2024 County Commissioner Candidate – Phil Chang

2024 County Commissioner Candidate – Phil Chang

PublIshed on Apr 16, 2024

Phil Chang



Economic Development & Local Business Support


1. What specific strategies do you propose to attract and retain businesses in Deschutes County?

I believe that if our quality of life remains excellent in Deschutes County then entrepreneurs, businesses, and workers will continue to come here and stay here. The County plays roles in providing good schools, good transportation systems and mobility, quality attainable housing, quality health care, access to outdoor recreation, public safety and many other elements of quality of life for our community. We need to continue providing all of these services to ensure that this is a place where businesses want to be.

The County also invests directly in economic development organizations. We are one of the largest investors in EDCO and have contributed funds to specific Chamber projects, such as the workforce housing initiative. EDCO is focused on recruitment and retention and also supporting entrepreneurs in starting businesses. We also have a responsibility to ensure the regulatory and tax environments are reasonable and fair.

2. How do you plan to collaborate with local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations to promote business growth?

As I said, the County invests in EDCO and in specific Bend Chamber initiatives. The County has also made general investments in some of the other Chambers (such as Sunriver and Sisters). I also currently sit on both the EDCO Board and the REDI board and engage as often as I can in special initiatives at the Chambers, such as the Bend Chamber’s workforce and child care initiatives. I am always ready to offer my time, my creative brain power, my network of state and federal legislative connections, and other relationships to support the work of the chambers and EDCO. I take the input of the Chambers and EDCO very seriously when there are matters the Board of Commissioners is deliberating on – from housing to enterprise zones to child care and more. I also try to track and support the work of our Destination Management Organizations, Visit Bend and Visit Central Oregon.

3. How would you streamline bureaucracy and reduce regulatory burdens to make it easier for local businesses to operate and thrive?

I’ll offer a few examples of places that the County has worked to reduce regulatory burdens to make it easier for local businesses to operate and thrive to illustrate my approach:

I voted to change child care from a conditional use to an outright use in the unincorporated County, making the permitting process much more streamlined and efficient for potential child care businesses wanting to locate in settings like Tumalo or Terrebonne.

The County has been considering creation of a short term rental business license requirement for STRs outside of incorporated cities. The goal would be to ensure that STRs are being good neighbors, and not impacting nearby homeowners with groundwater pollution, trash, noise, or increased fire risk. The requirements contemplated could be streamlined for some STRs. For example, an STR in a subdivision that has access to a sewer system and wastewater treatment plant could check a box so it would not need a septic review. The intent is to provide the needed neighborhood protections without imposing any unnecessary requirements.


Workforce Housing


1. What can the County do to ensure more homes are constructed and accessible to moderate income residents in the 80-120AMI income band?

While there is still more work to be done to ensure more homes are accessible to moderate-income residents in the 80-120AMI income band, the County has already made significant strides. Here’s how these accomplishments can further expanded:

Expand the “Missing Middle” Housing Investment Program: Building upon the successful collaboration with COBA for the $1 million “missing middle” housing investment program, the County can identify and allocate additional funds to further incentivize the construction of homes specifically for moderate-income residents.

Enhance Support for Affordable Housing Projects: Continuing to support affordable housing projects (in the 80-100 AMI range) through land donations and discounted sales is needed. The County can explore opportunities to increase the availability of suitable land for development by identifying underutilized or surplus properties that can be repurposed for affordable housing initiatives. The County can also identify new ways to provide some public cost share/public investment in both affordable and missing middle projects.

Promote Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs): I worked hard to enable rural residential property owners to have the authority to build rural ADUs. Now that ADUs are allowed in both cities and the unincorporated County, we need to do more to encourage and incentivize the construction of ADUs. The Summit County Colorado ADU grant program that the Bend Chamber has highlighted would be an excellent addition to housing production programs here, helping to buy down the cost of building an ADU and secure restrictions that the subsidized ADU will be rented to local workers.

By building upon these accomplishments and adopting proactive strategies, the County can take significant strides towards ensuring the construction of more homes accessible to moderate-income residents.

2. How do you plan to collaborate with local housing authorities, nonprofit organizations, and cities in Deschutes County to accelerate the construction of housing units for this income band?

I plan to continue strategic partnerships with our local housing authority (Housing Works), nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Rooted Homes, and Bend’s city leaders and Affordable Housing Advisory Committee to accelerate the construction of more middle and affordable housing for our workforce.

Partnerships with our Housing Authority (Housing Works): I will work closely with Housing Works to leverage their expertise and resources in identifying suitable land for development, securing funding opportunities, and implementing housing programs tailored to the needs of moderate and low-income individuals. In my first term the County sold land to Housing Works at discounted prices, provided over $3 million to Housing Works projects in Deschutes County, and supported innovative Housing Works projects with co-location of medical clinics, child care, and other needed services.

