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Local governments and nonprofits talk of need for housing

Published on November 7, 2017 11:10AM

Last changed on November 7, 2017 4:01PM

Housing is hard to find in Douglas County with long waiting lists yet private development cannot make projects financially viable.

Those were some of the issues brought up at a visit Monday by officials from Oregon Housing and Community Services to Roseburg.

There were plenty more.

The segments of the population who are facing difficulty finding housing include abused families who need shelter but cannot find a place to rent, and renters with poor credit or criminal histories.

And while high-end housing complexes used to check the credit scores of prospective renters, it now appears that the credit checks are being used routinely for many less expensive rentals.

"Credit scores are hampering people's abilities to rent," said Arthur Chaput, director of resource development for NeighborWorks Umpqua, a private nonprofit.

Then are the people who do not have those issues but are on a waiting list just to rent housing.

Douglas County Commissioner Gary Leif has seen the need for housing first-hand. He is in the middle of remodeling one of his rental properties, and prospective tenants are already asking him when it will be available because they are 25-30 spots back on a waiting list.

Monday's visit to Roseburg by state officials with the Oregon Housing and Community Services, and agency Director Margaret Salazar, brought 40 attendees from local government agencies and nonprofits.

Salazar told meeting attendees that an unprecedented housing crisis is occurring across the state.

Agency figures show that statewide, affordable rental housing is 98,450 units short of what is needed for households making less than half of the household annual median income of $62,694. And nearly 14,000 Oregonians were homeless at some point this year.

The agency is holding a series of meetings in cities statewide to gather input for its Statewide Housing Plan.

While Douglas County needs for housing, some attendees indicated the private sector is not able to make it work financially.

"Right now, it's almost impossible to the private sector to make something pencil," said Roseburg City Manager Lance Colley said, referring to the financial feasibility of projects to make a profit.

The city of Roseburg is gearing up for a request for proposals to fund a housing needs analysis along with an inventory of buildable land that the city could provide to prospective developers.

The lack of private sector development is something that has been noticed elsewhere in Oregon, Salazar said.

"In so many parts of the state we are seeing market rate developments not pencil," Salazar said.

Salazar noted that there would not be a problem if the market was functioning properly.

Attendees offered some creative ideas for solving the lack of housing. Some said manufactured housing offered a solution because a home can be built more cheaply than on-site home construction. Others suggested putting pressure on banks to get more money into the hands of small developers. Renovating empty buildings was another possibility.

Some just wanted to see homes built rather than housing studies. State officials noted they are doing just that by financing affordable housing and first-time homebuyers.

"It seems like we talk, and we talk, and we talk," said Leo Tresselle, kitchen director, of St. Joseph Community Kitchen.

He asked whether the state can demand that counties put up a certain amount of housing. Agency officials said they are providing more money for housing.


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