No Place Like Home: 'Incomes are going up slowly, but rent is going up incredibly fast'
EUGENE, Ore. – Lane County officials say there’s less affordable housing available than ever before.
Now, the county and its partners are building more and more complexes to provide apartments for the people who need them.
The county poverty and homeless board is working on Operation 600 – to create 600 affordable housing units in the next five years. About 50 of those units will be completed in March.
Long term, the overall goal is to get as many people as possible into a safe, stable home in line with their income.
One Lane County resident living in affordable housing is Crisstopher. He used to be homeless, but now he has a couch to sit on and a roof over his head.
“It means a lot; it means the world. It beats sleeping by the river or in some park and getting mugged or beat up or catching pneumonia in the winter,” he said.
That’s the way Crisstopher used to live.
“It's started about four and half years ago when I became homeless,” he said.
Then, he stayed at the Eugene Mission.
“I really literally just thought I was going to be there for years and years and years. I really did. But thank god for ShelterCare. It didn't end up that way,” he said.
Crisstopher is now in his second apartment. It’s a rare success story in a county that doesn’t have enough housing to go around.
“Incomes are going up slowly, but rent is going up incredibly fast. So what that's doing is just creating a burden and lack of affordable housing in our community,” said Jacob Fox, executive director of the Housing and Community Services Agency, known as HACSA.
“Our mission is to serve the maximum number of low income people possible with rent assistance and affordable housing options,” he said.
HACSA and its partners created more than 100 affordable apartments in Lane County in the past two years.
“It's designed to really serve this community for a long period of time,” Fox said.
They’re working on creating 600 more units in the next five years.
The latest affordable housing development in Lane County is called The Oaks at 14th and when it's done in March, it will have 54 apartments for those who need them.
The apartments at The Oaks at 14th are for released inmates.
Fox said it’s not just about adding new developments, but also saving old ones. One affordable housing complex in Eugene is 50 years old.
“We need the community to know about this affordable housing resource and the need to maintain it in the same way we would our streets or our sewers that our community really needs this resource,” Fox said.
The apartments are for the elderly and people with disabilities.
“They on average get $700 a month in social security, so we're able to keep their rent low, just a little bit over $200 a month,” Fox said.
For all of the complexes, the supply is limited, but the demand is ever-growing.
“Our average occupancy is 99 percent and when people move out we turn the unit and there's someone ready to move in immediately,” Fox said.
That’s why Crisstopher considers himself lucky.
“I'm not worried about life anymore, what's going to happen next week or next month,” he said.
Now, he’s focused on getting a job and becoming fully independent.
“That's what our goal is: to have people not need us anymore but be happy, healthy, living the lives they want to live,” said Don Gulbrandsen, ShelterCare development director.
“People are leaving public assistance. They're buying a home and paying property taxes so our programs really help people do better, stabilize and grow,” Fox said.
So, Fox said they’re going to keep on building for as long as it takes.
ShelterCare has about a 70 percent success rate in getting people into long term housing and Gulbrandsen said once that happens, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be homeless ever again.