More housing in works for Sweet Home

Benny Westcott

More people may be calling Sweet Home their own home in the near future, as a number of subdivisions and apartment complexes are in the works throughout the town.

A third phase of building is planned for the Duck Hollow subdivision, which is southeast of City Hall.

Community and Economic Development Director Blair Larsen said developers were approved to build 54 more single family lots in Duck Hollow last year, but the project has been “a little delayed with some wetland mitigation on the site that they’ve been working with the state on.”

Larsen said he guesses that construction at Duck Hollow will not start this summer, but said it could happen.

Another subdivision, called Mountain River, is in the works off of 45th Avenue and Highway 20. Thirty-one lots are proposed to be built in the first phase, and 20 apartment units are planned for the second phase of construction.

Another developer has proposed adding 26 lots at the west end of Foothill Drive.

As far as apartments go, the 48-unit apartment complex at 2500 Long St., which Larsen thinks will be the first multi-building apartment complex in Sweet Home in 50 years, is nearing completion.

Larsen said another 40 apartment units are being planned for construction next to City Hall, in the 3000 block of Long Street, and site work has already begun there.

“I know that apartments are a rather new thing for a lot of people in Sweet Home,” Larsen said. “They’re not used to it.”

“I remember hearing some comments from folks on social media and other things that were expressing doubt about the idea of apartments,” he said. “They were saying things like, ‘Oh, I wonder if it’s affordable housing.’

“There’s a perception that people have of apartment dwellers, that they’re renters, they’re not owners, and that anybody who lives in an apartment must do so just because they can’t afford a different place.”

“That might be true for some people, but it’s not true for others,” he went on. “There’s a ton of people who don’t want to take care of a yard. And there’s some people that maybe shouldn’t have a yard to take care of because they don’t have the means, the ability or the desire to do so.”

Larsen said he thinks the development of a range of housing options is good for Sweet Home as a whole.

“Regardless of what kind of housing it is, the newer stuff that we have coming in is much higher quality than the average, and that’s good for everybody. Not only does it increase the supply, which will hopefully keep housing costs from going up much faster, but it also puts pressure on those property owners that maybe should be taking care of their properties better, and maybe gets them to improve their property so they can compete for the tenants that these other places are going to get.”

Larsen said Sweet Home still has plenty of potentially buildable areas.

“One thing that we feel pretty confident about is that we’re in a really good position when it comes to the land that we have available and our ability to serve those properties with utilities,” he said.

“We’re in better shape than some other communities,” he added. “Lebanon has a major sewer line that they need to put in, and that is essentially keeping them from having any single-family development going on there. They do have some apartments going in there, but they’re really hampered by that limitation.”

Developers are starting to look at Sweet Home more and more, Larsen said.

“For a while, Sweet Home had not been getting the attention that I think it really deserved. A lot of developers go to where they’re going to get the most bang for their buck. And it takes them a little while to look further away from the big metro areas.”

Now, he said, “We’re starting to get that attention. It’s clear that there is a lot of interest in building here, because of the questions that we get,” Larsen said.

But Larsen noted that there are multiple factors at play these days that will influence whether or not developers turn their interest into action in Sweet Home anytime soon.

“There definitely is a housing boom right now, but unfortunately there’s also super high cost of building materials. So it will be interesting to see how that goes.”

But overall, Larsen said he’s pleased to see the development plans in Sweet Home.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s really cool to see these things happen, because it’s going to mean an increased quality of life for everyone. Because a lot of times with these big developments, they make other improvements. And they of course bring in more customers for local businesses.”

Sweet Home’s City Council has been favorable toward development as well, Larsen said.

“The council has been very pro-economic development. And with that comes a pro-growth mentality. But at the same time, the council wants to keep Sweet Home, Sweet Home. We want to make sure that we’re exerting our influence and being what we want to be.”

Larsen, who has a decade of experience working in local governments, said “in economic development terms, you’re either growing, or you’re stagnating and dying. We prefer to be on the growing side rather than on the dying side.”

Despite the numerous developments being planned, the number of building permits given out in Sweet Home is down in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2019.

Larsen speculates that this decrease is in part due to the pandemic.

“While the pandemic has certainly affected a lot of things, I think building activity has still gone on. But I think it’s still been affected. That’s the only thing that I can really point to.”

But he says that “a lot of these things are cyclical.”

“Planning is the first indication, and then it moves on to building permits. The planning activities that we see are really the precursor. That comes in kind of waves.

“We’ve seen a lot of planning activity this year so far, and then it’ll take a little while for the building activity to catch up to it.”