South Hillsboro: A few thoughts on a new development

Alyson Marchi-Young
Tue, 08/30/2016 - 11:35am

It was announced that a planned community in Hillsboro will finally be breaking ground, with an expected 8,000 new units of housing for upwards of 20,000 residents. We know that Hillsboro will be one of fastest growing areas in the Metro region based on recent population projections, so housing stock is needed. However, the current status of this development leaves much to be desired.

We are concerned about the affordability of this new community. In recent interviews, one of the community’s developers said flatly "I don't anticipate there being government housing or any type of subsidized house," and yet another said that the lowest price points for their homes will be in the $300,000’s.

When Metro reviewed and approved a UGB expansion for this region, they expressly wrote in their findings in 2010 “The South Hillsboro Community Plan states that 88 percent of all rental units proposed for the area would be affordable to households earning less than 80 percent of median household income. The plan estimates that 42 percent of owner-occupied units will be affordable to households earning the median income….The Council concludes that these efforts will help achieve Policy 1.9.12 and Regional Framework Plan Outcome 6.”

Even further, the Hillsboro City Council crafted a South Hillsboro Community plan that calls for a “complete community… (that) will provide affordable housing, parks and recreation and will accommodate age and income diversity.” However, at this point it is unclear if this community will have any housing for the working poor, or seniors on fixed incomes. As of this writing, none of the developers have mentioned any plans for apartments for the working poor, a housing type that could meet affordability needs.

Given the large public subsidies for infrastructure and re-zoning of this land to allow this development in the first place, Hillsboro could have used voluntary inclusionary zoning to require a bigger variety of housing, much like the requirements in Portland around the Pearl and South Waterfront.

Speaking of public resource use, a big issue that always arises with developments at the edge of communities is the expense of adding new infrastructure. This land has been within the Metro UGB since 2010 and is only now getting developed because it costs so much to expand infrastructure. The city waited for the economy to support $450 million in investments and the System Development Charges (SDC’s) are estimated between $45.000 and $52,000 per unit. It's a perfect example of how we have enough buildable land in UGB's already, but the growth that happens there is limited to infrastructure funding.

The transportation costs alone are significant, and will affect new and current residents of Washington County. "Residents around the county will likely pay, too. Of the $255 million total for transportation, Hillsboro planners designated more than $71 million as the "regional share" to be paid with regional resources like Washington County's Major Streets Transportation Improvement Program, or MSTIP.”

With that level of transportation investment, we hope that this development is being designed for the transportation needs of the 21st century, not the 20th. It should emphasize safe, accessible, and separated bikeways and walkways. It should build in densities, locations, and design for a variety of transit opportunities. Single occupancy vehicle’s have far too long been the only focus of a transportation plan, but with this level of growth, we know Hillsboro, Washington County, and Oregon NEED a new path forward. Cutting the number of cars on the road by incentivizing other modes of transportation would be the best use of public dollars, it would also support a climate-friendly lifestyle for this community. We hope that the developers and planners of South Hillsboro don’t squander this opportunity. (If you are in the Hillsboro/Washington County area - get out to the Legislative Transportation Hearing on September 19th!)

With all of the public investment in time, money, and land for this development, we know that the City of Hillsboro could have done more to incentivize more diverse and affordable housing options. It should also have made clear a transportation priority that focuses on a modern, 21st century system, with safe multi-modal options and transit connected living. 1000 Friends will be keeping a keen eye on this development as it moves forward - and we will keep you apprised along the way.


Photo Credits: South Hillsboro Groundbreaking provided by KOIN; South Hillsboro Fees from the City of Tigard.