A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition gives a stark illustration of the rise in housing costs across Oregon: The average cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment is now beyond the means of the average full-time Oregon worker.
The report looks at the average wage of renters and compares that to what a typical apartment would cost. For the first time, the report shows the average renter would need to spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
OPB “Weekend Edition” host John Notarianni spoke with The Oregonian/OregonLive housing reporter Elliot Njus. He said that housing is different than other expenses.
“If you can’t afford it, you don’t really have a choice,” Njus said. “A lot of people do go over that 30 percent threshold. Of course, they can still afford a home, but probably something else is out of reach.”
Njus pointed out the report shows that housing isn’t strictly an urban problem. The affordability crisis reaches across the state.
“Rural areas have seen the same kinds of housing shortages that we have seen in urban areas, but they haven’t seen growth in wages,” he said.
One of the challenges of the housing crisis is that it’s difficult for local leaders to respond quickly. Portland passed a $216 million affordable housing bond in 2016, but that money is just now beginning to be spent.
Njus did point out a few projects where the city has begun investing, including a 50-unit apartment building in East Portland.
“That’s a building that was already under construction,” Njus said. “It was designed as market rate housing, so that’s one way to get things done really quickly: to buy something that’s already being built.”
While local governments across the state are scrambling to address the housing crunch, Njus said the housing shortage has been a long time coming.
“For a lot of folks, its been a housing crisis for a long time,” he said. “They’re the people that have the least. The people that don’t make median wages or even close to it.”
Hear the full conversation with Oregonian/OregonLive reporter Elliot Njus by using the audio player at the top of this article.