Editor’s note: This column has been corrected to change an erroneous date and the number of houses Kor will be selling.

Bend is unlikely ever to build itself out of its need for more affordable housing, Jim Long, the retired affordable housing guru for the city, once told me. That was several years ago, and things haven’t turned themselves around since then.

That doesn’t mean the city and a variety of nonprofit agencies aren’t working to improve the situation. Habitat for Humanity builds houses, as does the Kôr Community Land Trust. Kôr began taking applications for five homes on Bend’s east side on July 22. The homes will be owner-occupied, and the land beneath them, owned by the trust, will be leased to the homeowners. Too, Pacific Crest Affordable Housing has built five affordable housing developments in Central Oregon, and is on the way to building two more.

The community land trust model is becoming more popular in the region, says Lynne McConnell, the city’s affordable housing manager.

It has some advantages. Probably most important, its goal is to keep housing it develops affordable in perpetuity. The model generally used sees the trust purchase the land, build the houses and then extend long-term — as long as 99 years — leases to occupants. Those who lease their homes from the trust do actually see their investment increase in value over time, but families split the increase with the trust at a predetermined rate, allowing the trust to keep the price of the home moderate over the years.

Land trusts offer other values, as well. Kôr’s Korazon development will include five clustered cottages. One will be sold to a middle-income buyer, with income ranging from 81% to 120% of the area median income; three will be sold to low-income buyers (51% to 80% AMI) and one to a very-low income buyer, with 40% to 50% of AMI. AMI in Deschutes County was $55,700 in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The values are adjusted for family size.

Nor must the community land trust model be limited to new homes.

As Bend-area residents discovered only a few years ago, mobile home parks are becoming a thing of the past, and it’s a statewide problem. One way to save the parks was used to preserve the Juniper Hilltop Mobile Park on Bend’s west side several years ago. It became a cooperative in which residents own the land on which their homes sit.

Other parks in similar straits are using the community land trust model to keep themselves open, and that same model could be used to open new modular home and mobile home developments.

There are distinct advantages. Mobile and modular homes tend to cost less to build than stick-built houses, meaning money for affordable housing could be spread farther. In a community like Bend, that could mean more housing more quickly than more traditional developments could.

The hang-up, apparently, is that the city has precious little land available for mobile or modular home subdivisions. I suspect that may be a leftover bias about “trailer trash” and the like, and it’s unfortunate. One only need look at Snowberry Village on NE 27th Street to see how good a development can look.

And one only need look at the Homeless Leadership Coalition’s most recent point-in-time shelter count, conducted in January, to see why getting the most for our dollars is so important. Homelessness in Central Oregon rose in the last 12 months, not by a huge amount, but it’s up just the same. And, as has been the case for years, the majority of homeless men, women and children in the area were last housed right here in Central Oregon.

Too, the number of children who are homeless in the region is on the rise, though most, fortunately, are with their families.

We may not be able to build our way out of an affordable housing crisis, as Long and others have worried. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, however, even to the point of reconsidering the value of mobile and modular home developments.

— Janet Stevens is deputy editor of The Bulletin. Contact: 541-617-7821, jstevens@bendbulletin.com

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