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Housing "Affordability Gap" Grows in Oregon

April 16, 2009

Salem, OR – The annual "Housing Out of Reach" report for 2009, released this week by a national low-income housing advocacy group, shows what Oregon renters probably already suspect: Rent prices have outpaced many renters' ability to pay them, at least without cutting back on other basics.

The situation is made worse as unemployment soars and work hours are cut back. In its report, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition calculates what it calls the "housing wage" – the amount a person or family has to make to comfortably afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in their county. In Oregon, it quotes the average "housing wage" at $14.54 per hour, and says 44 percent of renters in the state do not earn that much.

Michael Anderson, executive director of the Oregon Opportunity Network, predicts rent prices will not get any lower, either.

"There's more pressure on the rental market as fewer people are able to become homeowners or maintain their home ownership, and there still has not been any kind of significant, on-the-ground process for more affordable housing."

Anderson commends the legislature for raising county document-recording fees to create an ongoing source of funding to build and refurbish affordable housing units – but that increase has not gone into effect yet. He says many renters need help now, especially families, seniors and folks with disabilities who are counting on the state to not slash their safety net.

"We need the state not to cut back programs that help people who could become homeless - particularly their Emergency Voucher program, which helps families stay in their homes. Right now, those programs are slated for some significant cuts."

According to the Oregon Housing Alliance, rent prices have increased in the state by about one-fourth since 2000.

The "Housing Out of Reach" report, which lists fair-market rents versus average income for every county and major city in the state, is available online at

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR