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Low income residents struggle to keep up with Jackson County's housing market

Genevieve Grippo/KTVL

Housing is a basic need, but in Jackson County, new data show that having a stable home is becoming more and more out of reach for the area's most vulnerable residents.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends no more than 30 percent of a family's income be spent on housing, but Jackson County tends to require much more than that.

"The average renter in Jackson County makes $12.68 an hour," said James Raison, Support Services Director for ACCESS, an organization that provides rental and deposit assistance among other services. "That allows them to afford $669 a month in rent. The average two bedroom right now is $899, so that give you an example of how unaffordable it is."

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, workers have to make over $21 per hour to afford an average two-bedroom apartment in Oregon. In Jackson County specifically, minimum wage employees would have to work 65 hours a week to afford that same home.

But those numbers don't even make a difference if residents can't find a rental to begin with.

"We rarely see decently priced rentals on the market for more than a day," said Joe Vollmar, Housing Director for ACCESS. "They're typically pulled within hours."

While renting presents its own challenges, Vollmar said the dream of owning a home can seem even further from reality for residents.

In 2017, the average home sales price hovered above $326,000, according to the Oregon Housing Alliance. That's almost a 7 percent increase over the year prior.

The OHA also revealed that there are only 15 units available for every 100 families with an extremely low income. It would take an additional 4,875 units to meet their needs.

"There's been very little inventory, which has just allowed the market to grow and grow and grow," said Vollmar. "I don't think we can afford to continue on the path that we're on right now. If we continue on the same path, in 5 years, you're going to have a marketplace here that's just going to implode on itself."

Vollmar attributes part of the problem to the economic downturn of 2008. He said many contractors left the southern Oregon area during the recession and never returned, leaving very few trained professionals to keep up with current building demands.

RELATED: Local construction industry feels pinch of skilled labor shortage

To learn more about housing assistance and other programs ACCESS provides, visit their website by clicking here.

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