North Bend purchases land downtown for affordable housing

City is hoping the new units will support workers at downtown businesses

The city of North Bend is in the process of acquiring a mostly vacant piece of land near downtown that it plans to develop into affordable housing units.

The North Bend City Council unanimously approved the land purchase last month, at a cost of $665,000, according to city documents. The property was purchased using real estate and excise taxes.

Officials are hoping the property at 230 Main Ave., only a few blocks away from the downtown core on North Bend Way, can alleviate some of the city’s need for workforce housing and provide units to downtown workers.

“The idea is to put affordable housing there to meet the workforce needs of local businesses,” James Henderson, the city’s economic development manager, said in a phone interview.

The purchase comes after the city approved an Economic Development and Housing Action Plan earlier this year, which identified a lack of affordable housing as the city’s top challenge. A dramatic rise in housing prices and rent have become a growing challenge for much of the city’s workforce, the plan notes.

High housing costs mean a majority of businesses in North Bend are reliant on workers commuting in from out of town, the housing plan notes. As a result, many Valley employers have routinely struggled to fill vacant positions over the past several years.

The downtown property, which is across from the North Bend Community Church, can house up to 18 multi-family units, according to city documents, although no definitive plans have been made yet.

Henderson said the project is still in the early stages and the city is still planning how to proceed. One option, he said, is for the city to partner with an affordable housing developer through a request-for-proposal process.

As property values have soared in North Bend, making it difficult to find available land, the purchase presents an opportunity for the city to have control over development, Henderson said.

After working on housing efforts for years and often running up against external challenges, North Bend Mayor Rob McFarland said he was “absolutely thrilled” the project was moving forward.

“We’ve been very frustrated over the last four years with trying to bring something to fruition for many reasons,” he said. “[Now] we’ve got a path forward. We’ve got a great opportunity.”