The Housing Crisis – Finding Solutions Together

Prior to these devastating fires, homelessness was on the rise. Lower-income families who had a place to live were finding themselves increasingly burdened by the cost. But the housing crisis impacts more than just families; it inhibits economic growth, negatively impacts our community well-being, and burdens our education, healthcare, and law enforcement systems. With thousands more now homeless, we need to come together as a community and offer solutions.

Our experience in development, design, and construction lends unique insight into the challenges of providing affordable housing. In Oregon, the same laws that protect our precious forests and waterways also increase the costs of development. Over the past 20 years, the cost of construction materials has risen at a pace that far exceeds the median wage growth. It is no secret that what has been happening is not solving the housing crisis facing so many people and now, in the face of the disasters created by wildfires, is the time for bold solutions.

Ausland Group is committed to working with all stakeholders to find answers for the housing crisis. We must drive the conversation forward. We have all the studies we need, now is the time for action.

Below are proposed actions for addressing both temporary and permanent affordable housing:

Increase Temporary Housing Solutions to Relieve the Burden on the Recently Homeless

  • Promote Legal Secondary Dwelling Units on Parcels. Many homes have outbuildings and spaces that can easily be converted to secondary dwellings. Many Rogue Valley jurisdictions allow some form of Accessory Dwelling Unit but more flexibility is needed.  Communities can promote these by making the practice legal and easy. See an example from Josephine County.
  • Promote Streamlined “Tiny Home” or Additional Dwelling Units Process. Communities can promote single family homeowners to build additional dwelling units in their backyards by reviewing their land use code, reducing developing fees, and providing a streamlined permitting process.
  • Eliminate 14-Day Stay Restrictions at County Campgrounds. Allow the recently homeless to use facilities and access basic services at these prime locations.
  • Providing Safe Parking Areas for People Living Out of Vehicles. By providing designated areas, social services can identify homeless families and connect them with basic services and resources.

Promote Policies to Increase Affordable Housing Development

  • Provide Incentives to Developers to Produce More Affordable Housing and Reduce the Cost of Infrastructure. The cost of developing roads, utilities, and infrastructure for a new residential lot ranges from $20k – $50k and permits range from $10k – $40k for a new home. Developers must recover these costs in rent or sales prices. Communities can adopt a set of tools to lessen the burden, including reduced or waived system development charges, public land donations, and density bonuses.
  • Promote & Support Employer-Assisted Housing Programs. Employers are realizing they need to support their employee’s access to housing. We can work together to promote programs for temporary housing, rent assistance, and forgivable down-payment loans.
  • Create a Low-Income Rental Fund. We can help shoulder the burden of the initial move-in costs for lower-income families and new workers.
  • Promote Redevelopment of Town Center Residential Spaces. Many of our small towns were once filled with “ma-and-pa” shops who lived above the spaces they worked. These once residential apartments, now sit empty with cobwebs. Many of these are ready to convert back to residential if local planning codes provide the right conditions.
  • Fractional Ownership Options. Create financing tools to allow the purchasing of fractional shares of a home, which could be affordable to working class members of any town, while maintaining natural property market forces. This partnership in ownership could be a private or public entity that will work with the new homeowners.

We are blessed to be in a community where so many businesses and community leaders are willing to come together and solve a crisis. Now is the time to address the housing crisis, immediate needs and long term issues. Together, we will ensure that our working families have access to homes that provide for their safety and well-being.

Kara Bijesse | September 17, 2020

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