Central Oregon senior housing is scarce

Expert: “It’s hard but not impossible.”

By Mac McLean / The Bulletin / @agingbeat

Published May 2, 2014 at 12:11AM

Housing search

The Central Oregon Council on Aging and Housing Works both maintain extensive lists of places where low-income seniors may be able to find a low cost apartment. Here is how you can reach each agency:

• Central Oregon Council on Aging: 541-678-5483 or admin@councilonaging.org

• Housing Works: 541-923-1018 or http://www.housing-works.org/contact2/

Q: My father recently died and my mother wants to move to Central Oregon so it will be easier for us to take care of her in case she gets sick. But she is living on a fixed income of Social Security payments that are less than $2,000 a month and we’re having problems finding a place she can afford. Is there anywhere we can turn for help?

A: Matthew Romero is the database manager for the Central Oregon Council on Aging’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection, which helps connect seniors with the services that are available to them, and Kenny LaPoint is the housing and resident services director for Housing Works, which serves as the housing authority for Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties.

Both men said they routinely get calls from people who are having trouble finding housing for their elderly parents.

They also said that this can be a very difficult thing to do given the current rental market — which has a 0.7 percent vacancy rate — and that there is very little affordable housing in the region.

“It’s hard but it’s not impossible,” Romero said.

Because of the region’s low vacancy rate, LaPoint said many landlords and property managers charge higher rents.

They’ve also increased the standards used in selecting a tenant, he said, so that a potential renter may have to earn more than 2½ or three times what an apartment’s rent costs each month to even be considered.

This means the woman in question might only be able to afford an apartment that costs less than $700 or $800 a month, he said, noting those apartments are few and far between, if they exist at all.

But both he and Romero said a person who earns less than $2,000 a month may be able to qualify for a low-income senior housing complex like northeast Bend’s Greenwood Manor or the Redmond Triangle complex in north Redmond.

LaPoint said these complexes are designed for people who make less than the region’s area median income — some require a person to earn less than 80 percent of the AMI ($2,912 a month) while others require less than 50 percent of the AMI ($1,820 a month) — and often charge rates that are based on a person’s income so they are affordable.

But he said these complexes also have a very low vacancy rate.

“Our senior communities are fully occupied right now,” LaPoint said, adding many of the complexes have a long waiting list full of people who are trying to find an available apartment.

“We need more affordable housing in Central Oregon to meet our needs.”

Romero stressed that it’s important that a person not give up on his housing search if he is far down on the wait list for a particular place. He’s seen a number of occasions where people have gone from being near the bottom of the wait list for a particular complex to being in a position where they can get its next available room because so many others quit their search.

Romero also said people can improve their chances of finding an apartment if they put an application in for more than one complex at a time and if they call every place they’ve applied to regularly to see where they stand.

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7816, mmclean@bendbulletin.com