The Newberg Graphic
By: David Sale
August 28, 2010
Affordable housing -- Waiver of five-acre minimum proposed; new residential zone suggested
With approximately 600 units throughout the city, manufactured homes are one of Newberg's leading sources of affordable housing. But do zoning rules hamper their spread?
The Affordable Housing legislative subcommittee took up the discussion Thursday, with a proposal to lower the minimum size for a manufactured home park from five acres to one acre, but maintain standards for access (street width and parking requirements).
"That's what we're looking at bringing to the planning commission and city council," said planning director Barton Brierley. "Manufactured housing is a valuable resource for our mission and relaxing size limits would allow more to be developed."
The committee is also mulling a new residential zone, specifically for manufactured home parks. Most of Newberg's are now zoned medium-density residential (R-2), Brierley said, and legislation would create a new "R-4" zone that prospective developers could choose to opt into. The new zoning designation would not be applied retroactively by the city.
"Basically, it's a way to guarantee what would be built on that acreage and that future uses would conform -- especially in cases where the property in question is outside city limits and in the process of being annexed," Brierley said. "It would allow denser development than county zoning rules, but it's up to landowners to request."
The committee has also taken testimony from manufactured home park residents and managers on issues related to preserving and increasing development. While the housing market recession has weakened the demand for conversion of parks into more expensive types of residential uses, the trend could swing the other way.
One possible option considered by the committee was to recommend the creation of an escrow account to which park residents could contribute a small amount to every month. In the event of the park's sale by owner, this money could be used to either help buy the park or for moving expenses.
Such an approach has been favored by advocacy groups such as CASA (Community and Shelter Assistance, a low-income housing group headquartered in Newberg) as well as state legislators.
However, some are skeptical of the approach, such as Jim Keller, owner and manager of Chehalem Mobile Park. While not opposed, Keller testified to the committee that many of his residents might have difficulty affording such a surcharge.
Such an escrow account could easily prove popular elsewhere in the city, especially if an expanded weatherization program (through Community Action of Yamhill County - YCAP) and other changes such as individual water meters are successful in lowering utility costs for residents.
As for the proposed R-4 zone, Keller added, his park was designed for single-wide trailers (now out of favor versus larger manufactured homes). And, while he has no plans to convert the park to another use, it eventually will need to be redivided into larger lots and have utilities re-laid in order to remain in service.
Under the current R-2 zoning, however, Keller retains the option to redevelop the site as something other than a mobile home park should such an upgrade not prove cost-effective.