The Home Builders Association of Metro Portland contacted us earlier in the week with interview questions that they send to electoral candidates that they may like to endorse. Here is our response:
My name is Tynan Pierce and I am running for City Council in McMinnville's Ward 3. This campaign is striving to create and facilitate a model of civic engagement that more directly gives an opportunity for the diverse voices of our community along with their concerns, critiques and celebrations to impact municipal policy.
I am not seeking endorsements from organizations outside the City of McMinnville, and even within the city the focus is not on endorsements from businesses or trade groups. I need to be a loudspeaker for the voices of the people in the community. That being said, there is definitely an intersection where the work you focus on is of great interest to the people in ours, and really any city. I am happy to share some thoughts with you on these issues in the hopes of having a conversation where we can find out the true needs of our communities and how organizations, such as yours, can work with municipalities like McMinnville to be of service to these needs.
One of the top concerns that has come up in conversations with our neighbors is a need for affordable, accessible, safe, quality housing. Instead of pinpointing any one factor as the great driver for rising housing costs, many seem to be playing a role: a shortage of buildable land that leads to scarcity and more competition for existing lots and homes, rising costs of permits and fees, people moving to the area with higher incomes and and thus able to afford more expensive homes than those living here with lower wages, older codes and zoning that may now be outdated can be a barrier to achieving healthy urban density.
House Bill 2001 and Inclusionary Zoning are both examples of policy makers getting creative and looking for solutions for our housing crisis. Achieving healthy urban density is one of the key ways of expanding city populations while still respecting the vision of Urban Growth Boundaries. Urban density can only be as creative and imaginative as policy, zoning, codes, allow. People in our city are interested in tiny home communities, more sustainable earthen building materials, alternative plumbing and sewage systems like greywater and these are often barred by current city codes. Many municipalities like to discuss how much they are in favor of affordable housing, and yet when it comes down to it still have a negative view of how affordable housing can affect their own neighborhood. We need to move beyond the stigma and old thinking about affordable housing and realize that diverse communities are healthy communities. Neighborhoods with accessible and affordable housing opportunities are more healthy and resilient, and these are the neighborhoods we need to be striving for. Being more expansive, inclusive, empathetic, and adaptable in our short and long term visions for city growth is essential right now. I think that with education and conversation, many people could see HB2001 and Inclusionary Zoning as a positive potential for solving some of our housing needs while avoiding gentrification. However, there are many pieces to this puzzle. Lenders and the power they wield in these situations need to be part of the conversation as well. Both for builders and for buyers/renters. We need to ensure fair and equal access to credit in place of the predatory and discriminatory lending policies of old. We need a more diverse range of builders with access to more credit options, cheap, free, mutual, for building projects of all shapes and sizes. When cheap credit is only available for larger enterprises, smaller builders, and the communities they support, suffer
The Urban Growth Boundary is an important bulwark for protecting our natural areas, and preventing urban sprawl. If expansion is determined necessary for healthy growth to be achieved we may, indeed, need to look at some of the reserves. While making sure the short and long term environmental impacts are thoroughly weighed when crafting city boundaries for the coming generations. This conversation needs to include a wide range of voices and the people need to have more input in the regulations that are affecting their communities both the confusing building codes and the impacts of the Urban Growth Boundary.
Ecological stewardship and conservation need to be an integrated part of healthy community living and. Like many government policies, we must always be willing to review decisions made in the past that may not have the best interests of our future generations in mind. Not for any nefarious reasons, but simply because planning for the future needs to be flexible and adaptable.
Speaking specifically to SDCs, it seems that many of these are already waived if the building project is affordable housing, shelters for the houseless community, or short term living accommodations. If further expansions to SDC reductions are being sought, that conversation would need to be very clear about the savings being passed onto the buyer/renter and not stopping at the builder. I understand that fees and permits add up very quickly, and being creative to finding solutions that provide lower costs to the people and still support a reasonable and healthy city infrastructure is something I am very open to. Generally, we need robust action for affordable, quality, and healthy housing for all. Inclusive of our houseless community, our working class families, and our young people. Solutions that take into consideration healthy urban density, net zero emission homes, green building practices, community gardens and gathering spaces, projects that can be owned by the people in trust or cooperatively. This is the time to be creative and reimagine what a thriving community can be.
We would like to hear from you, McMinnville! Is there anything that you would add? What are your housing concerns? Email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or get the dialogue going on Instagram @mcminnvillepeoplescollective.