Lawrence: Affordable housing is in university's best interest
Being a student at Pacific University, I experience housing issues firsthand with the struggle of renting a place off-campus. Housing on campus is too expensive for what it is, so I sought out cheaper alternatives in the proximity to campus to find that rents were not as affordable as I had expected them to be. I noticed there were many new developments being constructed, which should have alleviated the rent pressure and made rents more competitive. This was not the case. Rent continued to increase each new lease even though the supply of units had increased immensely.
The average rent for an apartment in Forest Grove is $1,057, an 8 percent increase compared to the previous year, when the average rent was $982, according to RentCafe, which was last updated January of 2019. The good news is that it is still much more affordable to live in Forest Grove when compared directly to the surrounding towns and cities.
I am advocating for a change to be made to the rent market here in a very much college town. Students are on tight budgets, and more affordable rent housing should be made available to allow for a more independent living situation off-campus. This could be in collaboration with the university to aid in enrollment numbers moving forward. Pacific has seen a slight dip in recent enrollment, so marketing this to students would be beneficial for each party involved.
According to the Forest Grove Community Development Department and Planning Division, "Housing is a necessity." The developers in the area are in a private market that only seeks to sell to the highest bidder to make the most profit for the land-owner. This needs to shift towards a more affordable action plan of providing housing that meets the 30 percent median family income (MFI) of Washington County. Housing needs to be thought of as a necessity and not a commodity.
There needs to be incentives to developers in order to produce these affordable housing units. Using tax breaks or other such incentives would give the private developers an appealing opportunity to move away from a strict profit-generating framework towards a more efficient way to build homes or apartments that are more affordable. Federal funding is also one way to achieve more affordable housing units. Developing and implementing an action plan to progress forward with more affordable housing will be the first step to solving a growing issue.
Sam Lawrence is a student at Pacific University. He lives in Forest Grove.
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