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Has even ‘affordable housing’ in Bend become too costly to create?

'If you put too much infrastructure on the backside... affordable housing becomes unaffordable to build'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The city of Bend partners with several organizations to build what is referred to as affordable housing. However, some organizations say there are major hurdles and challenges in making such projects happen and trying to make a difference. 

Jackie Keogh, executive director of Rooted Homes, says city infrastructure like land-use permits, water, and sewer, cost the most -- creating a barrier.

"It costs Rooted Homes more money to put in the infrastructure and pay for the land that's required by the City of Bend than it does to actually build the homes," Keogh said.

Rooted Homes builds affordable homes (a term usually related to a requirement of lower income levels) for people who apply and win in a lottery-based system. More than 300 people applied for its most recent lottery of seven homes.

"We need all those things to build affordable housing, -- fair," Keogh said. "But if you put too much infrastructure on the backside of affordable housing, affordable housing becomes unfordable to build in that area."

The Bend City Council creates these policies. Russell Grayson, the city's chief operations officer says the council reviews those policies often.

"Council is very focused on the housing shortage and kind of what tools the council and the city have available to them," Grayson said.

The city does waive fees for affordable housing developers' system development charges, some fees for developing ADUs (accessory dwelling units) and child care facilities.

"If we start waiving infrastructure requirements all over town, a lot of it's going to come back to the community," Grayson said. "We are chasing grants as much as we can, but we've seen this trend going on for decades now, that most of the infrastructure development that needs to occur in most cities has to be borne by the people who live in those cities."

The high cost of rent at commercial units is also impacting the ability to provide affordable housing. Housing Works provides rental assistance through its housing choice voucher program. Applicants are selected from a waitlist based on income and other factors.

Those chosen get a voucher to help with rent, but they have to find their own housing -- usually at commercial rental properties. Lesly Gonzales, HCV director at Housing Works, says even those people can't keep up with Bend's unaffordability.

"Often times, we do run into barriers where our voucher holders are ready to go on a unit, and then it doesn't work for them because the landlord decided to bump it up $100 or $200 -- it is very challenging," Gonzalez said.

The Housing Choice Voucher waitlist opens once a year, for only a week. Nearly 3,000 people applied this year.  

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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Carly Keenan

Carly Keenan is a multimedia journalist and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Carly here.


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