The cost of housing in the Village of Oregon is a burden, according to a regional study.
And it’s getting worse.
The Dane County Housing Needs Assessment 2018 update states more Oregon households have become “extremely cost burdened,” meaning individuals and families pay more than 50 percent of their income on rent, mortgages and utilities. From 2015-2018, that number jumped from 55 to 135 households.
A group of village residents hopes to play a role in creating options for those workers and anyone who wants to move to Oregon. The Oregon Housing Coalition, which includes representatives from local government and nonprofit organizations, is hoping to draw attention to the issue and enact initiatives to make housing more affordable.
“The basic goal of the coalition is to bring a variety of different perspectives together to solve a problem,” coalition coordinator Karin Victorson told the Observer. “(Workforce housing) is a complex issue.”
The coalition’s latest project is a bus tour. From 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 2, Village of Oregon staff will take coalition members and anyone from the public who is interested on a motor coach and walking tour of affordable and workforce housing developments in Dane County.
The bus tour comes after the group collected state and Dane County housing data, learned more about local housing needs, spoke with local government officials and got language about workforce housing included in Oregon’s Comprehensive Plan.
Still on the list, Victorson said, are exploring small lots and flexible design standards for potential Oregon homes, looking at existing programs that will help local seniors stay in their homes and seeking funding from the state and Dane County for private – including nonprofit – affordable development and rental rehabilitation projects.
The coalition will be meeting with the Oregon Community Resource Network and the Oregon Rotary Club within the next month, then presenting to the Oregon Area Chamber of Commerce in April.
“Right now it’s about getting the word out,” Victorson said.
The Oregon Housing Coalition has a long way to go to fulfill its workforce housing objectives.
When Jacobson and fellow coalition member and Dane County Housing Authority executive director Rob Dicke presented at a Planning Commission meeting a few months ago, they shared assessment data with members, who were receptive – members told the presenters they look forward to what comes next.
And success on the coalition’s future efforts will take the minds and talents of each member, Victorson said.
“It’s a multi-faceted problem that isn’t going to be solved by just one effort,” Jacobson said.
Joe Sullivan frequently hears from homeowners and renters who are burdened by how much they pay for utility bills, on their mortgage or monthly rent.
The Dane County Joining Forces for Families social worker and housing coalition member said one client missed work because of a back injury and couldn’t afford rent. Another client faced high day-care costs. Yet another had a boyfriend who “cleaned out her checking account, leaving her with nothing.”
“There are people working second jobs,” Sullivan said. “I just talked to a woman last week. She works full-time and it sounded like a decent job – she works at a local business but can’t always keep up with rent.”
Though he mainly assists renters with minor children through the Neighbors in Need of Assistance fund, he tries to help everyone who calls him.
“Our job (with JFF) is to connect families with resources and services that they need because often they don’t know where to turn or they just need someone to talk to,” Sullivan said.
It is clear that an affordable workforce housing solution would make an impact on those whose who reach out to him.
Sullivan said most people can afford the housing bills they pay until an emergency happens, like a car breaking down or a sudden job loss. This causes clients to spend all of what they make on basic needs with little left over to save.
$70,000 to live here
The assessment update includes more data that supports why Sullivan’s clients might seek him out. The numbers come from the Department of Housing and Urban Development data gathered by the United States Census.
To pay for the average Oregon home of $226,900 – and not pay over 30 percent of household income – an individual or a family would need to make $70,720 a year. On a single full-time salary, that comes out to $34 an hour.
The average village rent is $933 per month, requiring a single renter to make $37,320 a year or $17.94 an hour to keep housing costs at 30 percent.
As a local comparison, the average Oregon School District teacher makes $44,000 per year, school support staff members make $35,000, manufacturing and warehouse workers make $28,600-$35,000 and administrative/customer service workers make $47,000, according to the assessment.
The assessment also states 8 percent of all Oregon households at or below 80 percent of the county median income of $76,480 are so burdened by the cost of their housing, they can’t afford basic needs. And 47 percent of cost-burdened households are seniors.
But there’s one Fitchburg development the coalition thought of as a model for how the village might suit the above indicated needs in the future.
Jacobson pointed to the Terravessa development, where an OSD elementary school is set to open in fall 2020.
Phil Sveum, the developer of Terravessa, said it will be a “mixed-use” neighborhood that features a variety of housing options at different price points – such as “moderately priced” single-family homes that range from $270,000 to $320,000 and rental properties. The neighborhood will also include commercial properties, bike paths, a potential ride-sharing program and bus route, accessible internet, an urban garden and the elementary school with daycare accommodations.
Email Emilie Heidemann at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.