Benton County is at the forefront of the battle for affordable housing. Unfortunately, the reasons are complex and the path forward is full of is hard work.

Today, Benton County has the worst income inequality in the entire state of Oregon. People who want to live and work here are being forced out. Our neighbors, our friends, our children are finding out that living in this community is frustratingly unaffordable.

Habitat for Humanity understands the severity of the housing need. In fact, Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the state have made home ownership a reality for over 2,000 Oregon families. That is substantial! In Benton County we have built over 40 homes in partnership with our community. We want our neighbors to be successful and not forced to relocate to find adequate and affordable housing elsewhere.

We are committed to doing still more. Unfortunately, we continue to see that hardworking Oregonians from communities of all sizes are confronting a shortage of available homes for rent or purchase. In Benton County 2 out of 5 renters are paying more than 50% of their income in rent, while the median listing price for a new home is closing in on $400,000. With high demand for student housing in Corvallis, would be buyers are being forced to move further away to find affordable housing, resulting in 66% of Corvallis workers living outside of the city.

It is a fact that Benton County will be a better, more vibrant place to live when the people who work here live here. Families should be allowed to put roots down right here in Benton County.

Habitat for Humanity is supporting House Bill 2001, which is meant to increase the building of workforce housing through the stimulation of “middle density” housing developments.

Every family in Oregon has a different need. Some are young families with three children who need room to grow. Others are seniors whose children have left the nest and only need a one-bedroom apartment. Regardless, Oregon as a whole needs more than 155,000 new homes throughout the state to meet the current housing shortfall.

Habitat for Humanity locally utilizes many middle density strategies so our partner families can actually afford their homes. Strategies that make it possible for our families to make their mortgage payments and live right here in Benton County. Where they have access to grocery stores, great schools and public transportation. This strategy works!

Your voice is needed! Please call your representative today and tell them to support HB 2001. Help create a real home for your neighbors. Help create housing choice and affordability. Help create real and immediate opportunity to live and thrive in Oregon!

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Karen Rockwell is the executive director of Benton Habitat for Humanity.