An Eastern Oregon town’s expected population surge creates opportunities, challenges

By Gemma DiCarlo (OPB)
April 13, 2023 7:20 p.m.
A house with a pile of gravel in the front yard.

A new home under construction in Stanfield, Ore., is shown here in a provided photo. The city of 2,400 residents expects to grow by 50% or more in the coming years thanks to a wave of new housing development.

Courtesy Benjamin Burgener

The city of Stanfield, Oregon, just southeast of Hermiston, is on the verge of explosive growth.


As the East Oregonian recently reported, the city of 2,400 residents could see a 50% increase in its population just in the next few years.

The expected surge is the result of an unprecedented wave of new housing development. City Manager Benjamin Burgener said between 400 and 500 homes have recently been approved for construction.

“To put that in scope, Stanfield in the last two decades hasn’t had more than 10 to 20 homes,” he said. “We are doing more every year than even in the last two decades combined.”

When he moved to Stanfield three and half years ago, Burgener said there wasn’t a single house on the market.

Through his work as city manager, he learned that would-be residents — drawn by the city’s small-town feel and low property tax rates — simply couldn’t find a place to stay.


“There are a lot of people who wanted to live in Stanfield. There just weren’t any housing options,” Burgener said. “A lot of people were not moving out, so there was no way to come into the city.”

He said a mix of townhome, manufactured and single-family developments will bring a range of options and price points to a region badly in need of housing.

While the rapid growth is expected to bring a larger tax base and new economic opportunities, it also presents challenges.

Burgener said the school district passed a bond measure to expand facilities a few years ago, and is already considering floating another one to accommodate an anticipated surge in student enrollment. The city is also working to update its development code and comprehensive plan to maintain a “small-town feel” amid the growth.

Perhaps most pressing is the city’s wastewater infrastructure. Though it can handle the current increase, future growth may require an upgrade that could cost up to $20 million.

“It’s not an easy pill to swallow for a small city,” Burgener said. “We’re planning well ahead — many years ahead — so that when the time comes, we should have a plan in place.”

And more growth is on the way. Burgener said developers come in “weekly, if not monthly” looking for land to build on. Preliminary scoping is underway for a development of 1,000 units on the north side of town.

“[That] is more than double than what we’re doing now,” he said. “We could really double the size of Stanfield as opposed to just a 50 percent increase. There’s a lot of potential.”

Stanfield City Manager Benjamin Burgener spoke to “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller. Click play to listen to the full conversation: