HOME, Sweet Home

[Photo: Oak Ridge Park]
Credit Everton Bailey Jr. of The Oregonian

America is a big country and, no surprise, has a big government with, no surprise either, big government programs. And in a time of big deficits, those big programs offer a big bulls-eye for folks clamoring for big budgetary savings.

Programs like HUD's HOME Investment Partnership. It was created by Congress some 20 years ago to provide cities and counties with resources to preserve, even expand their stocks of affordable housing while offering income-eligible residents help in buying a home, fixing-up a house or finding an apartment with enough room at a reasonable enough price where they could raise a family.

But some folks don't like HOME. In the Spring of 2011, for example,The Washington Post turned its attention to HUD's data base of 28,000 HOME activities nationwide. It discovered some 700 projects it said were "stalled." Its conclusion? HOME is "dysfunctional." Turns out, though, that 52 percent of the projects it said were "stalled" were, in fact, completed. Another 46 percent were underway.

But "dysfunctional" is a powerful word and, as is often true of sloppy reporting, the damage couldn't be undone. Just a few week after The Post stories appeared, some members of Congress looking for a big program to achieve big budgetary savings found it in the HOME program, slashing its fiscal year 2012 budget by 40 percent. Ouch!

It makes you wish The Post had taken some time and trouble to visit a few places to see HOME at work. A community, for example, like Lake Oswego, Oregon.

It's a city of just over 36,000 residents about seven miles southwest of downtown Portland. It's a pretty well-heeled community and maybe even the most affluent in the entire metropolitan area. And it's certainly not the kind of place where you'd expect to find people eligible for programs funded by HUD's HOME Investment Partnership.

Except that you do. Just ask the folks at Northwest Housing Alternatives, a non-profit organization that recently celebrated the grand opening of Oakridge Park Apartments, a 45-unit, green-as-green-gets apartment complex for low-income seniors built for $11.5 million - $4.7 million of which were HOME funds provided by Clackamas County. It's only the second subsidized housing complex in the city's 164-year history.

It was built on land donated by the Lake Grove Presbyterian Church. The Church made the donation for good reasons. "There are lots of low-income seniors in the community and there is a real need for affordable housing," Diana Shavey, a member of the Church's housing committee told The Lake Oswego Review. "Many of them grew up and worked in Lake Oswego much of their lives contributed to the vitality and civic good of the community, paid taxes and worked for the community's betterment."

In fact, as word began to spread three years ago that Northwest Housing Alternatives was building affordable housing in Lake Oswego, its phone rang off the hook with more than 175 inquiries, almost four times more than the 45 units planned.

The demand won't slow anytime soon. Right now, The Review reported, 16 percent of Lake Oswego's population is 65 or older. Within the next 25 years their share of the population will rise 50 percent. "It says there is a lot of need for housing," Martha McLennan of Northwest Housing Alternatives added. "A lot of people need good, affordable housing."

Which is why in communities big and small, urban and rural, rich and not-so rich, local governments and non-profits have depended on HUD's HOME Investment Partnership. In its first 20 years, HOME provided assistance to more than 70,000 households in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington

"Dysfunctional"? Well, The Post can say so. But lots of folks in Lake Oswego likely would disagree. Like Doris Marsh. "I'd like to see more of this around here," she told The Oregonian on Oakridge Park's opening day. "I know it's hard for some people to believe, but not everyone in Lake Oswego is rich."


Content Archived: December 23, 2013