House Bill 2984 was drafted by Ashland State Representative Pam Marsh.
She said her goal is to help Oregon’s housing deficit.
Marsh said she’s talked to a number of developers that are already interested in creating more housing.
“We’re hoping is that when you have cases in which we simply have too much office space or commercial spaces and it’s not being well-used, that we can inject some vitality into those neighborhoods,” Marsh said.
Marsh said there is currently a statewide deficit of around 140,000 housing units.
She said this bill is one way of addressing that problem in cities with more than 10,000 residents.
“What we need to do in order to address the housing crisis in every way possible,” Representative Marsh said, “we need to look at how to build new buildings, but we also need to look at how to make the buildings that are existing on the ground more efficient and contribute to housing when appropriate.”
Here in Medford, the bill may actually be less effective than in other parts of the state.
Medford Planning Director Matt Brinkley said the city already allows building housing on commercial land.
The problem as he sees it, is the cost.
Brinkley said, “it’s something that we would certainly like to see in our downtown where we do have commercial buildings that could be good mixed-use buildings, but it’s really expensive to do that.”
Brinkley said some residential buildings like the Charles Point Apartment Complex in Medford are on commercially zoned land.
But until the cost of converting office buildings into housing is addressed, large commercial buildings like One West Main in Downtown Medford will likely stay empty.
Brinkley said, “until the state steps up and starts putting more money toward those issues, we’re just not going to see the kind of projects that the state seems to want, and in many cases, we want too.”
The governor has not publicly indicated if she will sign house bill 2984.
Representative Marsh said she has a number of other housing bills that she wants to get passed in the next legislative session.
© 2023 KOBI-TV NBC5. All rights reserved unless otherwise stated.