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Verda Crossing Apartments in Keizer aren’t exactly affordable
In a community with few affordable housing options, new development seems geared towards high earners
Yes, the (real) cows in Keizer are gone. And unless you haven’t been down Verda Lane NE in Keizer between Chemawa Road and Dearborn Ave. in a while, it looks a little different these days.
Salem-Keizer Proletariat did not understand what middle-housing was until researching this article. We imagined it was a type of housing from Lord of the Rings. Anyway, SKP is entirely reader-supported. To receive new posts and support local journalism, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
More than 100 units of apartments now stand (mostly complete, it seems) where the cows used to graze in a field that slopes down from Verda Lane NE towards neighboring Claggett Creek, and the city park of the same name. But based on the units and floor plans being advertised by Verda Crossing Apartments, it seems like very few local folks could actually afford to live there.
These new units are SO expensive… (HOW EXPENSIVE ARE THEY?)
We took a look at rental rates for the new Verda Crossing Apartment development in Keizer, along with a number of other similar apartment complexes. And we compared that with U.S. Census income data for the Keizer area.
In service of that comparison, we used the 30% rule with respect to income spent on housing - generally speaking, you should spend no more than 30% of your gross income on housing. And while the same 30% rule is frequently used to assess whether housing is considered “affordable” or not, some suggest that percentage is too high, and should account for other expenses typically associated with housing. For our purposes, we’re going to consider any housing option that exceeds 30% of gross income as “not affordable.”
We used three sets of figures from U.S. Census data to build this comparison model:
$68,460 - Keizer Annual Median Household Income
$43,529 - Keizer Annual Median Income - Male
$31,136 - Keizer Annual Median Income - Female
$1,525/month Rent for Verda Crossing - 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom; 687 square feet
Using the 30% rule, to afford the smallest, cheapest unit at Verda Crossing in Keizer a person would need to earn at least $61k annually. Since these are designed as studio units typically designed for one person, we used the Male/Female annual income Census data for comparison.
Median income for a male in Keizer would fall about 30% short in terms of affording this unit.
Median income for a female in Keizer would fall nearly 50% short of affordability.
$2,300/month Rent for Verda Crossing - 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom; 1,250 square feet
To make a fair comparison** for a family looking for affordable housing in Keizer, we looked at Verda Crossing’s largest unit and compared that with the median household income in Keizer (again, using the 30% rule as the line between affordable and not affordable housing).
Median income for a household in Keizer would fall about 26% short in terms of affording this unit.
An annual household income of around $92k would be required to live in this unit affordably.
**There are other unit configurations that exist at Verda Crossing with price points between these two, so a family could cram themselves into a smaller unit and come much closer to affordability. For this analysis, we chose to pick the two units mostly clearly aligned to either an individual (1 bedroom/1 bath) or a household (3 bedroom, 2 bath).
So…does affordable housing actually exist in Keizer?
Maybe? Not really, but it’s possible. How about this - if it’s out there, it ain’t easy to find.
In our model, we collected information about a half-dozen other apartment complexes in Keizer - some that have been around for a few decades, and some built within the past couple years. Most of them have a similar amenity set compared to Verda Crossing Apartments.
Using the 30% gross income rule which, again, should be considered the very upper limit of affordability…we can’t find an apartment in Keizer that would be considered affordable.
Some of the older complexes have smaller 2 bedroom units that could theoretically house a family and charge an affordable rent, but cramming families into tiny units isn’t exactly the goal of affordable housing, right?
Without delving into the specifics of each complex, you can see the comparisons here, at the top of the sheet. But the general trend is this:
Older complexes are closer to affordable, but not quite. Newer builds are far outside the bounds of affordable.
So what’s the plan? Are Keizer officials motivated to, y’know…do anything about this?
Kind of, but not in the way you might expect.
In the 113 pages of Keizer’s Comprehensive Plan, there are just 4 mentions of “affordable housing.” Each of these mentions is aspirational in tone, and all but one was added in a 2013 update.
Here’s the most thorough statement the plan makes about affordable housing (bold emphasis added), from a section labeled “Concepts Directing Growth:”
Adequate lands should be made available for future industrial and commercial development that seek to realize the identified economic vision and goals, and that will allow for a mix of housing types. Keizer should place a high priority on providing public facilities to newly developing areas and on encouraging affordable housing. (added in 2013)
Elsewhere in the same plan includes findings from Keizer’s “Housing Needs Analysis and Buildable Lands Inventory,” last updated in 2019 (but mysteriously gone from this page on the Keizer website?). Anywho, based on this analysis & inventory there are two rather gigantic housing needs for Keizer in the coming decade:
Ownership housing - Single Family Detached: This type of housing stock represents 2,145 units, or an overwhelming 88% of ownership housing needed.
Rental Housing - 5+ Units MFR (multi-family rentals): This type of housing stock accounts for ⅔ (or 1,352 units) of all rental housing needed in Keizer. With respect to affordable housing, this is typically how its built.
To recap, over the last decade Keizer has identified a clearly measured & defined need for housing complexes and a stated commitment to affordable housing.
But instead of addressing this problem in Keizer, it seems like addressing the expanding problem of affordable housing falls mostly to the City of Salem.
This picture below actually captures Keizer’s approach to affordable housing pretty fittingly. Salem Reporter recently ran a story on new affordable housing for seniors that recently broke ground. This is the image they used in their story:
That’s Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark half out of frame, all the way to the right. Her appearance in this image, at this event in Salem to celebrate breaking ground on an affordable housing project, is largely (and unintentionally) symbolic of Keizer’s approach to addressing affordable housing and helping those severely overburdened with rent - just kind of along for the ride, slightly out of frame, not central to the proceedings, talking the talk without taking an actual step.
It’s perfectly fine, of course, for Keizer’s Mayor to support affordable housing efforts in the region - rising tide lifts all boats, and whatnot. Keizer elected officials and staff participate in a number of region- and state-wide efforts to tackle systemic problems.
But it’s less awesome when you realize that Keizer doesn’t actually seem super motivated to address those affordable housing needs in its own community.
In fact, Mayor Clark pops up regularly in these affordable housing ground-breaking celebrations. And virtually none of them actually take place in Keizer.
Don’t take my word for it, see for yourself. Here’s the Keizer Mayor’s official Facebook page, filtered for any posts containing the word “housing.”
It’s arguable that the only recent move Keizer has made towards addressing housing issues in the city wasn’t actually their move at all, but an effort to conform to recently established state laws easing rules around “middle housing” - or allowing multi-unit complexes on residential lots. And the new middle-housing rules aren’t even specifically aimed at increasing affordable housing - but theoretically more housing stock creates more affordable opportunities over time.
Keizer’s lack of action on affordable housing might actually BE the strategy. With no discernible appetite for building affordable housing in the city, it seems like Keizer is satisfied with simply “supporting” affordable housing initiatives in Salem.
That’s as far as Keizer seems to be motivated to foster creation of affordable housing. If the recent slate of new, unaffordable multi-family housing complexes is any indication, the city’s appetite to increase housing stock doesn’t appear to include anything that’s actually affordable.
But we’ll definitely cheer on Salem as they struggle to create affordable housing to meet their own needs.
And, let’s be honest, that’s not a strategy at all. Keizer broke up with Salem 40 years ago and seems stuck in the teenage rebellion years. Time to grow up; move out of mom & dad’s house; and act like a city that’s actually committed to supporting a diverse population.
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