From KEZI News

By: Joey Vacca Feb 20, 2024

CORVALLIS, Ore. – The City of Corvallis is working to provide more access to affordable housing through federal housing grants.

Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG’s, are a source of federal funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Brigetta Olson, Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager in Corvallis, said the funding is an essential tool.

“That’s really meant to be used as bricks and mortar to address the needs of low income individuals and communities,” she said. “So the resource can be used for the development of affordable housing, for maintenance of affordable housing, public infrastructure to support the needs of low income individuals and neighborhoods along with support to address houselessness.”

This funding has a very specific target.

“All the resources are utilized to meet the needs of low income individuals,” Olson said. “This money comes from HUD, and then funnels down to organizations and municipalities such as the City of Corvallis. So right now we have over a million dollars to allocate in the community development block grant program.”

There’s also HOME, which is a program focused on developing new housing or refurbishing and maintaining affordable housing. It all ties back to the City of Corvallis prioritizing access to housing for everyone.

“Home matters to everyone,” Olson said. “We know that kiddos do better when they get to live in the same house year after year, have a community, be able to live in safe and stable housing. Our city is committed to helping increase the supply of affordable housing in our community. In the next couple of years we anticipate a record number of affordable units. So over 450 will be coming online.”

Corvallis Housing First is an organization that is getting ready to turn an old motel site into a brand new affordable housing site thanks to CDBG funding. Olson said the city works with partners in the community to ensure everyone can get into housing who needs to.

“We want to stabilize people’s lives,” she said. “We want to make sure that kiddos are able to stay in the same house year after year, are able to be in a safe health housing. And partnerships with organizations such as Corvallis Housing First and others is critical. We don’t develop the housing. We work in partnership with organizations to get the work done.”

When it comes to working with the city on affordable housing, those working on the front lines of the homeless crisis have a valuable perspective to add.
“We are in a unique position because we’re a college town,” Corvallis Housing First’s executive director Andrea Myhre said. “We house a lot of students in our community. but we also have, you know, an issue with homelessness, because we lack affordable housing. And so, being able to have these conversations with the city, being able to just have their support and be a priority for them is so huge.”

She said she knows how important the new units will be.

“Every day we’re seeing the effects of not having enough affordable housing in our state and, you know, it’s heartbreaking,” she said. “And it’s not how we want our community to be. We want to have people be safe and have a roof over their heads. People that, you know, were probably living a little bit on the edge, so living in housing that was just affordable enough for them. But with with rents increasing, with the numbers of affordable units becoming more scarce, those folks get pushed out.”

While the city is still looking to earn more federal housing grants this year, Myhre said she is encouraged with the city’s efforts.

“I think that the city takes their role in encouraging and supporting affordable housing development very seriously,” she said. “I feel like there’s been some movement in the last few years to really prioritize– make that a bigger priority, and that’s clear.”

Olson said the city is in fact making affordable housing a priority.

“We had three, four decades of trying to restrict housing development in our community,” Olson said. “And we’ve been undoing some of those policies and really exciting to see the policy changes that’s happened in recent years.”

But Olson said affordable home ownership should also be a part of the conversation.

“We need to be addressing housing at every point and intersection in the housing continuum so that we can make sure that folks who want to live in our community can afford to live in our community, and afford also food, rent, mortgage, health insurance, and all the other– childcare, other important items,” she said.

Olson said the city will know this summer if they will receive the funding.