Our committee is very excited to add two new members – Annette Warden and Christina Steiger. Each brings a personal perspective to issues of housing – their ideas will undoubtedly enrich our discussions.
This month we had two guest speakers: Karen Rockwell, Executive Director of the Housing Authority of Lincoln County and Karen Saxe, Director of Policy, Advocacy and Strategic Relations for DevNW.
Karen Rockwell discussed the different partnerships – private and governmental — that are working together to provide shelter and services for their unhoused populations. She said it was incredibly useful and encouraging to have key players actually showing up at meetings and committed to bringing about change. In discussing state and local policies and how they affect affordable housing, she noted that organizations need to look at current discussions on potential changes in Oregon’s land use laws through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Lacking a DEI perspective has resulted in segments of our population being shut out of the housing market. While these conversations can be hard – we need to avoid pitting conservationists against housing advocates – they are necessary.
Karen Saxe shared information about the many programs of DevNW. The organization provides financial counseling, first time buyer loan programs, down payment assistance programs and several others. These programs are open to everyone not only first-time home buyers. DevNW operates in several counties including Benton, Lincoln, Linn and Marion.
Our particular interest was in the Community Land Trust program (CLT). In this program DevNW holds the land in trust but sells the home to moderate income buyers. This model of separating land cost from housing is an effective way to increase housing affordability. Currently, the organization will build 11 homes behind the former New Holland Tractor site in south Corvallis. The homes will be set back from Highway 99 with the land in front available for an as-yet undecided commercial use.
Both presenters reinforced our belief that we need to re-examine the tools we have available currently for housing development on the state and local level. Land Trust programs, incentive for developers, Urban Growth Boundary policies all need to be considered if we are to provide homes – purchased and rentals – for members in our community.