For a starting teacher or a starting police officer, finding housing for a family in Bend can be too pricey. Single people can find they don’t want roommates — they need them to afford to live in town.
Not everybody that wants to live in Bend has to live in Bend. But if the city wants to continue to attract the best talent, it needs to continue to hunt for solutions.
What if the city of Bend could partner with businesses to help provide housing for employees? Where housing pressure is acute, communities are exploring those options and others. You’d expect it, perhaps in Silicon Valley, in Aspen, in New York City. But it’s happening all around the country.
The government doesn’t have to be involved. If Bend, though, could leverage federal dollars it would open up a lot of possibilities. City staff told us it is investigating what might be allowed. So, it might not happen. It wouldn’t be because of lack of trying.
In some places, businesses have stepped up. They help with financing for apartments. For instance in Tillamook, Tillamook Creamery pledged to fill some apartments to help secure financing for a new apartment building. The city of Aspen and Pitkin County in Colorado has long had lotteries for employee housing in that community. In California, voters in the San Mateo School District passed a bond to build a 100-plus-unit apartment complex for school faculty and staff. And of course, much closer to home are the efforts in Sunriver to build employee housing for Sunriver Resort.
Oregon, as a whole, does not do well in some national rankings of affordable housing. It has one of the lowest rates of housing available for people who are extremely low income, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. And unfortunately, low-income renters are also disproportionately people of color.
It is to be expected in Bend or any place where people flock to live that a premium will be paid to live here. But Bend should not just concede that teachers, firefighters, nurses, police officers and so many other employees don’t deserve to live here as well as work here.