Under the Oregon land use system, which imposes careful expansion limits on its urban areas, any municipality in the state must first demonstrate efforts to develop infill and increase density before it seeks to develop beyond its designated Urban Growth Boundary. The Bend City Council voted in August to do just that through the creation of an urban renewal area funded through Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The project, which promises to bring mixed-use development, affordable housing, and better connectivity to the city’s “Core Area” adjacent to downtown, is enthusiastically supported by the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® (COAR). The vote wasn’t assured, however, so the REALTORS® helped out with a member and consumer call For action through Advocacy Everywhere.
“We were concerned by a certain level of misinformation circulating within the community,” says Tyler Neese, COAR’s Government Affairs Director, who notes that there were broad assumptions that the Tax Increment Financing meant a tax increase, or a new tax entirely. In fact, he explains, TIF does neither: it only flattens taxes temporarily for some districts, re-directing theoretical future revenue to the Core Area.
To show support for the proposal, and to help clarify confusion surrounding TIF, COAR turned to the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program, which helped them to launch a call for action using email and REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts. In addition to reaching REALTORS®, the campaign also created a link to be shared with consumers. COAR’s effort ran concurrently with a focused campaign led by a local environmental group, also in favor of the Core Area Project; the local business community and businesses in the Core Area were also eager to see more traffic and strengthened infrastructure in that part of town. “We certainly can’t take the credit, but this broad support underscored the fact that the plan was a sound, balanced approach to redevelopment in the Core Area,” says Neese.
The combined effort definitely made an impact. Especially in relatively small cities like Bend, says Neese, an onslaught of emails in an elected official’s inbox will get serious attention. One City Councilor, who is also a REALTOR®, told him how compelling it was to see that volume of communication. At the end of the day, it was a success, with a virtual vote of six to one.
Looking ahead, COAR will remain engaged on the issue, at the table and making certain the eventual development of the Core Area brings the diversified housing that Bend needs. “The Core Area Plan represents a key opportunity for commercial and residential development, and we’re committed to making sure affordability remains part of the equation,” assures Neese.
And he can’t say enough about the value of Advocacy Everywhere. “We try to use calls for action sparingly, to maintain the potency of a very effective tool,” he notes. “I mean, elected officals vote on a lot of issues – last year, legislators took up a resolution to decide what the official state dog would be,” he laughs, adding, “The REALTORS® love dogs as much as anyone, and might have something to say about it, but we’re focused on the housing issues that are going to affect our communities most. When we need them, the CFAs get results.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Central Oregon are supporting opportunities to maximize mixed-use development and affordable housing in the city of Bend, contact Government Affairs Director Tyler Neese at 541-382-6027.