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Eugene looks to bulk up urban renewal funds for downtown housing

View of signage, front door and windows on Eugene's Farmers Market Pavilion
Rachael McDonald
The existing $66 million dollar downtown urban renewal fund has already been allocated toward things like the Farmers Market Pavilion and Plaza, the downtown fiber network and the downtown Eugene Public Library.

In an effort to create more housing downtown, the Eugene City Council, acting as the Urban Renewal Agency Board, is looking to bulk up its urban renewal plan.

At a meeting in mid-April, the council started a process to add up to $50 million dollars to the $66 million dollar fund.

“The discussion definitely emphasized that their intention is to spend the majority of the money on supporting the creation of housing," said Development program director Amanda D’Souza said. "New housing will really support vibrancy, safety, and the economic development heart of downtown. And there’s also just in general, as everyone knows, a pretty big housing undersupply in Eugene.”

D’Souza said urban renewal funds could help cover the cost of permits and development, or help the city buy property.

Besides housing, other high-priority areas include physical improvements to increase safety and community projects such as revitalizing open spaces and public facilities. D’Souza said funds can only be spent on capital projects, so operational expenses like adding more policing downtown cannot be included.

D'Souza said adding to urban renewal funds will not impose new taxes. It redirects any increase in property tax revenue, over time, to the district. She said it’s complicated, but Eugene 4J schools enjoy a net positive revenue because of the downtown urban renewal district.

The city invites residents to give feedback on how they’d like the funds to be spent. There’s a public hearing on Monday, May 15 at 5:30.

The Eugene City Council meets June 12 to review public comments, and again on June 21 to potentially take action. Specific projects and allocations will be chosen at a later date.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.