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Bend councilors tackle affordable housing issue at goal-setting retreat — but what does the term really mean?

There's a dollar figure, but it's a much broader issue

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The term "affordable housing" is used a lot when talking about tackling the major issues in Central Oregon, including homelessness, but what does the term really mean to city councilors who met this week in a goal-setting retreat, and to and others involved in those efforts?

New Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler told me Tuesday, "There are federal and state definitions that apply to funding that applies to affordable housing. And in those definitions, it means housing that is restrictions in the deed to be available for people under a certain income level."

Affordable housing is designed to help those in a household making 80% or less of Bend's area median income, which is $71,900 a year as of December.

According to Zillow.com, the average price of a home in Bend as of December 2022 is $738,000. The average rent per month in Bend for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,884.

Kebler added, "We do have a need for some of that low-income housing, especially if we want to help people move out of homelessness and into a housing situation."

Jackie Keogh is executive director of Kôr Community Land Trust, a low-income housing program that works in conjunction with the city on the issue of affordable housing.

"We're serving folks who can afford to leverage a traditional mortgage, but can't afford a home here," Keogh said. They can't afford the housing prices, given the fact that housing prices have risen, but their wages have remained stagnant."

Kôr Community Land Trust works with the city on the issue of affordable housing.

"Kôr has been working with the city of Bend, and we have tripled our housing pipeline to build affordable housing in the next three years," she said. "But because affordable housing is primarily supported by public money, including city money, it takes longer to build."

Keogh says people who need affordable housing usually have to wait for the units to be built, creating a bottleneck. It's a situation she isn't optimistic will be solved any time soon.

After asking Keogh whether the demand/need can ever be met for affordable housing, she offered a sobering take on the situation: "So there will always be more demand for affordable housing. That's just the nature, unfortunately, of the wage that we're paying our workforce, and the cost to build in this high-inflation area market."

A new affordable housing opportunity will be presented before city council in coming weeks. The Bend Planning Commission just recommended approval of the Parkside Place plan to build different types of housing, a park and trails on 35 acres just east of Bend, from Bear Creek Road to Highway 20.

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.

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