Monmouth multifamily housing thrives

MONMOUTH -- Oregon and the rest of the country are still mired in one of the worst markets in decades for residential construction.

MONMOUTH -- Oregon and the rest of the country are still mired in one of the worst markets in decades for residential construction.

For the time being, Monmouth appears to be defying that trend with a spate of multiunit housing proposals for 2011 -- or projects that are already under way.

This includes a 60-plus unit apartment complex off North Catron Street and parallel to Highway 99W and a town house complex next to Whitesell Park.

"Is there a general housing uptick? Not really," said Larry Thornton, the city's building official. But "as far as multifamily housing, I would say we're building as many of them as we were prior to the recession."

Thornton said construction in Monmouth has been hurt greatly because of the real estate market, but never completely flat. Last year, there were nine homes built and 12 duplexes.

It's doubtful there will be many more single-family homes erected in 2011, Thornton said. Multifamily housing is another story.

An obvious driving force is growth at Western Oregon University, said Community Development Director Mark Fancey.

"WOU is over 6,000 students this year, they're projecting an increase in enrollment," Fancey said. "Anecdotally, it's related to the student population."

* Officials anticipate a dozen more duplexes on lots at Broad and Gwinn streets in 2011. The owner, Gary Epping, had constructed 12 on the property last year.

* Work has already started on duplexes on Warren and Clay streets. A triplex is proposed for the 200 block of Whitman Street.

* Monmouth's planning commission recently received a site plan application for a 15-unit townhouse complex off Whitesell Street north of Western Oregon University.

* City Manager Scott McClure said the 3.3-acre lot just north of the Forest Capital building off Highway 99W has been zoned for high density residential living. Representatives for owner Susan Anne Ballard have proposed building a 60-plus unit apartment complex at the site, McClure said.

Meanwhile, Western broke ground on a 16-unit town house complex for students with families last week. WOU officials have stated they had a waiting list for non-dorm housing that's almost two years long.

McClure said the city is hoping to spur more construction, through a recently approved development incentive policy. The city's urban renewal district will pay 50 percent of the system development charges for commercial, industrial or multifamily projects 25 units or larger that sit in the URD. A cap for the incentive is set at $50,000.

"Right now, I'm as busy as I want to be," said Thornton, whose department has been trimmed to one employee because of budget cuts since 2008.

"I think for a recession year, we're doing pretty fair," he said.


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