Our state is widely recognized for our natural beauty and our quality of life, particularly here in the Gorge. People come from all over to enjoy our gorgeous landscapes, robust job market, and strong communities. Oregon, Hood River and The Dalles, have been changing dramatically over the last few years.
The pressure on our housing market has created untenable problems, and we’re starting to see changes in our community that could have lasting effects.
In this time of housing insecurity, we’re seeing many Oregonians struggling to pay for basic necessities. Families are forced to make choices every day between paying rent and putting food on the table.
These choices push members of our community into a state of stress and anxiety that having a safe, and affordable home can relieve.
In Hood River County, someone earning minimum wage would need to work 64 hours a week, just to afford the average one-bedroom apartment in our community.
In Wasco County it’s not much better, with someone needing to work 57 hours a week to afford an average one-bedroom.
As a board member for the Mid-Columbia Housing Authority, and as the Director of the Columbia Gorge Food Bank, we believe in a state where everyone has a safe, decent place to live. Our local housing authority works toward that vision by building and maintaining safe, stable, and affordable housing for seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, families, and people with low incomes across our region.
Our local food bank helps people to meet their basic needs, by providing access to emergency food supplies. As long as housing costs continue to rise faster than wages, more and more people will have to make tough choices between food, rent, and medicine.
As a community we must do better, or we risk losing what holds us together.
It’s frustrating that we can’t do more to address our lack of safe, stable, and affordable housing, because of a lack of funding for affordable housing. After all, the staff of Mid-Columbia Housing Authority, and other organizations across our state are experts in building and maintaining affordable housing as a permanent part of our community infrastructure.
Here in the Gorge, we have worked hard to come together as a community to help more of our neighbors have access to safe and stable housing.
The good news is that this fall, voters will have the chance to help by voting yes on Measure 102. Measure 102 will help communities build more affordable homes for people who need them. Measure 102 will allow local governments to partner with organizations like experienced housing providers, and will allow communities to stretch local housing bond dollars further, meaning we can build more permanently affordable homes.
Measure 102 is a small change to our constitution that will allow local communities to respond to the housing crisis.
For years, communities across Oregon have used general obligation bonds to build critical infrastructure, like roads, bridges and courthouses. Voters in some communities have also approved bonds to build affordable housing. The Oregon Constitution bans using those bonds to partner with affordable housing developers to build housing, limiting how far the dollars can go. Measure 102 would lift that ban, only for affordable housing.
Voters still have the ultimate say in approving bonds for affordable housing—this measure won’t change that. It just means for communities that want to use them in the future, government can work with partners who have years of experience doing this work, like Mid-Columbia Housing Authority, and let us use all of the tools at our disposal to build more affordable rental homes.
When we can find ways to work smarter and stretch dollars further, we should take them. Measure 102 will enable communities who are considering a local housing bond create even more safe and permanent affordable housing during this time of need.
Please join us in voting YES on Measure 102.
— Rich McBride serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Mid Columbia Housing Authority; Sharon Thornberry is the Rural Communities Liaison for the Columbia Gorge Food Bank.