Albany and growth: Asking a question – Hasso Hering

HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany and growth: Asking a question

Written February 29th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

This new house was nearly complete last week in the Takena Estates subdivision on Albany’s west side.

Various projections show that Albany’s population will grow from about 55,000 now to 72,000 or even 78,000 in 20 years. One question that might be worth asking: Is that a good thing?

At 6:30 on March 9, there’s going to be a public meeting at City Hall to consider the Albany’s “capacity to accommodate projected residential, commercial and industrial growth.” Consultants for the city have been studying that topic, and they’ll be asking for “feedback on suggested strategies to address projected growth.”

The conventional wisdom is that population growth happens whether you like it or not, and the smart move is to plan for it before it comes to pass.

Oregon statewide planning “goals” and statutes require local jurisdictions periodically to look ahead 20 years and make sure there’s enough land to meet future needs for housing and jobs. If there isn’t, presumably more land can be made available by changing comprehensive plans and zoning codes, or by trying to expand urban growth boundaries.

Which is why Albany hired consultants to do the current “housing needs and economic opportunities analyses.”

The price of housing now is a concern, along with the shortage of housing that people can afford. You have to wonder whether these concerns might be less if Oregon’s lawmakers had shown more restraint years ago in their approach to central planning. If there was more latitude in how land is allowed to be used, maybe market forces would better balance housing needs and supplies. And the affordability problem might be less severe.

As for whether it makes sense to “accommodate” projected growth in population numbers or density, questions ought to be asked. From the standpoint of livability and economic viability, is there an ideal size that a community should try to achieve or maintain?

For instance: Would anyone say that Albany with 55,000 people is in any way a better place to live than when the population was 28,000 three or four decades ago? (hh)



13 responses to “Albany and growth: Asking a question”

  1. Ben Roche says:

    These are questions that have many answers. Jobs, schools, attractions and recreation all play to the growth. The question is not if we grow, it’s to we want to inhibit by regulation and supply constraints than inflate cost, or welcome growth by incentives and lower cost and regulations. NIMBYS will force inflation period.

    • T Waterhous says:

      Hi Ben.

      That has always been the conventional “wisdom” yet I have seen cities like Portland and Seattle create incentives for growth, allow all types of building, adjust codes to allow for more density and in the end, these cities suffered more because of it. Housing did not go down in terms of price even as more housing was built. There is a deeper more systemic issue, that being that almost all policies favor those who already have money to spare. While housing has been a good investment, now we have investors coming to OR from all over the world and buying up houses to rent, to sell eventually. When a location is hot,investors flee to it. At the same time there is no real increase in minimum wage, making it impossible for people working full time , some at more than 1 job, to afford housing.

  2. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “The conventional wisdom is that population growth happens whether you like it or not, and the smart move is to plan for it before it comes to pass.”

    I still believe that is accurate. Obviously, the devil is in the details of “how” you plan for said growth.

    “If there was more latitude in how land is allowed to be used, maybe market forces would better balance housing needs and supplies. And the affordability problem might be less severe.”

    Hence the issues around ADUs in Albany and HB2001 statewide. Without some “latitude” vis-a-vis zoning & codes, etc., the costs will continually & inevitably go much higher.

  3. centrist says:

    Probably only a half dozen folks who can offer a balanced perspective.
    Two who come to mind quickly are Russel Tripp and Bill Clotere.

  4. John Klock says:

    I would say very few places in the United States have the same quality of life as four decades ago.Why? Lack of central planning. Our cities are urban pits. Even small towns have major freeways running down the middle of them and make for very little sense of community. Your question might assume (and my apologies if so) that automobiles are the only way to get around and that migrants are the problem rather than planning committees that showed little foresight or discipline four decades ago continuing up to today.

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Lawmakers and central planners…top down development schemes…distorted market forces….makes me wonder.

    Is the purpose of government to serve the citizenry, or, the citizenry to serve the government?

    The answer seems clear given government’s addiction to control and quick money. Long-term consequences be damned.

    Government needs a 12 step program. The first step is always admitting you have a problem.

  6. Bill says:

    From your blog “The price of housing now is a concern” Why not let the price of housing be a limiting factor to growth? Is that not the way our system works?
    Anymore we tend to defeat our system. Comes to mind companies that are too big to fail and therefore rescued by the taxpayer instead of allowed to suffer the consequences of their own actions….A huge mistake IMHO

  7. Richard H. Smith says:

    Would not give ANY growth the least bit of consideration until the traffic nightmare over highway 20 is fixed! I realize that no growth will drive up housing costs, but when do we take into account the people that already live here? Why should those of us who already live here, and have vested interests in the community, have to suffer to satisfy the whims of developers, and those trying to move here from California and other places? It makes zero sense. This place has already gone downhill in the twenty years we have lived here…enough so that we are exploring getting out entirely. NO TO IRRESPONSIBLE GROWTH!!

    • David Ballard says:

      ” … This place has already gone downhill in the twenty years we have lived here…enough so that we are exploring getting out entirely. NO TO IRRESPONSIBLE GROWTH!!”

      So is it irresponsible growth when a new family moves into the city today because of added price pressure to rents and housing and to traffic congestion and lines at the post office and service station? But when you moved your family here twenty years ago it was responsible growth?

      Those of us who have been here for fifty years may have a different view of your arrival here.

      Or, perhaps we can accept the growth of the community and find the best ways to facilitate that growth.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Well stated!

      • George Pugh says:

        This looks like the place to introduce my plan for reducing Oregon’s carbon footprint and solving the housing problem in one fell swoop; Would the people and their offspring who have moved here since January 1, 1985 please get up and move to another state. Thank you.
        (Now, how do I get my tongue out of my cheek and my foot out of my mouth without choking on my thumb and forefinger ?)

  8. John Allen says:

    One has only to look at Corvallis to see the fallacy of limiting growth. Fewer and fewer people who work in Corvallis can afford to live there.

  9. Craig says:

    Hey lets double the size of Albany. The Bridge can handle it. 72000-78000, no extra burden at all. Have they even started the project for a new bridge? If they started today, how long would it take the city and government to approve the plan? I am guessing 20 years, for approval only.

    Let’s hope the people who work in Corvallis don’t need to cross the bridge.

    Yep that’s basic city planing right there.

 

 
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