The pace of growth in Central Oregon is simply staggering, drawing people from all over the U.S. because of the high desirability. Homebuyers moving here refer to Central Oregon home prices as "affordable" compared to where they're coming from—mostly metropolitan areas where sales prices have soared. Zillow states that median home prices in San Francisco are nearly $1.3 million, the Seattle area fetches $720,000 and Los Angeles is coming in around $760,000. In contrast, last month, Bend's median single-family home sale price was $450,000. Those who are new to Bend are pleasantly surprised to see how far their dollar goes here.
Increasing home prices are great for current homeowners building equity, and manageable for many buyers who come from high-priced markets, but the rising prices have pushed homeownership just out of reach for any prospective buyers on a tight budget. Affordable housing is defined as housing that costs 30% or less of a household income. Nationally and locally, wages aren't keeping up with rising housing costs. The lack of affordable housing greatly affects many everyday people who are key service providers in a community, such as teachers, cops, nurses and firefighters, as well as most of the restaurant and hospitality employees.
Affordable housing improves the quality of life for communities by leading to better health, financial stability, adequate jobs, security and population diversity—all incentives for burgeoning cities to reinvest in housing options for all. Affordable housing is also necessary for cities to thrive and remain desirable. In a recent report, the National Association of Realtors' Chief Economist Lawrence Yun highlights the correlation between housing affordability and decreasing job growth. Yun states that as inventory continues to decline and affordability worsens, workers and companies are less incentivized to do business in that place. NAR states that 81 out of 174 U.S. metropolitan areas have seen a decline in housing affordability rankings and 34 of these areas are seeing job growth fall faster than the national average.
Some local organizations are tackling this problem head on. Among them is Kôr Community Land Trust, which is spearheading efforts to develop perpetually affordable homes. Its flagship community, five energy efficient, 1,100-square-foot cottages, will begin construction next month. Habitat for Humanity is another longtime friend to those for whom home ownership has been out of reach. The local chapter will soon begin construction on nine smaller, highly efficient homes.
Larger homebuilders and real estate developers usually aren't interested in tackling this issue because of the low profit margin, so the solution will rely on community involvement. Kôr Community Land Trust and Habitat for Humanity are largely supported by individual donations and volunteers. The solution to the need for affordable housing will likely have to rise from a local-level grassroots movement. Discussing ways to create and support affordable housing in Bend is a great conversation to start having with local lawmakers or friends and family.