Two projects in Eugene and Lincoln City aim to help Oregon’s housing crisis by building dozens of homes for low-income residents.
The Lincoln City project aims to provide homes for people who lost their homes in a 2020 wildfire, while Residences in Eugene will offer affordable homes for sale.
The projects will create 80 new, affordable homes at a time of great need. The state lacks about 100,000 affordable rental homes for low-income residents who earn less than a third of the median income for their area, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Oregon would need to triple its production of subsidized affordable housing units to meet this need, according to Oregon Housing and Community Services.
Millions of dollars in federal and state funding has been directed toward new affordable housing construction in Oregon in recent years, including money from the American Rescue Plan, which Congress approved in 2021. During the legislative session, it approved $215 million for housing construction and maintenance soft.
Helping fire victims
About 300 homes were lost in the Eco Mountain Fire that swept through Lincoln County in 2020. A housing project now underway in Lincoln City, Wikoma Place, aims to help those who have lost their homes. The project will include 44 units.
“This is a drop in the ocean, but it’s a start,” said Amanda Perkins, partner and chief operating officer of Stewardship Development, which is behind the project.
Wecoma Place will include eight one-bedroom apartments at a price that earns people about a third of the median income in the area — or $15,000 a year for a single person, according to US Department of Housing and Urban Development – She’ll be able to rent it out, Perkins said. Other units include one- and two-bedroom units that will be priced to the person earning about twice that price.
The tenants will pay the management company, Pinehurst Management.
The rentals will be close to public transportation, schools, and several shopping centers, according to a press release. Residents will have access to support services, including a monthly food program, garden programs, and health and wellness programs through the statewide nonprofit Cornerstone Community Services.
The Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services has allocated $4.7 million for the project. It also benefits from $10.9 million in federal disaster tax credits and $530,000 from the Lincoln County Housing Authority.
Lincoln City gave the project a 30-year deferral of system development fees and an exemption from property taxes. As long as the project remains affordable, Perkins said, the city will likely continue to defer these fees.
Perkins said the project was made possible by this support. Affordable housing projects are often expensive because lower rents do not compensate for construction costs, but Perkins said this project is more expensive because it will be built on a slope, which can create more construction problems than flat land. The Oregon Department of Transportation requires road improvements as they will be built alongside the US Highway. Perkins said road improvements would cost between $400,000 and $450,000, but that funding is being covered by additional state funding.
Stewardship Developments held a groundbreaking ceremony at The Last Money. She estimates that people will be able to move to Wikoma Place in early 2024.
West Eugene Project
Eugene has affordable housing rents, but the nonprofit DevNW, which develops affordable housing, is seeking to build 40 new affordable homes in western Eugene for people to buy.
“Home ownership in the US is the number one form of asset building for most people,” said Erin Day, director of real estate development at DevNW. “So if they don’t have access to that, they have no chance that you will ever, ever move up the chain of affordable housing.”
Oregon Housing and Community Services awarded DevNW more than $3 million in 2020 for the project in Eugene and another affordable housing project in Corvallis for also 11 homes for people making less than 80% of the area median income.
In its western location in Eugene, the 31 homes will be sold to people whose income is less than 80% of the area median income, which is about $44,640 a year for a single person in Linn County according to US Department of Housing and Urban Development. These homes will have a shared ownership or community land credit model: the homeowner will own the building but DevNW will own the land and infrastructure of the home, making the mortgage affordable for the homeowner. Day said the homeowners would only take out a mortgage for the cost of the house itself and would pay a ground rent fee, which is usually about $100 per month.
As part of this deal, homeowners are required to sell their home to someone who also makes less than 80% of the area’s median income if they decide to move.
The other nine homes will be market price residential homes.
“There are still many people who earn more than 80% of the average income in the region who are still not competitive in the market,” Day said. “This is our first attempt at mixing and matching to try and see if we can really start building that ladder and do it in a really efficient way.”
Day said part of the reason DevNW chose Eugene for the project is because the city often offers financial incentives to developers of affordable housing. The city waived the project system development fee.
DevNW expects the homes to be available for purchase by 2023.
Get the morning’s headlines straight to your inbox
This story is developed as part of Motivational Journalism Project In the University of Oregon College of Journalism and Communication. Catalyst brings together investigative reporting and solutions journalism to drive action and respond to Oregon’s most pressing issues. Follow the project on Twitter at @employee.