Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

What: Housing Works (Central Oregon Regional Housing ­Authority)

What it does: Builds affordable rental housing and administers federal housing choice voucher program

Pictured: David Brandt, executive director

Address: 405 SW Sixth St., Redmond

Website: https://housing-­works.org

Phone number: 541-923-1018

When David Brandt first came to Central Oregon in 2009 as city manager of Redmond, he saw people losing their homes to unemployment.

Now jobs are plentiful, but people still struggle to find an affordable place to live. As executive director of Central Oregon’s largest affordable housing provider, Housing Works, Brandt doesn’t foresee that changing anytime soon.

“There’s not enough money statewide for all the worthy projects to be funded,” Brandt said. “Meanwhile, the community’s growing 3 percent a year. So we’re not keeping up. That’s the thing that’s hard. We could do more if we had more.”

Housing Works owns more than 1,000 rental units in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties. Its new construction projects are funded through low-income housing tax credits. The nonprofit organization also administers U.S. Housing and Urban Development’s housing choice voucher program.

Brandt returned to Central Oregon last summer from Cupertino, California, where he’d been city manager, to lead Housing Works. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What is Housing Works doing to maximize its limited resources?

A: We’re doing more partnerships than we did in the past. We’re building a little eight-plex down in Redmond that’s set aside for developmentally and intellectually disabled (people). More and more, we have units set aside for special needs residents of all types. We’ve also developed a great partnership with Mosaic Medical, where we lease them clinic space in the ground floor of our buildings and serve our residents.

Q: How do you think Oregon’s new rent control law will affect affordable housing?

A: Theoretically it will constrain supply because people won’t want to build. My suspicion is it won’t have any impact, one way or another. Other than it will make some apartment owners annoyed because it is intrusive. But most of them aren’t increasing rents at 7 percent a year.

I think five years from now, people will notice that nothing has really changed. We’ll still have affordability problems.

Q: How does Central Oregon compare to the Cupertino, California, home of Apple Inc.’s headquarters?

A: They had one of the largest, and certainly the most valuable, employers in the world. And that employer built a building that was going to employ 15,000 people. The community’s response was, ‘Well, they can live someplace else.’

The level of NIMBYism, the level of hostility to affordable housing is so much less (here) than anywhere in California, for sure. There’s concern the quality of life will be affected if we don’t grow smartly. Our mantra is we always want to be the best-looking building in the neighborhood. People are usually pretty impressed.

Q: What’s your goal for Housing Works?

A: We produce about 75 units a year. I’d love to be able to maintain that. I’d love to be able to go to 100, but that’ll be pretty hard, given the level of funding available statewide.

The main thing is that the allocations (of low-income housing tax credits) nationwide are not enough, not only for us but for most communities. We could build twice the units we build every year, and we still wouldn’t be touching the need.

Q: Which segment of the rental market are you serving?

A: State programs only fund up to 60 percent of area median income. A lot of people have disabilities, maybe not working full-time. Single-parent households with multiple kids. These people still have a really hard time getting housing they can afford. We’re sort of the safety-net houser of that community.

— Reporter: 541-617-7860, kmclaughlin@bendbulletin.com

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