Forum addresses housing dilemmas
Discrimination, affordability top concerns in area

Gazette-Times reporter

The average price of keeping a roof over your head in Corvallis continues to rise, according to housing officials, and that fact continues to put more people in jeopardy of finding themselves without homes.

Corvallis shows up near the top of the list in housing costs for both renters and home buyers, according to statistics shown to about 30 residents attending Monday night's housing forum at the Corvallis-Benton County Library. While area incomes average second only to the Portland-Vancouver area, those left out of the increasing wage scale face real difficulties.

"While many households are ‘housing strong' in this high value, high-income community, thousands of lower-income people are paying substantially too much for their housing," Kent Weiss told the audience. Weiss serves as the city's housing division manager.

The most desirable rate is to have people paying about 30 percent of their income for housing, according to Weiss, and thousands of renters in the lowest income bracket of Corvallis find themselves turning over as much as 61 percent of their paychecks just to keep a home.

"They're the most fragile ones. They're one paycheck from being homeless," he said. "Above 50 percent, there's a significant problem, and they're not far from homelessness."

With representatives on hand from the city such as Corvallis Neighborhood Housing Services, those attending the meeting heard plenty of information on the housing situation and its needs. They also heard examples of what's being done to help keep people in their homes and help others find homes.

As executive director for the Corvallis Neighborhood Housing Services, Jim Moorefield has worked hard to help create affordable housing in the Corvallis area. When the Camas Commons was completed in 2002, it opened with 52 units of one, two and three bedroom housing. Twelve of the units were designed for the disabled, and six of them are established as housing for those with extremely low incomes.

Although pleased with the success and attractiveness of the project, and the fact that six have been set aside to help the most needy, they're just a drop in the bucket, he said.

But to Moorefield, the community must continue to strive for affordable housing. Growing up in a neighborhood where many people bought their starter homes and then stayed in the neighborhood brought stability, not only to his life, but also to the entire community.

"I think it destabilizes a community when the have-nots have to struggle just to keep a home," he said. "They can't put back into their community if they're struggling just to make payments."

Those suffering through such economic hardship also often face problems with discrimination, according to Pegge McGuire, executive director for the Fair Housing Council of Oregon. But discrimination also comes upon those with disabilities, with children or from race and nationality.

In Linn and Benton counties, out of 150 claims of discrimination last year, 10 percent of them panned out to be actual discrimination cases. Those cases divided up evenly between disability, family status and national origin.

John Butterworth reports for the Corvallis Gazette-Times and can be reached at 758-9523.

Where to find help with housing problems

Fair Housing Council of Oregon — — 800-424-3247

Corvallis Community Development Housing Division — 766-6944

Linn-Benton Housing Authority — — 926-3589

Corvallis Neighborhood Housing Services — — 752-7220