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Data dig: Is Oregon's housing affordable?

0512_DataDig_Housing_OregonRenters and owners find costs take more of their income.

By Brandon Sawyer


Oregon arrived a little late to the housing crash and didn’t fall quite as hard as states like Florida and Arizona. But as real estate in some states begins to recover, prices here have continued to fall. Homes have lost about a quarter of their median value since their peak in 2007.

Meanwhile, household incomes are still reeling in the wake of the recession, pummeled by higher-than-average unemployment and wage stagnation. So even though home prices continue to fall, more Oregon homeowners and renters are spending in excess of one-third of their income on housing.

Housing costs that take more than 30% of a household’s income are considered unaffordable. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses 30% to figure low-income housing subsidies; lenders use it to determine mortgage qualification. Households paying more are deemed “burdened.”

In 2010 Census estimates indicate that 54.3% of Oregon renters were burdened, increasing 7% from 2006, while 42.8% of mortgage holders were burdened, a jump of 15% in five years.

One factor in expensive rentals is the state’s low inventory. The statewide rental vacancy rate in 2010 was 5.6%, the fourth tightest in the country.

Oregon’s homeownership is among the lowest in the nation and has fallen further since the recession. In addition, of all occupied homes in 2010, 37% were rented, the seventh-highest rate in the nation.

“There’s a lot of pressure on rental rates, and that’s probably because more people who had been in homeownership are now looking in the rental market,” says Margaret Van Vliet, director of Oregon Housing & Community Services, the statewide agency that administers federal money and tax credits for low-income housing. “There’s been hardly any construction of new multifamily [housing] for many years,” she adds. “The market is re-correcting but, in the meantime you’ve got folks who are really kind of stuck. So it’s a tough time across the whole spectrum of housing needs.”


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