Bend ranks low in home affordability

Bend ranks high in many economic measures, whether the number of visiting tourists or the amount of its beer sold nationwide.

However, it ranks comparatively low on the list of Oregon cities ranked by affordable homeownership compiled by SmartAsset, a financial data-tracking firm.

Bend ranks 49th out of 71 cities in Oregon with populations of at least 5,000, according to SmartAsset’s Steven Sabato, who compiled the list. Redmond ranks 40th and Madras No. 2.

In Bend, the average monthly mortgage payment, factoring in a 20 percent down payment and including property tax and homeowners insurance, comes to $1,256, according to SmartAsset. Its data also factors in a Bend median income of $52,471. At that level, the average mortgage calculated by Smart­Asset takes up a third of an individual’s income, the level at which the Census Bureau considers a homeowner burdened by housing costs.

“That’s a pretty tight budget,” said Lynne McConnell, deputy director of housing for NeighborImpact, which assists prospective homebuyers. “You will qualify (for a mortgage) unless there’s something hideous in your background, but you’re squeaking by.”

Nearly half, 43 percent, of Bend homeowners are considered cost-burdened, according to 2013 data from the Census Bureau. Surrounding communities fared worse, in some cases. In Redmond, Sisters and La Pine, 48 percent, 58 percent and 73 percent of homeowners are considered cost-burdened, respectively, according to the Census.

“The most affordable cities and counties were those in which total housing costs on an average house accounted for the smallest proportion of the median income,” according to SmartAsset.

The average monthly mortgage payment in Madras comes to $553, less than half that in Bend, according to SmartAsset. The two cities are also separated by a gulf in earning power. SmartAsset measured median income in Madras at $40,631.

Many of the jobs in Central Oregon that comprise its growing labor force earn less than median income. A construction laborer in Bend, for example, earns a yearly average of $32,111, according to the Oregon Employment Department. A tour guide in Oregon makes an average $24,821 a year; regional data was not available, according to the department.

Even for a home priced at $250,000, a construction worker or tour guide would save a long time for a $50,000 down payment, said Jim Long, affordable housing manager for the city of Bend. Qualified homebuyers can put down less than 20 percent or take advantage of government-backed programs for first-time and low-income homebuyers, or veterans.

Add up the cost of land, construction, permits and fees and “you’re looking at $400,000 for the average new-construction home today” in Bend, he said. “You’re not going to get that for $1,500 a month.”

However, Census data shows homeownership rates in Bend at an average 58.3 percent between 2010 and 2014. Nationwide, that rate peaked at better than 69 percent in 2004 before sliding to 62.9 percent this year, according to Census data released Thursday.

Workers who earn median wage and below are increasingly looking beyond Bend for housing, McConnell said.

“Families who don’t have all the money in the world are having to think beyond their ideal home search, having to get creative in what they’re looking for in a home and making sacrifices to make it happen,” she said.

Long said no simple solutions will provide affordable housing.

“Anybody that ever says there’s a silver bullet to the affordable housing problem, there is no silver bullet,” he said. “There is not one solution; it’s a series of steps.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7815,

Source: BB Real Estate – topStory

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