Report outlines questions about costs, climate and other considerations
View video announcements about the urban growth report by Metro Councilor Carl Hosticka and Clackamas County Chair Lynn Peterson.
The Metro Council announced today that it will release a preliminary report on March 31 that is designed to inform choices about how best to maintain and enhance the metropolitan region's quality of life while supporting a growing population. The Urban Growth Report, which Metro is required to update every five years by Oregon law, analyzes the capacity of the region's current Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) to accommodate anticipated growth over the next 20 years.
The report sets the stage for a regional debate about whether to prepare for more people by investing in existing urban centers or by expanding the current boundary. It also highlights the challenges local governments face in finding ways to pay for new streets, roads, water, sewers, parks and other infrastructure regardless of decisions about expanding the UGB.
"This is more than just a set of numbers. It raises questions of who pays for growth and how best to maintain our quality of life," said Metro Councilor Carl Hosticka. "More importantly, the region must address new challenges such as climate change and unstable gas prices that will have a tremendous impact on how we live in the future."
Hosticka hopes the report will spark a regional debate about the public and private costs associated with building new infrastructure. Metro also is calling on policy makers to consider how new challenges should influence plans to maintain or expand the UGB and to prioritize investments in infrastructure.
In recent years the region accommodated virtually all growth within the UGB established in 1979. Despite several expansions, almost 95 percent of all new residential development during the last 10 years occurred on land that already was within the boundary 30 years ago.
On March 19, the Metro Council released updated population and employment forecasts for a seven-county region that projected a total population of between 2.9 and 3.2 million people by 2030. The seven counties include Clackamas, Columbia, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill in Oregon and Clark and Skamania in Washington.
Historically about 61.8 percent of the population of that seven-county region has located within the UGB. Based on that percentage, Metro estimates an additional 224,000 to 301,500 new housing units will be needed by 2030. The preliminary analysis indicates that regardless of whether or not more land is added, new policies, investments and zoning changes will be required to accommodate the new housing that will be needed over the next 20 years.
"Our history and analysis suggest that an expanding population will not dictate an expanding urban growth boundary," Hosticka said. "We have the ability to choose the best path for our region by directing our investments in ways that support vibrant communities, economic prosperity, safe and reliable transportation and a sustainable future. That may mean some UGB expansions or it may not. Collectively, the people of the region have choices about how we want our community to develop."
The report also indicates that the forecast demand for new housing can be met within the current UGB if Metro and local governments target public investments that enhance the market feasibility of various types of development. Examples of these choices include zoning changes, financial resources to clean brownfield sites, incentives to promote more housing near transit services, and new financing tools to pay for the development and maintenance of streets, sewers, sidewalks, schools, libraries and other essential infrastructure.
"The debate should be focused on choices and investments," Hosticka said. "Business as usual means more UGB expansions without sufficient resources to pay for new development. We can accommodate projected growth within the current UGB and achieve what we want for our communities if we plan carefully and invest wisely. If we choose to expand we still need to find a way to pay for the infrastructure to make expansions work," he said.
This report will be the first of two parts. A second part, addressing the capacity of the current UGB to accommodate the forecasted employment growth over the next 20 years, will be released for public review in late April.
The Metro Council welcomes public comment and feedback on this preliminary report. In September, Metro will unveil a package of proposals aimed at integrating long-term regional land use policies with transportation investments. An updated Urban Growth Report will be part of that package, along with recommendations on urban and rural reserve designations and a 25-year Regional Transportation Plan, all of which will be adopted by the end of this year.
Metro, the regional government that serves 1.4 million people who live in the 25 cities and three counties of the Portland metropolitan area, provides planning and other services that protect the nature and livability of our region.
Learn more about forecasts that estimate a range of possible population and employment growth for the seven-county metropolitan region by the years 2030 and 2060. The forecasts help inform public discussions about the future of the region.