Assessing local housing needs
Multiple organizations are teaming up to determine what the housing needs are in Prineville and other Central Oregon communities and how to meet them.
Leading the charge is Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, an organization that is the council or an economic development district.
"In 2016 and 2017, we were rewriting our Regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)," explains Scott Aycock, COIC's CEDS manager. "We do it in partnership with all of the cities and counties, with EDCO (Economic Development of Central Oregon), with Workforce people, chambers of commerce — anybody who has anything to do with communities and economic development."
Typically, during this effort to create a five-year strategy, they work to determine the biggest needs throughout each community and the region as well as find any unmet opportunities.
"This time around, the number-one issue in every community of the region was housing — even from an economic development perspective," Aycock said. "That got me thinking, what can you do about housing from a regional scale and from an organization like ours? We are not a housing program. This is not generally our realm at COIC."
Further research into the situation revealed that some other efforts are afoot elsewhere that have tackled the housing issue through a regional approach. Aycock then began meeting with different regional groups and individuals involved in housing.
"What dawned on me is it wasn't so much about the regional scale, but more the opportunity to help coordinate all of the different groups that are working on housing in the region," he said. "They are all needing data, they are all needing advocacy, they are all needing funding, but they didn't have a table to come to and organize all of that stuff. So we started setting that table."
What emerged was Housing for All, which is comprised of members from multiple organizations throughout the region, including the Homeless Leadership Coalition, Housing Works, Crook County Health Department and Central Oregon Association of Realtors.
The Housing for All effort involves five different attributes, one of which is an update to the regional housing needs assessment. The last update took place in 2006.
That work includes distribution of an online survey to housing stakeholders and outreach to individual communities to find out what housing data they already have and what needs they have encountered.
Aycock stressed that the assessment will focus on a broad range of groups, including different income levels, ages, and more. He explained that low-income families are not the only ones facing housing problems. As an example, he pointed out that St. Charles Health System, one of the CEDS partners, is struggling to recruit physicians because home prices in Central Oregon are higher than in competing communities.
"It's not just an analysis," Aycock said of the upcoming assessment. "It is also an evaluation of different kinds of tools that would work best to produce those different kinds of housing."
The CEDS manager went on to emphasize that the COIC-led Housing for All effort is not meant to supplant current work already under way to improve housing.
"This is really meant to be supporting the groups that are doing the work," he said.
Completion of the housing needs assessment is anticipated by January, Aycock said, but he is expecting communities to benefit from the effort sooner than that.
"We are hoping to have little chunks of information coming out all along the way," he said.