Bend nonprofit to create affordable housing

Kôr Community Land Trust wants homes working class can buy

By Stephen Hamway / The Bulletin / @Shamway1

With home prices on the rise in Bend once again, Amy Warren co-founded Kôr Community Land Trust, a nonprofit designed to help working-class residents buy affordable homes.

“If you’re a single parent working full time making minimum wage, the idea of ever getting into a home of your own is just not there,” Warren said.

Warren moved to Bend 19 years ago, and while she saw home prices increase in the early 2000s, she said the recent lack of housing options is a relatively new phenomenon. While Bend’s economy has continued to grow following the recession, construction has not kept pace. For example, 2014 was the first year that building permits issued for new homes approached prerecession levels, with 753 permits issued in 2014, compared to 760 in 2007.

The result has been a jump in housing costs due to a lack of availability as well as a spike in demand. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the median household income in Deschutes County in 2013 was $50,209.

The median home price in Bend at the end of that year was $269,000, according to Central Oregon Association of Realtors data. Last month, the median reached $325,000, according to the Beacon Appraisal Group.

“Most of our peers, the people we know in town, can’t afford that,” Warren said.

Kôr received its nonprofit status in May. Warren said the plan is for the organization to solicit grants and donations of money or land to acquire several acres by May 2016 that could become a community of small, zero-energy homes that could be purchased for below market rate.

Warren said the organization differs from affordable housing options in Bend through its focus on energy efficiency, which would allow residents to keep their utility bills as low as possible and help minimize the need for future upgrades. In addition, Kôr is structured around the community land trust model.

The land trust movement began in the 1960s, according to Melora Hiller, executive director of the Portland-based National Community Land Trust Network, which supports Kôr and other community land trusts throughout the country. Hiller said the model emphasizes permanent affordable housing, as buyers can purchase houses to live in, but the land trust maintains control of the property itself.

“When they buy the house, they’re only buying the house, not the land it sits on,” she said.

Warren said that allows the trust to sell houses significantly below market rates and to ensure that buyers can’t make changes that would push the homes out of the affordable housing pool, which is tied to median income for the area.

According to the organization’s website, 25 percent of homes built by Kôr would be designated for buyers at or near median income; 40 percent would be for low-income residents; and 35 percent would be for super-low income qualifiers. Super-low income residents are those who make less than 50 percent of median income for the region.

Warren said the group hopes to acquire a parcel of at least 2 acres and build 20 or more homes, with an average size of 1,000 square feet. She added that the target market would be working-class residents who are willing to embrace the energy-efficient lifestyle.

“We really want to take care of the people who take care of us,” Warren said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818,