Bend awarded $5 million federal grant to fuel affordable housing production

Bend Bulletin

The city of Bend has received a $5 million grant intended to kickstart affordable housing supply, the federal government announced Wednesday.

Awarded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the grant set the course for the city to identify and address policies that slow affordable housing construction and create new incentives to spur development.

In a news release, U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden emphasized the need for solutions to the severe shortage of affordable housing in Bend and across Oregon.

Said Bend Mayor Pro Tem Megan Perkins, “Bend is thankful for this grant opportunity and ready to lean into production of more affordable housing.”

Total awards through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Pathways to Removing Obstacles to Housing grant program included $85 million to more than 20 local governments across the country, from New York City to Ketchum, Idaho.

Winners of the grant showed strategies to boost housing supply, reform local regulations and incentivize development, according to an announcement from the federal housing agency.

Bend applied for $10 million through the program last fall. The application included a blueprint for a six-year, $20 million initiative to increase affordable housing. The city will supplement the grant with other federal grants, affordable housing fees and other city sources.

The project aims to address Bend’s historic underproduction of housing that has priced low- and moderate-income buyers and renters out of the market.

Funding would allow the city to hire a consultant to comb Bend’s development code for barriers to housing production and problems with the permitting process, and suggest solutions to staff and City Council.

Given permission from the City Council, another chunk of the grant money would be used to establish a revolving loan fund to help developers buy and build homes. Though the fund structure could still be changed, it could also help developers pay for infrastructure improvements, a common barrier to affordable housing, said Lynne McConnell, housing director with the city of Bend.

“We’re really trying to streamline and simplify to ensure we have the right incentives for the right type of product and working with the community to get more affordable housing built more quickly,” she said.