdictions that do not have a lot of room to grow or do not have significant infrastructure improvement costs. Cities like Milwaukie and Tualatin don’t have a lot of room to grow, so they can afford lesser SDC’s, thereby lowering their overall number. Doesn’t that show bias against cities like Hillsboro, Beaverton or Washington County?”
This is a great question and one we considered while putting the study together. Here is how we addressed the issue:
- We did NOT include the higher SDC’s and fees assessed by jurisdictions to major urban growth additions provided through the regional process of adding land to the UGB. South Hillsboro, Bethany, Pleasant Valley etc. were included in the study for comparison purposes, but were not part of the overall equation we used to arrive at a jurisdiction’s ranking. This would have skewed the data significantly and would not have been an “apples to apples” comparison.
- As much as jurisdictions would like everyone to believe their SDC prices are arrived at in a legitimate process, the industry has long argued that SDC increases are as political as they are empirical. Some jurisdictions use them as a way to quell growth. Others see fit to put projects in their methodology that have no nexus to actual infrastructure needs and nearly all of the jurisdictions employ third party consultants with dubious reputations to complete their methodology analysis. The system then escalates upon itself by comparing SDC’s across jurisdictions. That’s why SDC’s are so high.
- Additionally, jurisdictions have chosen to either ignore other infrastructure funding needs like tax increment financing (for residents of the newly constructed area) or have shown little interest in working with the industry to find solutions at a statewide level that lessen the cost of regulation on housing affordability. Simply put, raisign SDC’s and collecting them from the builder is way easier and if no one is calling out the jurisdictions for what they are doing, then why fix the problem.
In summary, jurisdictional justification for higher SDC’s than their neighbor are never solely based on the actual need of the jurisdiction. Therefore, your number is your number and you have to live with it and defend it.
Do you have questions or concerns about the LGAP? Would you like us to present at your event or forum? please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org