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Workforce Housing Innovation - A Sum Greater Than Its Parts

Members of the NWHC with Oregon State Representative Anna Scharf (fourth from left), who supported the allocation of $3M in state funding for the creation of new workforce housing in Newberg

This past week marked an important milestone for the Missing Middle Housing Fund (MMHF). In partnership with the Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SEDCOR) and The Newberg Workforce Housing Consortium (NWHC), we officially kicked off a search to find the most creative, innovative, and practical solutions to build affordable workforce housing in Newberg and Yamhill County. This initiative has the potential to transform the region in so many ways, from stimulating economic growth for local employers to building community and enhancing quality of life for all of the county’s residents. Our approach is to pool together the best and brightest housing innovations in a way that makes the solution more powerful than any singular idea on its own. The need for affordable workforce housing has never been greater in our state. Housing at attainable price points enables people, places, and economies to reach their full potential – but all too often housing security is out of reach. Oregon is woefully deficient at creating housing for its residents. Years of under-production have led to an over 110,000-unit deficit, and it is getting worse every year. With increasing costs across every step of the homebuilding process over time, it is most often middle-income earners who feel particularly squeezed. They make too much money to qualify for income-restricted subsidized housing, but don’t make enough to afford market-rate housing. In the City of Newberg, this lack of affordable housing for residents making 80-120% of Area Median Income (AMI), has negatively impacted the ability of area employers to attract and retain the workforce needed to sustain economic growth. According to various estimates, the City of Newberg needs to create between 600 and 1,000 units of housing to serve these middle-income earners. We believe that this important initiative will model a new way for all stakeholders to think about how to address affordable housing needs – not just for the Newberg community, but for the entire state of Oregon. There is ample reason to be optimistic: 1. We have the financial support of the State – Up to $3million in state funding has been raised by SEDCOR and the NWHC to support the creation of new workforce housing in Newberg. 2. The business community is committed and engaged – Major employers in the area have come together to form the NWHC, including A-dec, Friendsview, George Fox University, Newberg Public Schools, and Providence Health Care. With more brainpower and resources at the table, the results are sure to be exponentially stronger than any single employer or company tackling this issue alone. 3. Our hearts and minds are open to out of the box solutions – The NWHC partners have been inspired by other success stories where teams from multiple disciplines have come together to combine multiple innovations. Perhaps this third and last point will really enable our team to break through our housing underproduction crisis. Across our state, we have heard about tremendous innovations in building materials, design, assembly methods, and financing. Last year, MMHF awarded two grants to innovators focused on reducing the cost and time to build: HumanKind Homes, a design build construction technology company that utilizes a set of interlocking bricks made of sustainable geopolymer concrete, and Viowiess, a company that creates modular converted shipping container homes with 3D printed components. These are two examples of companies with tremendous potential as they address very specific parts of the building process. Our RFP process for Newberg will require innovative technologies and solutions that address the entire spectrum of the build process. As we said at the beginning, if you are a developer, entrepreneur, financier, manufacturer, builder, designer, or innovator, we want to hear from you. There is no silver bullet that will solve 100% of our needs. However, we believe creative and nontraditional partnerships will lead to outcomes more powerful than individual efforts alone.

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