During today's Hope Builder Luncheon at the Philomath Scout Lodge, Habitat for Humanity Oregon's executive director Shannon Vilhauer made the trip down from Portland to serve as this year's primary speaker.
Vilhauer provided an overview of the affordable housing crisis in Oregon and started her discussion by asking her Philomath audience a few questions:
"How many of us in this room are fortunate enough to own our own home?"
"How many of us have owned that home for five years or more?"
"With the way home prices happen to be, based on your savings and your salary today, could you buy your homes today? Could you afford to buy the same home today and afford to live in it?"
Her questions did make me think. For myself, my wife and I are fortunate enough to now own a home. On the second question, no, we have not owned it for five years, getting into it back in 2016.
Could we afford to buy the same home today? I'm not sure if we could with the estimated value going up significantly. The property taxes, of course, keep going up with it and our personal income increases are not keeping pace with the cost of living (an equation that goes well beyond housing, of course, and includes everything from garbage pickup to the cost of an occasional restaurant outing).
But we want to live in Oregon and we'll hopefully continue to make ends meet. To even buy the home, I had to cash in part of my retirement fund to cover the down payment, a situation that I believe is not so uncommon these days. We had been living in rentals in Corvallis but the rent kept going up significantly every year to the point where we'd rather invest that money in a home (along with enjoying the other benefits of ownership).
Getting back to Vilhauer's talk. I found these statistics that she threw out very interesting:
"Kids in Oregon who grew up in Habitat for Humanity homes, their high school graduation rate is 92 percent."
Stable housing is an important part of a student's ability to perform well at school. Other studies have shown this and it's a topic that the Philomath School District takes seriously.
"Ninety-eight percent of Habitat homeowners we serve pay off their mortgage."
That's an impressive number that's also above the national average. From what I've seen, I believe these families that get into Habitat homes are hard workers with the desire to settle down long term and be part of a community.