Housing that Won't Break the Bank | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Housing that Won't Break the Bank

Local efforts tackle the issue of affordability

One of the biggest issues facing Bend today is the lack of affordable housing. At the root of the problem: the large discrepancy between the median income and the median home price. According to the 2015 American Community Survey released by the U.S. Census, the median household income in Bend is $57,373. That's $2,000 above the national median, and a 17 percent increase from three years ago. Meanwhile, the cost of homes spiked along with the income. The median home price in Bend jumped from $288,900 in 2014 to $355,200 in 2015, one of the highest increases in the country. Meanwhile, the price of land is at a premium.

This already-large gap between funds and costs is exacerbated for many residents who fall into "low income" (those who make under 80 percent of the median income) and "super low income" (under 50 percent) brackets. This includes many working class residents such as teachers, nurses and small business owners.

But it's not all doom and gloom, because there are public and private sectors working on solutions that target this discrepancy. The City of Bend's Affordable Housing Department offers incentives and programs that address the issue. The department's website lists several housing-related goals for the next five years as part of the city's broader economic development plan. This includes building 100 units of affordable housing each year from 2015 to 2017. By definition, an "affordable house" requires the resident(s) to not spend more than 30 percent of the household income on housing-related expenses (e.g. mortgages, insurance and essential utilities for homebuyers; rent and essential utilities for renters).

Additionally, the Affordable Housing Developer Incentive Program was established in 2003. The program encourages development by offering an expedited review and permitting process, as well as deferrals and loans on system development charges.

Other community groups and businesses are experimenting with creative solutions. Kôr Community Land Trust is a nonprofit group that plans to build affordable homes that can be sold in perpetuity. The community land trust (CLT) model works by giving residents ownership of the housing units while the trust maintains ownership of the land. This allows residents to experience the benefits of ownership, and the trust to sell the homes at a fixed price using an equation based on the area median income.

This model targets the needs of low and super low-income residents. Kôr plans to sell 40 percent of its units to low-income residents and 35 percent to super low-income residents, with the remaining 25 percent available for those near the median household income.

Kôr's housing units will also be sustainable, using solar and low energy technology to keep costs low for homeowners, further increasing their affordability. The city recently awarded the nonprofit Affordable Housing Fee Funds, and Kôr is currently looking for land to build on.

With a mix of short and long-term ideas already in play, Bend is on track to start truly tackling the affordable housing issue over the next several years.

Kôr Community Land Trust


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