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Workforce Housing Solutions Summit with Leadership Bend

Last week, the Missing Middle Housing Fund team traveled to Bend, OR, where we partnered with Leadership Bend and the Bend Chamber of Commerce to help facilitate a workforce housing solutions summit. Approximately 70 people came together from Bend, Portland, and Central Oregon for six hours to brainstorm and prioritize solutions. The result: six action plans to carry forward, driven by people and organizations committed to solving our housing underproduction crisis.

The six working groups will help spearhead new work or join existing efforts to:

  1. Create a revolving investment gap fund to build workforce housing

  2. Create an employer-driven and supported workforce housing initiative – center the individual needs of employers and put them collectively in the driver seat

  3. Increase funding to already successful local workforce development efforts in the construction and development industries

  4. Issue permits faster

  5. Reform the condo defect law to advance condos as a viable workforce housing solution

  6. Launch the Central Oregon Childcare and Housing Taskforce - Incorporate incentives for childcare solutions to advance the creation of more workforce housing

Leadership Bend is a nine-month community leadership development program overseen and supported by the Bend Chamber that identifies, educates, trains, and connects willing and committed citizens to leadership roles in the community. A cohort of The Leadership Bend Class of 2023 made workforce housing solutions in Deschutes County their key area of focus for the program, and this summit was the culmination of their year-long efforts. “We are so proud of the 2023 Leadership Bend class who chose this year’s project to support the Bend Chamber’s Workforce Housing Initiative. We look forward to adding this tremendous energy to local efforts to increase mid-market housing in our community,” said Katy Brooks, CEO of the Bend Chamber. Jenn Kovitz, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Central Oregon Community College, and a member of Leadership Bend’s Class of 2023, served as event emcee. She stated, “Leadership Bend is a project of the Bend Chamber, an organization which itself has been a leader in Deschutes County in the efforts to identify, measure, and begin to respond to the workforce housing crisis in our region. So as a member of this year’s Leadership Bend cohort, it was exciting to build on this momentum by helping to organize and host an action-oriented event. There was so much energy, participation, and collaboration happening in the room throughout the day! The Summit was a great reminder that we can and must tackle this problem from every angle, and that Deschutes County employers and sector leaders are invested in what it will take to create long-term solutions.”

MMHF's CEO, Nathan Wildfire, with members of Leadership Bend, who organized the Summit

Fellow Leadership Bend cohort member, Chad Young, a project manager with Skanska, added, “I joined Leadership Bend to make an impact on our community, and after nine months of planning and coordinating, we delivered Central Oregon’s first ever Workforce Housing Summit. This event broke the mold by having attendees get to work and build momentum behind their ideas, turning them into actual projects. I’m excited to see how these projects will benefit our community in the months and years to come.” Like the rest of Oregon, Deschutes County is greatly impacted by the lack of workforce housing, resulting in talent attraction and retention challenges. An employer housing research study conducted by EcoNorthwest in October 2022 with over 200 regional employers across several industry sectors found that:

  • 81% of respondents stated that the high cost of housing severely impacted their ability to hire

  • 66% of respondents experienced decreased revenue due to the hiring shortage

  • 37% of respondents have considered direct housing interventions, such as building or purchasing workforce housing

The summit attendees brainstormed throughout the morning session about possible solutions across three main areas of impact: “housing workforce and labor”, “financing and funding”, and “products, materials, assembly, and design”. After discussing and voting on top priorities in each area, six lead projects were identified by the group at large to pursue further. Working groups were established, and all attendees were given the opportunity to join the group of their choice to help advance the workstreams further. The summit was sponsored by Leadership Bend, Bend Chamber, Missing Middle Housing Fund, Skanska, Hayden Homes, and Central Oregon Community College, who hosted the event in their Coats Campus Center. Crux Fermentation Project sponsored happy hour immediately following the summit.

Central Oregon’s TV station, KTVZ, covered the event and highlighted the objectives of the day, which were to foster innovation and collaboration to find more economical, faster solutions for workforce housing. Our CEO, Nate Wildfire is featured in the story, emphasizing what we always say at the Missing Middle Housing Fund…there is no silver bullet to solve workforce housing underproduction. We need everyone’s help. However, with more collaborations like the Bend Workforce Housing Solutions Summit, we can get there, together. If we can help your Regional Chamber, Municipality, or Organization host a workforce housing solutions summit in your area, please reach out to us at, or if you would like to engage in any of the work group’s efforts listed above. If you would like to learn more about the Bend Chamber’s work on housing please visit their workforce housing solutions contact page.

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