Over the past decade, the percentage of housing affordable to average-income families has decreased from 40% to 15% in Hood River. In response, the City of Hood River continues to tackle projects to create more attainable, equitable and diverse housing. The City’s newest effort is an Affordable Housing Production Strategy that will identify policy tools and actions to encourage development of housing for households making 120% or less of median family income (MFI), around $92,160.
The City has completed several major initiatives to promote housing affordability over the last five years. The City adopted a 1% construction excise tax (CET) dedicated to affordable housing that allowed the purchase of seven acres on Rand Road for affordable housing construction. A low-income utility assistance program was expanded to reach renters. The City updated its zoning code to promote accessory dwelling unit (ADU) construction, 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. This newest project – an Affordable Housing Production Strategy – will build on these successes and create a blueprint for continuing the City’s efforts to support local housing availability for low and moderate income residents.
Rising housing costs are not unique to Hood River. To help guide the Affordable Housing Production Strategy (AHPS), the City hired ECONorthwest. ECONorthwest will provide specialized knowledge of how housing markets interact with local demand and community needs. The firm will evaluate programs and options suitable for adoption to encourage construction and preservation of affordable housing units.
The project, expected to last about nine months, started with Council adoption of project goals and the formation of a community task force. The project will include updates to housing data and market conditions, evaluation and prioritization of actions to increase and retain equitable and affordable housing opportunities, and an action plan.
The community task force formed by the Hood River City Council will review strategies to recommend to Council. Input from the advisory task force will be summarized along with proposed actions in a final report and plan.
“City Council is grateful to the many community members who’ve expressed interest in serving on the advisory task force,” said Mayor Kate McBride. “We had over 30 applicants and worked to create a group that represents diverse perspectives with interest in this particular issue.” In addition, stakeholder groups will also provide input to the project. City Senior Planner Jennifer Kaden is managing the Affordable Housing Production Strategy project and Councilor Megan Saunders serves as a Council liaison on the task force.
The task force’s first meeting will be held in mid-September. The group will be a sounding board in identifying and evaluating a range of potential strategies for Council consideration.