Engagement with Nonprofit Organizations: Nonprofit organizations play a vital role in providing housing assistance and support services to vulnerable populations. By partnering with these organizations, we can maximize our efforts to address housing affordability issues through collaborative initiatives, such as affordable housing developments, rental assistance programs, and homeownership opportunities. I have partnered with affordable homeownership non-profits (ex: Habitat, Rooted Homes), rental non-profits (Foundation for Affordable Housing, etc)  and for profit organizations (Pacific Crest Affordable Housing, Thistle and Nest, Project ^, etc) in various ways to expand middle and affordable housing production.

Collaboration with Cities: Cities within Deschutes County are integral partners in the construction and zoning processes. I will collaborate with city officials to streamline regulatory procedures, expedite permitting processes, and incentivize developers to prioritize the construction of housing units for moderate-income residents. The County has a key role to play in supporting Urban Growth Boundary expansions so that adequate supply of buildable lands is not a constraint on producing needed housing. There are synergies to be gained in projects that receive funding from the City’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. Additionally, I will encourage cities to consider inclusive zoning policies that encourage the development of mixed-income neighborhoods and promote equitable access to housing options.

By fostering strong partnerships with local stakeholders, including housing authorities, nonprofit organizations, and city governments, we can accelerate the construction of housing units for moderate-income residents in Deschutes County. Together, we will work towards creating vibrant, inclusive communities where all residents have access to safe, affordable housing options.”

3. How do you plan to address barriers to homeownership, particularly for low- to moderate-income individuals and families?

Our community can go beyond current strategies to produce more middle and low income housing to address barriers to home ownership. Other western amenity local governments are providing local workers with down payment and rental deposit assistance; meaningfully restricting the number of short term rentals in their jurisdiction; and actively acquiring land for affordable and workforce housing projects. One community offers home sellers a cash payment in exchange for reducing the sale price of an existing more modest home and placing a deed restriction on the property so it becomes permanently affordable.


Workforce Development


A career-ready workforce with relevant knowledge and experience is crucial to the success of local business. Given what you know about the changing needs of employers, what steps will you take to ensure that local workers have the skillsets needed to meet evolving workplace requirements?

Ensuring our local workforce remains competitive and adaptable to evolving workplace needs is paramount for sustaining our community’s economic vitality. To achieve this, I will continue advocating for robust funding for workforce development programs. Drawing from my experience advocating for increased federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding alongside Senator Jeff Merkley, I understand the importance of supporting regional Workforce Development Boards. Additionally, as a County Commissioner, I’ve actively lobbied the state legislature to invest in Career and Technical Education initiatives and programs like the Oregon Conservation Corps, crucial for bolstering our wildland firefighting workforce statewide.

Furthermore, I’ve championed targeted investments in workforce training, such as the COCC Construction Pre-Apprenticeship Program, using American Rescue Plan funds. Similar investments have been made to enhance training opportunities for public health and childcare workers at COCC. Recognizing the pressing need to address housing costs in our community, I firmly believe in the strategy of “growing our own” skilled workforce to meet local labor market demands effectively.

I have also advocated for a Community Benefits Bidding process for large County capital construction projects. This process would require contractors seeking to bid on these large County projects to provide BOLI-certified apprenticeships in order to build the construction and building trades workforce in the region.

By prioritizing investments in workforce development programs, we not only equip our workers with the necessary skills for success but also foster a resilient and thriving local economy.


Child Care


What strategies do you intend to implement to support child care providers in Deschutes County, ensuring they have the resources, training, and regulatory environment necessary to deliver high-quality care while running an economically sustainable business?

Supporting child care providers in Deschutes County allows parents to know their children are receiving safe, enriching care while they are participating in the workforce. Delivering high quality care while running an economically sustainable business is no small feat. Child care providers are constantly trying to balance investing enough in employees to retain good workers and maintain quality against charging rates that parents can actually afford.

I’ve already implemented strategies to support child care providers in the County in my first term and there are many lessons to carry into a second term. When the County received $38 million of American Rescue Plan investment during the pandemic, I argued that investing in child care was an excellent way to accelerate our economic recovery because a lack of child care was constraining our workforce even before the pandemic.

I worked with a coalition of child care experts, including the Bend Chamber, to assemble a $7.6 million package of child care projects that was projected to create more than 500 new spots in local child care facilities and train more than 275 new workers in the child care and early education fields.

During this process I listened to this group of experts that said we needed to invest in creation, expansion, and upgrades of physical facilities but we also needed to support workforce and business development. So the $7.6 million not only went into sites like the Little Beavs Early Learning Center and in-home child cares, it also went into training and apprenticeships for child care workers and business coaching for providers wanting to own and/or operate a child care business.

I learned along with the child care coalition how local governments can expand and strengthen the child care sector through strategic investments during this process. And I have more ideas – and many implementing partners – to do more in a second term. We can create a supportive environment where child care providers have the resources, training, and support needed to deliver high-quality care that is accessible to all.

The Bend Chamber is actively supported by these Signature Investors

Small Business



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