Bend resident Hannah Flaherty is caught in a loophole of affordable housing restrictions.
The restrictions for low-income housing — what makes it affordable and who can live in it — often serve as a bridge to help people in need. But those restrictions don’t make it easy, and they are even compromising Flaherty’s ability to remain in low-income housing.
She is a student at Oregon State University — Cascades. The 34-year-old has numerous medical conditions that have rendered her disabled and unable to work.
Flaherty’s particular circumstances are the perfect storm of complications for qualifying for affordable housing and staying there.
“If I didn’t have to worry about my housing, I think I would be able to go through the school process very differently,” Flaherty said.
She’s lived in Bend since her parents moved here when she was a few months old. She remembers when most businesses would be closed on Sundays. She remembers a time before the Old Mill was a shopping center.
At 5 years old, doctors found a tumor in Flaherty’s brain. It required medical hardware that often needed alteration. When Flaherty was a teenager, she needed a surgery to revise that hardware.
During surgery she had a stroke.
“And ever since then, my health has just been really dicey,” she said.
What followed was a litany of medical conditions, including epilepsy.
She wasn’t able to attend school full time as a teenager. She was home-schooled half of the time and attended Summit High School the other half.
“When I finally graduated high school, I was so ill that going to college was not really an option,” she said.
It wasn’t until 2019 that her health stabilized, and she was able to attend college, Flaherty said. “It was one of those things I always wanted to do but never really had a chance,” she said.
She earned her associate’s degree from Central Oregon Community College roughly a year ago, and is now pursuing her bachelor’s.
Without her desired degree, Flaherty’s work options are limited. She can’t stand for hours on end, and she can’t lift heavy objects. So Flaherty’s income remains low — sometimes so low that she doesn’t qualify for some affordable housing programs.
“I just keep hitting wall after wall,” she said.
Flaherty lives in Low-Income Housing Tax Credit-funded housing, which is a federal program that helps local developers build affordable housing, and she uses a housing voucher to help pay her rent.
She first moved in four years ago. Her landlord let her take a quick peek at the unit before moving in, but it was largely sight unseen, Flaherty said. It was a huge, exciting step for Flaherty with it being her first apartment.
“Due to my health complications, my first priority for so long was just staying alive, so I hadn’t had a chance to move out on my own yet,” she said.
But the rules are stringent, and it’s tough to keep track of them all, Flaherty said.
To adapt, Flaherty flip-flops between taking her college classes full-time for a maximum of two terms and then stops taking classes for a few months at a time.
“I mean, I think one of the most important things in being a student is not worrying about your housing and being able to know you’ll have a safe place to put your head at night,” Flaherty said.
Once she earns her bachelor’s degree, Flaherty is set to enter a master’s program for counseling so she can work with and advocate for disabled individuals. However, graduate programs often require full-time student status, she said.
The thought of moving to Redmond has crossed Flaherty’s mind, but nowhere else quite compares to Bend, especially with her family and medical team here.
So, she will continue to adapt, she said.
“This is the place that I grew up, and I know that Bend has been discovered, so to speak, and become very popular, but I would love to be able to afford a home in the place that I grew up in,” Flaherty said.
What the article neglects to mention is the LIHTC full time student rule (see below). This is the barrier many living in affordable housing face when trying to improve their quality of life through higher education. You generally cant get grants and scholarships if you attend school less than full time but for this woman and others if she attends full time she would lose her housing. This creates an endless cycle of poverty and reliance on government based programs.
Student Restrictions for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)…
A household cannot be comprised of all full-time students (Kindergarten through 12th grade and institutions of higher education) unless they meet one of the following exceptions:
A student receiving assistance under Title IV of the Social Security Act (TANF); or
A student who was previously in the foster care program; or
A student enrolled in a job training program receiving assistance under the Job Training Partnership Act or other Federal, State, or local laws; or
The household comprises single parents and their children, and such parents are not dependents of another individual. Such children are not dependents of another individual other than a parent of such children. In the case of a single parent with children, the legislative history explains that none of the tenants (parent or children) can be a dependent of a third party; or
The household contains a married couple entitled to file joint tax returns.
Note that for the LIHTC program, a student who is a full-time student for 5 months out of the current calendar year is considered a full-time student for the entire calendar year. The months do not need to be consecutive.
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