Woodburn is the sixth-most family friendly of Oregon’s 20 largest cities, according to the real estate website Estately.

The aggregate site ranked the Beaver State’s 20 most populous cities (with the exception of Grants Pass, due to a lack of data) according to 10 criteria: youth population, commute, preschools, public education, crime, public libraries, parks, housing affordability, day care and cost of living.

The site used a variety of publicly available sources for its data, from the U.S. Census to The Yellow Pages. Its crime statistics came from a 2011 report by the FBI, while its ratings of preschools and public education came from, which rates schools primarily based on achievement test scores compared with other schools in the same state.

Relying on that data and compared with other cities in Oregon such as Portland, Salem, Eugene, Gresham, Lake Oswego, West Linn, Oregon City and McMinnville, Woodburn came out with the highest children’s population, the most affordable housing market and the most libraries per capita, as well as one of the lowest costs of living.

However, it was also assessed the sixth-longest average commute, the lowest number of preschools per capita and the lowest-rated public school system.

Asked about the findings, Woodburn Mayor Kathy Figley said being a family friendly community is one of the city’s top priorities, so she was pleased to see Woodburn getting that kind of recognition.

Because the city has a larger-than-average senior citizen population and several retirement communities, Figley said that many people seem to forget that more than a quarter of Woodburn’s population is under 18.

In fact, according to the 2010 census, 30.9 percent of the city’s population was under 18, as compared to 22.6 percent for the state average.

“I think we’re more known for having a huge retirement community, but there are so many kids here, too,” Figley said. “And how can you be a decent human being and not want the best for them? Whether they’re your kids or just in your community, you want them to be safe and secure and have access to good education and opportunities as they grow up.”

Figley said some of the criteria the study examined are driven by factors outside of the control of any local agency, such as housing affordability.

She said the low cost of housing in some areas of the city are probably related to the large number of foreclosures that hit local homeowners when the housing bubble burst, which she thinks hit the Woodburn area particularly hard.

“I think a lot of the people here work in nurseries and construction, and those are the industries that just got hammered,” she said. “As a local government, we were aware we had a lot of people hurting, not because they weren’t hard-working people, but because there was no work to be had.”

During the recession, when property tax receipts dipped significantly and forced the Woodburn City Council to make some tough decisions, Figley said that some parties had suggested closing the library and other family-friendly amenities.

Though the library’s hours were curtailed, Figley said she wouldn’t hear of closing it entirely.

“That library is just so well used, its (wireless Internet), its computers and other collections,” she said. “We’d sacrifice a lot before we let it close.”

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Tyler Francke covers all things Woodburn. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-765-1195.

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