City & Government, Springfield

Cities open doors to affordable housing

Springfield and Eugene held an open house on Feb. 12 in Eugene to receive community feedback on a 2020 Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development, which will address local housing needs. Aliya Hall/The Chronicle

SPRINGFIELD – In the Springfield-Eugene area, affordable housing has been a concern for citizens. Together, the cities of Springfield and Eugene are working toward updating their 2020 Consolidated Plan for Housing and Community Development to address some of the needs the cities see.
In applying for federal funding, the cities held an open house on Feb. 12 for citizens to give input on where they want to prioritize the funding for housing.
”We need to be using taxpayer money in the best way. It comes from taxpayers and we have an obligation to spend it in the way best appropriate to respond to the community,” said Sandy Belson, comprehensive plan manager in Springfield.
The funds will be coming to the cities in the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the HOME program. Although HOME funds go directly to Eugene to administer, the City of Springfield anticipates that around $250,000 of that federal allocation will be available for their projects. Their allocation from CDBG funds for the 2020-21 fiscal year starting in July will be about $555,0000.
”We’re sharing that info with the public and seeing where there are things we missed – things the public thinks are critical,” Belson explained. ”Secondly, we want to get input on what strategies are most important. There are limits to funding and we know what is most important to the community. Where do they see the greatest needs?”
In Springfield, 74% of renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing costs, while 57% of homeowners spend more than 30%, according to the Cities’ statistics. Between 2010 and 2019, the median monthly rate increased by 58% in Springfield, to $1,181.
Affordable housing strategies the cities have come up with include increasing the supply of affordable housing, rehabilitating existing housing, creating home-ownership opportunities and removing barriers to affordable and supportive housing.
Iris Bicksler, a Eugene resident who used to work for an affordable housing developer, said that she was going to rank increasing the supply of affordable housing as the number-one strategy.
”We don’t have enough housing for everyone,” she said. ”We just need more of all of it – and it’s not just low-income people on the outskirts of town, but we’re having mixed-use housing in the core of our city so everyone has a shot of having the housing they deserve.”
Although this plan focuses on Springfield and Eugene, Wakan Alferes with Homes for Good said she would like to see this thinking extend into South Lane County as well.
”We know Cottage Grove and Creswell have even higher needs,” said Alferes, the supportive housing director. ”We don’t have housing meeting the needs now, and one goal is to provide housing in those areas.”
She added that she’s gone to a few open houses and with homelessness being such a large issue the community has identified, the community has been putting housing at number one.
”People get it and feel the crunch too. People are excited about the energy around more affordable housing and projects coming up,” she said. ”They see housing as a number-one need and this session and others will reflect that as a top priority.”



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