The National Association of Realtors recently conducted a study on smart growth, the National Homebuilders Association has been tracking housing affordability for years and the Oregon Association of Realtors recently had an independent research poll conducted on what Oregonians want from land-use planning.
Oregon's highly touted statewide land-use planning system began in 1972 with Senate Bill 100. Since then, the Land Conservation and Development Commission has gradually tightened the supply of buildable lands and basically forced all growth into its "urban growth boundaries."
Oregon went into terrible recession through the early 1980s because of the spotted owl. The Forest Service harvesting stopped and commodity prices fell. Oregon had no growth and many of the rural communities actually lost population.
Then came 1992. Oregon's housing affordability index was at 67 percent and the national average was at 55 percent. The housing affordability index measures the average household income to the average house price. In other words, if a manufacturer located in Oregon, 18 percent more of his employees could afford a house versus the national average. In 10 years, the affordability index nationally has risen to 67 percent while Oregon's has fallen to 45 percent. Now, 33 percent fewer people can afford the national average when only 10 years ago 18 percent more could afford a home. That's a 51 percent change in only 10 years. The manufacturing sector's employees can no longer afford to live here. There is currently a 16 percent unemployment rate in Oregon in the manufacturing sector and we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Most are moving to more affordable areas. The current recession started when the affordability index reached around 30 percent in 2000. Manufacturing jobs are our most important jobs.
The NAR national survey showed that the No. 1 and 2 things that Americans don't want in land-use planning are urban growth boundaries and statewide planning laws. Four neighboring states tried to pass statewide land-use laws in the last election and all failed - 70 percent opposed to 30 percent supported. The OAR study also shows that more than two out of three Oregonians don't like statewide land-use planning and want it returned to the local level. The worst two economies in America are Oregon's and Washington's. They are the first two states with statewide growth management laws. Of the 186 metropolitan areas, Portland is the No. 163 and Eugene is No. 173 in the least-affordable housing category. How can this be when we have the worst economy in America? We have clearly proven that socialism won't work when forced to compete against the free enterprise system.
Now what happens? Will the restricted supply of land keep house prices artificially high or will Oregon's affordably index seek that of the national average. Without jobs, we really don't have a choice.
Kevin Mannix wants statewide land-use planning returned to the local level. He wants to grow this state out of the current mess we are currently in. I'm urging you to vote for the clearly superior candidate, Kevin Mannix.
Kalvin B. Garton is an accredited land consultant, broker/owner of Garton and Associates Realtors, and president of the Oregon Realtors Land Institute. He lives at Pendleton.