Housing costs drive out workers

August 27, 2005

High housing costs within the City of Hood River are pushing even middle-income and professional employees to live in other communities.

That news from Marketek, Inc., has raised concerns among local government leaders. The median household income in the county is $42,206 — about $3,000 below the state average — but the typical house within Hood River sells for $229,921. That is about the same price as a dwelling in Portland where the incomes are much higher. In outlying areas of the valley, the cost of a house is slightly lower at $190,486.

According to the new study, many buyers and renters are now paying a disproportionate share of their income for housing. Forty-eight percent of households earning between $20,000-$49,000 used more than 30 percent of earnings, the percentage recommended by financial experts, for housing in 1999.

Consultants believe the potential result of having workers leave the area is a decrease in the number of school-age children. And that could affect state funding levels for educational programs. There could also be less interest by workers in community issues as the population becomes increasingly income-segregated.

The solution to this challenge, according to Marketek, is for the county to create more multifamily housing developments. But that could prove a challenge with land prices that average between $90,000-$100,000 for a 7,500 square foot buildable lot. Add to that about $10,000 in additional development fees and the cost for a new dwelling spikes even higher.

Over the past decade, only 14 percent of the housing permits issued countywide have been for high-density housing. Nationally, renter units account for 32 percent of total occupied dwellings. The extremely limited supply of middle-income apartments is driving many renters outside the county.

The county has been advised by the Oregon Downtown Development Association, which compiled Marketek’s findings, to act “quickly and aggressively” to remedy the problem — or it will get worse.

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