A Smaller Footprint | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

A Smaller Footprint

Affordable housing options in Bend?

Currently in Bend, there's a broad spectrum of housing development underway, varying from upscale projects in the northwest to more economical options on the east side. Just to the west of Northwest Crossing is a new development called Discovery West, which will have a centralized park streaked through it and will be comparable to Northwest Crossing, utilizing mixed residential and live-work spaces and close to parks and trails. In all reality it will be a pleasant place to live, work and play. This is just one of the mid- to higher-priced communities that have emerged on the popular west side. When budgets are tighter, west side locations become limited—so most will look toward the east side developments to match their housing needs.

As urban sprawl spreads throughout Deschutes County, it's fair to say that we have the middle to upper home prices covered. The big question remains, what about actual affordable housing options? Home ownership is just out of reach for a large percentage of Central Oregonians who are begging for the question to be answered.

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© Can Stock Photo / zimmytws

The term "affordable housing" is used to describe housing no matter what your income, but specifically, as housing costs that are at or lower than 30 percent of your household income. In general, every household has a unique budget and opinion on this subject. The question is, how do we achieve affordable options? As a former home builder, I can attest to the difficulties that arise when trying to keep standards and quality high while working on a tight budget, especially with the rising costs of land, materials, labor, insurance, permits and system development charges.

One easy way to reduce costs is to simply build smaller. While I was building homes I dreamt of building a community of small, efficient, sustainable green homes with similar quality as Northwest Crossing and homes in size of only 1,000 square feet. Along the same lines is the brand new tiny-home community in southeast Bend, called Hiatus. An attempt to offer lower-cost housing in a very small package, the 477-square-foot homes start at around $245,000. Higher density would be another viable consideration for affordable housing. A larger, multi-level building with smaller condo units that's centrally located would also bring the overall cost of construction down.

We may need to step outside of our comfort zones to consider these options, because the cost benefits are immense. With a focus on helping people become homeowners and building wealth, it'd be easy to overlook living situations that we aren't accustomed to. Affordable community living can and has been done tastefully in larger cities. The focus would need to stay consistent with the ability to live, work and play within close proximity, allowing people to have pride in their ownership and truly enjoy their living experience.

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