BEND, OR -- Ballots are already rolling in to local elections offices. With nearly 3% of Deschutes County ballots returned, as of Monday afternoon, candidates are in the home stretch.
The race for Deschutes County Commissioner Position Three is a contentious one, with both candidates trying to convince voters they’re the best person to take over Tammy Baney’s seat. Republican Patty Adair and Democrat James Cook both say managing growth and addressing affordable housing are the biggest issues facing the county, but they disagree on how to tackle them.
Adair says she would lobby the Legislature to allow Accessory Dwelling Units - also known as "granny flats" - in unincorporated areas. "Right now, we have a lot of people that are working, families that are living in fifth-wheels, and I feel like the Accessory Dwelling Unit would be a worthwhile [solution], instead of having to move to Prineville, to Crook County or to Jefferson County." She tells KBND News, "Those people that are living in fifth wheelers could actually move into an apartment or a small home that someone has added, legally, to their rural property."
Cook also supports allowing ADUs, but says it won’t help most low-income families, "First of all, there’s a limited number of properties which will actually be able to accommodate an ADU. Secondly, those ADUs are obviously in the country and the places we need housing is in our cities, where it’s close to services." He wants to look for ways to make it more affordable to build houses for working-class families making more than 80% of the area's median income. Cook says, "People making above that, but still making middle-class wages – people like our nurses, our school teachers, our firefighters – have a housing crisis and they’re not getting that subsidized housing."
Adair sees the problems associated with growth compounded by cities not requiring more parking for new apartment complexes. "A large unit that was built in Bend, that’s being in Bend. And, it’s definitely – I believe we need to add more parking. Unfortunately, I’ve been told that we can’t go underground with parking, but could we add a level or two of parking within the building?" But, She acknowledges that issue must be addressed by city government, not the county. Cook believes Commissioners can help by partnering with cities on more projects like the affordable housing proposals in Bend and Redmond, now competing for a special Legislative program, "The county owns land that we’re hoping will be donated to the city, to take the land cost out of that."
Click HERE to listen to our full conversation with James Cook and Patti Adair. For more on the candidates and issues on the November ballot, visit our Elections Page.