Hood River’s Affordable Housing Strategy, the result of a year-long project, was unanimously adopted by City Council. Guided by a team of experts, the project was also assisted by a community task force and stakeholders.
The Affordable Housing Strategy includes numerous policy tools and actions the City will use to encourage development of supported, long-term affordable housing. Affordable housing was defined for this project as housing for households or individuals making 120% or less of median family income (MFI). For a family of four, that’s around $92,160.
To develop the Affordable Housing Strategy, ECONorthwest provided technical assistance as part of the City’s project team. City Council appointed 12 community members to a task force to discuss strategies and provide feedback on priorities.
Additionally, the project team held seven listening sessions with groups of stakeholders who provided valuable input. The sessions included social and community service providers, employers, local builders, affordable housing developers from across the region, Latino community members, and local government agency leaders.
The project team worked to address equity by ensuring stakeholders were part of discussions, and by weighing how various strategies address needs of the most vulnerable people in the community.
The eight recommended strategies provide a range of approaches that ensure affordability over time. Carrying out strategies will require different types of City actions, and some require partnerships with other organizations. The strategies are:
- Continue City-led Land Banking
- Establish Nonprofit Low-Income Rental Housing Tax Exemption
- Form New Urban Renewal District
- Invest in Housing Rehabilitation/Preservation Programs
- Provide Direct Project Subsidies
- Develop an Affordable Housing Ordinance
- Pursue a General Obligation Bond
“The tools and actions included in the Affordable Housing Strategy won’t solve the need entirely and the City cannot solve affordability issues alone,” says Jennifer Kaden, senior planner and Affordable Housing Strategy project manager. “However, the report includes the strategies most fitting and relevant to the City that can be implemented in the near term.”
The Strategy calls for continued City-led land banking, or purchase of land, for affordable housing development. This concept led to the purchase of a seven-acre site on Rand Road, now slated for development with 129 affordable housing units.
“The City has been proactive with policies to address housing affordability with our existing limited resources, but affordable rental and home-ownership options continue to be out of reach for many residents. Housing costs are too high for many low- and middle- income households, pushing residents out of the City, and reducing the strength of our community and economy,” said City Councilor Megan Saunders, who served as Council liaison on the advisory task force. “This strategy is ambitious but provides clear steps to help Hood River expand our support for affordable housing development. With a lot of work and strong community partnership, I have hope that these strategies will succeed.”
The City of Hood River has completed several major initiatives to promote housing affordability over the last several years. The City adopted a 1% construction excise tax (CET) dedicated to affordable housing that allowed the purchase of the Rand Road property for affordable housing development. A low-income utility assistance program was expanded to reach renters. In the past few years, the City updated its zoning code to promote accessory dwelling unit (ADU) construction and residential conversion of historic downtown buildings, and adopted a “missing middle” housing chapter. The City also capped the growth in second-home vacation rentals in residential areas through regulation. The Affordable Housing Strategy is intended to build on these successes and create a clear plan for continuing the City’s efforts to support local housing availability for low- and moderate-income residents.
To learn more about Hood River’s Affordable Housing Strategy, including data on Hood River’s affordable housing concerns and details on specific strategies, visit: cityofhoodriver.gov/planning/affordable-housing-strategy/.