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The DOJ delivers the Comey memos to Congress. Also on our rundown: More evidence that rent prices are out of reach in many markets; Wisconsin counties brace for sulfide mining; and the Earth Day focus this weekend in North Dakota is on recycling.

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Report: Critical Need for Affordable Housing in OR

February 21, 2012

PORTLAND, Ore. - A new national report says Oregon is one of a dozen states where the need for affordable housing substantially outstrips the demand, and where it isn't uncommon for people to spend more than half the household income on rent.

It isn't just a big-city problem, and it isn't only about housing. In Jackson County in southwestern Oregon, Ellen Grey, program director for support services with the community action agency called ACCESS, says they're still seeing people losing homes to foreclosure, or in need of rent assistance when they face an unexpected expense or can't find enough work to pay the bills.

"The jobs that are available, a lot of 'em, are entry-level jobs, which is, perhaps, $10 an hour. And if you do the math, and you're trying to pay for a rental that's $700-plus a month, it's very tough on the families."

The Housing Alliance in Oregon says it isn't surprised by the findings that incomes have stagnated while rents have risen 35 percent since 2000, statewide. The report says for families in Oregon making less than $32,000 a year, there are only four affordable homes available for every ten households that need one.

Advocates who work with lower-income families say federal stimulus money has ended, while at the same time funding has been reduced for two Oregon programs, the Emergency Housing Account and the State Homeless Assistance Program (SHAP).

Ian Slingerland, assistant director for rent assistance with Home Forward in Portland, says these can be used to pay a deposit or partial rent, or make a mortgage payment, but the need far outpaces what has been allocated.

"The governor and the Legislature face a lot of challenges these days, but because the Emergency Housing assistance and the 'SHAP' program are programs that are relatively flexible, we feel like it's really critical to preserve those resources, at the level that the state's been funding them."

Slingerland says their typical client needs housing assistance for less than three months.

In the current state budget, funding for emergency housing programs was reduced by about 3 percent. Lawmakers are considering cutting it by another 3.5 percent.

See the report at www.nlihc.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR