Jerry Horner saw opportunity in an empty grass lot on Market Street Northeast. He plans to build a triplex. It made sense, he said, because demand is hot for rental units.
“There just seem to be more and more people looking for rental space,” he said. “It’s in demand.”
It’s welcome news for the city of Salem, which wants more multifamily dwellings in preparation of an estimated population boom and is proposing a number of changes to make building them easier.
The move aims to help housing affordability as Salem, like much of the Willamette Valley, is experiencing a housing shortage.
City staff revealed proposals Wednesday night. They include reclassifying new construction that would offer between three and 12 units, lessen parking requirements and make it easier to build projects that don’t meet all design standards.
City Planner Eunice Kim said the city made the changes in the hopes of removing barriers for builders.
“We’re really trying to encourage more opportunities for multifamily development,” she said, adding that current standards sometimes ended projects before they began. “It has proved difficult for smaller developments,” she said.
The changes are borne out of a 2014 analysis that, among other things, said Salem will add 60,000 residents by 2035 and should consider making it easier to build to build multifamily.
The proposed changes will be presented to the Planning Commission and City Council later this year.
One of the changes would reclassify triplexes and quadplexes. Currently, they are deemed “multiple family developments,” and subject to more than 60 planning codes that govern parking, open space, children’s place areas and more. Proposed changes would treat triplexes and quadplexes the same as a single-family home.
However, Kim noted the code will continue to ensure sizes and styles of those buildings won’t “sacrifice neighborhood compatibility.”
Buildings offering between five and 12 units would have reduced standards, too, according to the proposals.
Horner, a civil engineer by trade, said the new standards could make more projects viable.
“Anything in Oregon, other than one-family or duplexes, you have to go through a site plan review process with the local planning department,” he said. “That would be easier and quicker to accomplish. It would probably be cheaper, too.”
The review process would also theoretically become quicker. Any project today that doesn’t meet all standards has to go through a public hearing, while the proposed changes would allow staff to approve adjustments without a hearing. However, staff decisions can be appealed to a hearings officer.
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