The Roseburg City Council voted 6-2 at its regular meeting to adopt a road map that will guide how the city approaches the housing crisis and accommodates forecasted population growth.

Because of the vote, the Housing Needs Analysis will be included in the city’s comprehensive plan and will guide decision making for current and future city councils on how to address Roseburg’s housing crisis and provide data and statistics to inform policy decisions.

“This has been a significant project, one we’ve worked on for the past six months,” said Stuart Cowie, the community development director for Roseburg.

The study was made possible because of funding from the Department of Land Conservation and Development last fall. EcoNorthwest was contracted to perform the analysis.

The Housing Needs Analysis includes a list of 44 potential solutions to the housing crisis, such as streamlining the development process and identifying affordable housing opportunities. In order to be adopted, each policy listed in the HNA has to go through its own legislative process that will include public comment opportunities, Cowie said. EcoNorthwest developed these policy suggestions based on population growth forecasts and an assessment of the available, buildable land in the city.

Councilors had a nearly two-hour discussion about the implications of specific policy suggestions outlined in the plan, such as creating minimum density requirements to allow for more high-density housing developments, such as apartment buildings.

However, each policy suggested in the HNA are simply suggestions and are not “set in stone,” Cowie said.

Multiple councilors repeatedly needed to clarify that the policies suggested would not become part of the city code if they adopted the HNA.

Nikki Messenger, who will officially become the Roseburg city manager in September, frequently stepped in to clarify that by adopting the HNA, the city could use data in the 94-page study to debate whether to adopt specific policies at a future meeting. She shook her head when councilors suggested adopting the HNA would automatically create policies.

Ben Tatone, owner of Roseburg Homes Realty, asked the City Council not to codify the study in the comprehensive plan. He raised concerns about one policy suggestion to create minimum density requirements in the city, saying it could deter developers from building in the area.

Concerns around developing on steeply sloped land also rose at the public hearing. A portion of the available buildable land outlined in the HNA are on lands at 25% slope or less. Building on highly sloped land is more expensive, Cowie said.

Because they said the document needed more work, Beverley Cole and Ashley Hicks voted not to accept the recommendation from the Roseburg Planning Commission to include the HNA within the comprehensive plan.

“I think there’s more work to be done, and I don’t feel satisfied with it the way it is,” Hicks said. “I’m supportive of the direction we’re going, but I think there’s more work to do.”

Hannah Kanik can be reached at hkanik@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4210. Or follow her on Twitter @hannah_kanik.

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Hannah Kanik is the Charles Snowden intern at The News-Review.

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