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Report: Resident Services Work to Get OR Families on Their Feet

October 11, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - When Oregon renters are living below the poverty line, it also means challenges for their landlords. Developers of affordable housing offer a variety of resident services, but their effectiveness had not been measured, until now. The Oregon Opportunity Network has worked with developers for two years, to find out what types of resident services are available around the state and how well they work.

REACH Community Development in Portland, for instance, offers events and classes, a food pantry, neighbor mediation, and more. Kay Hutchinson with REACH, who worked on the research project, says the goal is to help families pull themselves out of poverty, in a supportive environment.

"For our organization it was really important to look at: 'Are the resident services staff really helping people stabilize their lives and stay in their housing?' That's one of the biggest sorts of connections we want to make."

The findings confirm that renters appreciate the help, from after-school programs to financial literacy and GED classes. And for developers, resident services have turned out to be good for business, according to Hutchinson.

"We spend money every time we have to evict someone; that's expensive, to go to court. Generally we have unpaid rent for a period of time; every turnover costs us money. So, anything that we can do to help people stay there longer, pay their rent on time, all benefits our bottom line."

The report says there's no doubt that resident services work to stabilize families, but for building owners, finding ways to pay for them is a constant struggle. Washington County in the Portland area is the only county in Oregon that has set money aside in its five-year plan to fund resident services. The report suggests similar arrangements in other cities and counties, as well. It is available online at www.oregonon.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR