A report outlining strategies to meet future housing needs in Sisters is heading on to the Sisters City Council.

The study results reflect the complicated questions that surround the issue of housing: Sisters has an overall need for more affordable and workforce housing and, at the same time, there is a projected shortage in acreage to meet the forecasted need for single-family detached homes. How do builders provide single-family detached homes that are also affordable, given the current land and construction costs? Those costs also impact the availability of rental properties at affordable prices.

The Housing Policy Advisory Board (HPAB) and Planning Commission (PC) agreed on July 18 to forward a recommendation to the City Council to accept the Housing Strategies Report, as written — with the exception of mandatory inclusionary zoning and a construction excise tax.

Both the HPAB and PC wish to study further the two withheld designated strategies to gain a greater understanding of what they would entail, possible outcomes, and the experience within other cities that have adopted such strategies.

The strategies were the outgrowth of the recently completed Housing and Residential Land Needs Assessment, which was done in anticipation of an updated Comprehensive Plan. The strategies are suggestions for accommodating future housing needs in Sisters over the next 20 years.

The report outlines 18 specific strategies the City could consider in order to meet the future housing needs of all types by 2039. Such strategies could provide opportunities for a wide range of housing choices, efficient land use, and development of housing affordable to people with low and moderate incomes.

One of the strategies to receive further study, inclusionary zoning, is a tool used to produce affordable housing within new market-rate residential developments. It is typically implemented through an ordinance mandating that a minimum percentage of units remain affordable for a set period of time. Large-scale builders are usually the ones who can handle inclusionary zoning because of economies of scale. Having such a requirement might make it difficult for small- and medium-sized local builders to build in Sisters.

The Construction Excise Tax (CET) is a one-time tax assessed on new construction to help pay for other affordable housing strategies. State law requires it be spent on specific types of programs and activities. Thirty-five percent of all residential CET collected goes to the state for its housing programs; that is not the case with the CET on commercial building, which is also more flexible in its uses for housing and infrastructure. A factor in considering a CET is whether it will simply be passed onto homebuyers with higher sales prices on market-rate housing in order to encourage the building of more affordable housing.

The study indicated the City has a potential deficit of land zoned for residential use inside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), specifically a deficit of land needed for single-family detached housing. Possible measures to address this shortage could include:

•?Increase the efficiency of land use within existing residential areas through some combination of increased allowed densities, establishment of minimum densities, or allowing for or encouraging types of housing that can be developed using less land;

•?Rezone land from low- or high-density residential (multi-family) to lower density (single-family) residential use;

•?Change zoning on the U.S. Forest Service property in the city as some future residential use of that property is assumed, but the property is not currently zoned for residential use;

•?Rezone land from employment to residential designations, assuming such a rezoning would not compromise the needed supply of future employment lands; and

•?Evaluate the need for a UGB amendment and pursue an amendment if warranted.

The comparison of land needed for housing in the next 20 years and what is currently available indicates there is a potential shortage of land available for single-family detached housing and a surplus of land zoned for multi-family residential development. The single-family development gap or shortage is equivalent to approximately 395 units or approximately 79 acres of net residential land. The multi-family surplus is 172 housing units or approximately 11.5 acres of net residential land.

If codes are adopted that would increase density, the question arises as to whether that increase will fundamentally change the character of Sisters that attracts people to visit and live here.

The public can stay informed by attending Planning Commission meetings the third Thursday of each month, Housing Policy Advisory Board meetings the second Tuesday, and City Council meetings the second and fourth Wednesdays. Documents are available on the City website, www.ci.sisters.or.us, or at City Hall.