Affordable Housing | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Affordable Housing

What makes it so difficult?

Bend is and has been facing a growing crisis: a shortage of affordable housing. The city has witnessed a surge in population over the last decade, driven by its natural beauty, recreational opportunities and thriving job market. However, this rapid growth has exacerbated the challenges of building affordable housing.

One of the primary obstacles is the escalating costs. The housing market has experienced tremendous demand, resulting in skyrocketing property values and rental rates. The median home price has surged, placing homeownership out of reach for many residents. This trend makes it challenging for developers to construct affordable housing when land and construction costs remain high.

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The city's urban growth boundary, established to preserve its scenic beauty, restricts the expansion of residential developments. This constraint has led to an insufficient supply of land for affordable housing construction, further driving up costs and making it difficult for developers to meet the demand.

Zoning regulations can play a significant role in the challenges of building affordable housing in Bend, though changes are underway with Oregon's passage of HB 2001, which abolished single-family zoning in the state. We're just now starting to see the changes that bill will provide.

The city's zoning codes historically prioritized single-family homes, which can deter the construction of high-density, mixed-use projects that are vital for creating affordable housing options. With the need for more diverse housing solutions, it will be interesting to see how the effects of HB 2001 play out.

Bend, like many communities across the United States, also faces opposition from NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) who resist the development of affordable housing in their neighborhoods. Concerns over potential decreases in property values, traffic congestion and changes to the character of existing neighborhoods can make it difficult for affordable housing projects to gain community support.

Expanding affordable housing in Bend also comes with infrastructure challenges. As the population grows, so does the demand for public services like schools, healthcare facilities and transportation. Ensuring that these services can accommodate the increased population while maintaining affordability adds another layer of complexity.

Bend's economy is a mixed blessing. On one hand, the city's thriving job market attracts newcomers, increasing the demand for housing. On the other hand, the economic disparities between those who move to Bend for high-paying jobs and existing residents can exacerbate the affordability crises.

Affordable housing development typically relies on a combination of public and private funding. Government resources for affordable housing are limited, and competing priorities can lead to underinvestment. Developers often need to rely on subsidies and tax incentives, which may not be sufficient to bridge the affordability gap.

The development timeline for affordable housing projects in Bend is often protracted. This can be attributed to a variety of factors, including regulatory hurdles, land acquisition and financing challenges.

Addressing these challenges requires a collaborative effort involving city officials, developers, community members and organizations dedicated to affordable housing in Bend.

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