The cost of renting or buying a home is increasingly out of reach for all of us. Our housing affordability challenge puts us at risk of losing what has made the Gorge, and our diverse hometowns, a wonderful place to live, work and play.
In Hood River, the ratio of median owner-occupied housing value to median household income is 6.4 (the standard is 3. Across the state, this ratio is 4.7. In addition, 40 percent of Hood River renter households are cost burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
So what’s the big deal? In the case these numbers don’t make you say, “We’ve got an affordable housing crisis!” here are a couple more concerning stats: The median home sale price in Hood River is $311,400 compared to the statewide median of $239,600 for 2014. A household needs to make at least $16.25 an hour in order to afford the Hood River two-bedroom Fair Market Rent of $845. Our wages are not keeping up with the steady rise in housing costs.
This isn’t an issue just critical to people having a hard time affording housing: it’s one for our whole community and the whole Gorge. If people don’t have access to affordable housing, they won’t be able to work here and will leave. Businesses will struggle to fill positions. School tax bases will decline, and the dynamics of what makes our community great will change.
The solution is not just about building more housing and seeing our cities and towns sprawl into the scenic landscape that surrounds us. The solutions that will work must take a comprehensive approach to utilizing our existing housing stock and buildable lands efficiently and continue to seek opportunities for the public and private market to develop a diverse housing supply.
It is very exciting to witness the work of the City of Hood River over the past few months dedicated to addressing housing affordability for all. Since January, the City of Hood River has embarked on a thorough fact finding process, working with community members and housing professionals through a Technical Advisory Committee. Starting this month, the city will be taking public comment on the comprehensive housing strategy. It is clear Hood River recognizes that it has a role in addressing housing affordability and they’re taking this role seriously.
What is most gratifying to see is Hood River is leading the way with vision and planning for the future. A future where less money will be spent on housing and more on in our local economy. Where healthy habits will take root more easily. A future where children will achieve better results in school. A future where businesses are better able to attract and retain employees.
A future where we have affordable housing options for all community members.
Joel Madsen is Executive Director of the Mid-Columbia Housing Authority and Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation.