A View from the Board: Marcia Edwards

Housing Challenges in Lane County

Marcia Edwards

As a member of the board for ShelterCare, my eyes have been opened to the complexity and challenges surrounding sustainable housing for many of ShelterCare's clients. As a Realtor in residential real estate in Lane County, I have seen the significant housing challenges in Eugene-Springfield that are preventing many hardworking families from realizing the American Dream of home ownership. 

We are all affected by the inadequate inventory of "bedrooms" in our area.  And the inventory problem in one sector affects all sectors of housing.  Let’s look first at home sales in our area.  The median sold price of homes in Lane County at month’s end August 2016 was $289,000. The average home for sale during that same period was priced at $408,000. The inventory of homes for sale are at a price point that is well above what most buyers can afford. The frenzied market today is due, in large part, to the inventory available not meeting the buyers financial ability. To afford a $289,000 home requires the approximate household income of $50,000/year in today’s market. (Many reasonable assumptions are involved in this estimate.)

If people cannot afford to buy a home, they remain tenants.  With the tenant population increasing, the demand for multi-family residential real estate goes up, as do the rents area-wide. With rent increasing, access to housing quickly rises beyond the reach of more and more of our local residents. 

Today, fewer than 30 percent of those eligible for low-income housing receive it. A family's length of shelter stay in Eugene/Springfield has increased from less than one week in the 1980s to two months today due to lack of affordable housing. (“Affordable housing” means that a family is paying no more than 30% of their income for housing.) Unfortunately, even the number of working poor families needing shelter services is on the increase!  They are employed but make too much to qualify for public assistance. 

Because of these stresses on families and on the community as a whole, I encourage individuals and the business community to "put their shoulder" into supporting Sheltercare’s Homelessness Prevention Program as well as ShelterCare’s rapid-rehousing efforts. By advocating and supporting these systems of early support and education, we assist in breaking the cycle of repeated homelessness through coaching, counseling, early intervention, opportunity, access and some financial resources.

As a community member, you should also keep a watchdog eye on policy and legislation. Be vigilant on behalf of all of our residents, so that no counter-productive rules, practices or laws are created that encourage the cycle that puts more housing out of financial reach of our area’s families.

Housing our community is all of our responsibility.  Thank you for lending a hand.

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