I've missed a week of writing this blog as I was attending the Climate Summit and US Conference of Mayors in Reno, NV. This week was also a short week, without a Monday session.
First, I’ll share a bit about the Mayor’s Conference. The Climate Summit is an annual gathering of Climate Mayors who use the opportunity to share their successes and challenges. Among the memorable comments was a federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) representative who said, in a conversation about resilient buildings, “HUD is in the business of climate change.”
Meetings I attended as part of the US Conference of Mayors continued this theme, with much discussion about focusing investment on communities most impacted by weather extremes and creating job opportunities as investments in construction and renovation move forward. I also participated in a number of conversations about electric vehicle infrastructure – how and where to invest, impacts to electric supply, and opportunities for jobs and the rapidly advancing technology. It was all hopeful and made me proud of our City and Council – we're in the lead in many ways, and we are part of a cohort of cities sharing information in how to navigate these changes.
At the same time, this meeting was sober. The Mayor of Miami was serving as president of the conference while his city was inundated with rain from an early and forceful hurricane season. I sat at an adjoining table with the Mayor of Philadelphia whose city was rocked by a mass shooting the next day. As a member of Mayors and CEOs for US Housing Investment, I was able to attend a small meeting with about 10 mayors and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge. Among her messages to us was this: the Biden Administration is making a record level investment in response to homelessness and the housing shortage. She said, “Spend it! We need progress and we need it now.”
This frantic urgency to implement legacy investments is double edged: we want to change the trajectory from scarcity of housing to access and opportunity; at the same time, the twin crises of homelessness and housing affordability have been decades in the making. We cannot change the landscape in a year or two – but there is little patience or time for incremental change.
And that leads me to the topic of last Wednesday’s work session: growth monitoring. As part of the seven year Envision Eugene community engagement process, the Council approved an ongoing analysis of the development trends in our community to be able to plan for eventual and incremental expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary. This first report covers the years 2012-2021. It is the culmination of several new data collection methods and it has been reviewed by the Envision Eugene Technical Advisory Committee of 12-15 community members and one City Councilor, who at this time is Councilor Yeh. Finally, it has been reviewed and approved by the Planning Commission before coming to Council for approval on Wednesday.
The report is designed to track and assess our predictions about population growth rate and development that guided our decisions about the current boundary for the urban area. Some takeaways include: our population has grown faster than predicted, although the analysis projects a slowing of the rate in the coming years; and a much higher rate of construction of multiunit housing has occurred than forecasted. Most new housing has been on redeveloped land, and commercial and industrial land has developed more slowly than expected. At the same time, even these assessments look different with a slightly deeper dive. For example, the apartment growth rate has been triggered by housing construction for students.
Coming out of the discussions about Middle Housing, I was interested to learn that young people and seniors comprise the largest sectors in our population. These are just the groups we hope to serve with Middle Housing – and, of course, it is too soon to have any data in that respect.
The good news is that for all the questions that remain, the staff will provide an updated report annually that will begin to reflect policies that have been recently enacted – including Middle Housing, and the targeted investments in the Housing Implementation Pipeline. I cannot do justice to this robust report in this blog – for those of you who love data, it’s worth taking a look at some of the snapshot pages available on the City’s website.