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Making a case for affordable housing

Scott Cooper appeals to the House Revenue Committee for an increase in the Oregon Affordable Housing Tax Credit
Members of the Oregon State Housing Council (OHCS), including Crook County Judge Scott Cooper, appeared before the House Revenue Committee in Salem on Jan. 17 to advocate for preservation of subsidized affordable housing for Oregon residents.
   Their request was for a $4 million increase in the Oregon Affordable Housing Tax Credit (OAHTC).
   The OAHTC, which generates funds to preserve Section-8 subsidized housing projects, now has a cap of $13 million, but the proposed bump would raise the limit to $17 million for housing projects statewide.
   The request comes at a time when many Oregonians are struggling to afford housing.
   "The need for basic housing in Oregon is critical," Crook County Judge Scott Cooper said in an OHCS news release. "The statewide program, touching some 40 Oregon communities, helps folks who earn in the range of $17,000 to $21,000 each year. These very low-income Oregonians need this program."
   Appearing before the committee with Cooper were Larry Medinger, Oregon Housing Council chair, and John Epstein, a Portland banker.
   According to Crook County Commissioner Lynn Lundquist, the need for affordable housing in Crook County is probably not much different from the rest of the state, although the average household income is lower than some other counties.
   "Housing is such a large part of people's budget that unless they have a range in their income, it's very difficult to find affordable housing and the land prices are obviously a big part of that," he said. "For Crook County, as compared to some of the other counties, is that our income is not as high on average."
   In 2007, the state legislature bumped the cap by $2 million to $13 million, and this move was widely praised for allocating resources to preserve around 1,600 Section-8 housing units whose contract were close to expiring.
   In 2008, 1,848 Section-8 units, housing more than 4,500 low-income Oregonians will expire, causing rent costs to jump out of reach of many Section-8 tenants.