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Community-led housing solution

Sreya SarkarQuickPoint!

Homelessness has become a pressing concern in Central Oregon. The number of people without a permanent home there has increased by half in the past year. More than 2,000 people are presently staying in shelters, on the streets, in their cars or camping out in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook Counties.

Though 79% of the homeless households are employed, the most common reason for this homeless situation is the high cost of rent. There is a need to add nearly 9,500 affordable housing units by next year to meet the mounting demand.

Oregon Trust for Affordable Housing (COTAH), administered by the Central Oregon Partnership, offers an innovative, private sector solution for a segment of those unable to afford their own homes.

COTAH serves Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties. It follows the community land trust model through which the cost of the land is taken out of the home buying equation, significantly reducing the homeowner’s monthly mortgage payments.

The Trust assists low and moderate income families to purchase affordable homes by separating the ownership of the home from the ownership of the land. The land under the home is placed in the Trust and is leased to the homeowner. When a homeowner moves, the home is sold to another income-qualified buyer at an affordable price.

This is a fine example of a community-based initiative led by community advocates and business leaders instead of the government. And it works. It can serve as a model for similar grassroots solutions to the homeless situation in Central Oregon.

Sreya Sarkar is an anaylst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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