Searching for house

Bend will likely continue to have problems with housing affordability no matter what policies are put in place. It is encouraging, though, to watch the work of the city’s affordable housing committee.

When it meets every month or so, it makes a difference.

There are many windows into its work. On Wednesday the committee is scheduled to review a report looking back on what the city helped accomplish with federal money.

To closely paraphrase the report, community development block grants benefited 3,550 persons and 15 additional households. Funding assisted in the completion of 15 units of housing for families at or below 80% of area median income, the acquisition of property for 47 apartments at 60% AMI and the acquisition of property for 4 homeownership opportunities for families at or below 80% AMI.

Nice work.

It is, though, actually relatively low for production of housing in 2019. Some projects could not meet original timelines. And there were land acquisitions in 2019 which will pay off in the future with affordable housing on the land — an estimated 50 this year and 300 in the next. One problem with federal block grants is that they don’t work for some of the city’s most successful developers of affordable housing because they are for-profit businesses.

Not all of the money comes from federal grants. The city has generated at least $7 million from its affordable housing fee, set up in 2006. And the city has also helped by exempting all city system development charges for affordable housing since December 2017. That means the city exempted nearly $3.5 million in 2019.

The Bend Park & Recreation District ’s board made a similar commitment in 2019 to waive SDCs for the first 400 units of affordable housing through 2022. That is in addition to the work the park district already does to help families in other ways with affordability, such as with scholarships for its programs. Already, though, the city has approved 372 affordable housing units under the park district waiver. That cap is expected to be exceeded this year.

What happens then?

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