City Planning Department has approved more than 200 dwellings for construction

The Prineville area enjoyed a solid uptick in home development interest this past year, and going into 2017, the community stands to gain 240 new dwellings.

According to City Planning Director Phil Stenbeck, the City Planning Department signed off on 64 single-family dwellings in 2016 as well as 47 multi-family units and 130 RV sites that are intended to house data center construction workers throughout the next few years. While different circumstances tend to prevent the completion of some structures, history suggests that the majority of the dwellings approved by the planning department will be built in the coming year or two.

The current quantity of permits issued for various residences is a vast improvement from 2011, when home building slowed to a crawl. Home building modestly increased from 2011 to 2014, but in 2015, the planning department signed off on about 80 percent more homes than the previous year. Then in 2016, building permit sign-offs nearly doubled from the prior year.

"There has just been improvement," Stenbeck said. "I don't know how much higher than this it will go. I am really surprised."

The uptick in home building follows a lack of affordable housing and virtually nonexistent rental vacancy during the past couple years. The problem was provoked in large part by the arrival of several hundred data center construction workers.

During the second half of 2016, developers applied to build two RV parks, one featuring 100 spaces and another with 30. In addition, a 12-unit boarding house is under construction in downtown Prineville, and a stick-built home subdivision is planned near the local skate park.

Stenbeck feels the year-over-year increase in home building permits is good for the community because it is resulting in steadily climbing home prices. He points out that if developers build too many homes, it will cause home prices to plummet.

While many of the homes planned for construction are expected to help fill the need for affordable housing in Prineville, Stenbeck expects the RV park projects to have a different effect on the market.

"These are recreational, so they take pressure off of the market and make housing more affordable," Stenbeck said, adding that data center construction workers would choose the RV spaces over an apartment or rental home.

At this point, the RV parks are not yet under construction because the developers are still waiting for zone change approval from the city. Both locations, one of which is off of Combs Flat Road and another near Prineville Disposal, must be changed from light industrial to residential before construction can begin. Approval could come as soon as Tuesday evening when the Prineville City Council is expected to consider the zone changes.

Whether or not the year-over-year increase in home building permits will continue is difficult to predict, Stenbeck said, but he said there is reason to expect another increase this year and beyond.

"Right now, I am seeing a trend," he said. "Whether it tapers off, I don't know, but I am seeing a pretty steady trend."

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