The Housing and Community Services Agency of Lane County has renamed and rebranded itself as Homes for Good. The old name was bureaucratic and difficult for people to remember. Likewise, the acronym HACSA wasn’t particularly helpful (“Hacksaw? Why is the housing agency named after a hand tool?”). After meeting with and surveying community members, HACSA worked to develop a new identity that better embodies who it is and what it does. Mission accomplished: The new name immediately sets the stage for the organization and what people can expect from it.
Despite being burdened by the cumbersome and less than memorable old moniker, Lane County’s housing authority has successfully provided housing and community-related services for the residents of Eugene, Springfield, and rural Lane County since 1949. It has worked to connect tens of thousands of low-income individuals and families with homes they can afford, helping these people succeed by achieving stability in their living arrangements.
Homes for Good is the second largest housing authority in Oregon, presently providing housing to more than 5,000 Lane County families who otherwise would be homeless or at risk of homelessness. It owns and manages a broad portfolio of public and assisted housing units throughout the county—single-family homes, duplexes, and apartment buildings—and additionally partners with private property owners and local service providers for hundreds of others. The agency also provides Section 8, Veterans Affairs, and Shelter Plus Care rental assistance vouchers. It works with governmental, non-profit, and private partners to maximize its impact and effectiveness. It actively develops new housing to meet our community’s continuing and growing need. Underlying the work is its commitment to providing services and programs for people of all ages, ethnicities, religions, gender, and status. Homes for Good truly does good work.
Lower income families find it increasingly difficult to find affordable housing. The demand far outstrips the supply. According to the Washington Post, the number of apartments low-income families can afford fell by more than 60 percent between 2010 and 2016. Here in Lane County, a shortage of land and market forces are pushing housing beyond the reach of far too many. Costs are rising rapidly, while incomes for low-income families are staying level or falling behind. Worse yet, the recently passed overhaul of the federal tax code is likely to exacerbate the problem because the lower tax rates make Low-Income Housing Tax Credits less valuable and consequently less attractive. The bottom line is funding for affordable housing is at its lowest point ever. A challenge of Sisyphean proportions confronts us.
The solutions to the problem are elusive. Where will new sources of funding to subsidize inexpensive housing come from? Can local communities summon the will (and open their pocketbooks) to support programs that reduce the cost of renting or buying for lower-income households? Increasing the diversity of the housing stock by removing restrictions on the construction of underrepresented types (such as accessory dwelling units and “missing middle” housing) may be one answer. More inclusionary zoning and policies providing incentives for the creation of affordable housing when new development occurs are another. So too is considering expansion of the urban growth boundaries to include areas not suitable for farming and restricting their use to affordable and subsidized housing.(1)
My wife and I are fortunate because we can afford the four walls around us and the roof over our heads. We enjoy a comfortable home (now mortgage-free), food on our plates, and much more. While we don’t take this good fortune for granted, it’s been all too easy for us to overlook the plight of others who struggle every day to locate and pay for warm, clean, and safe housing. This shouldn’t happen.
Homes for Good is doing its part to connect everyone with all the good that comes with a home. The old name didn’t roll of the tongue and didn’t have a soul. Because the agency’s work is more important than ever, to succeed Homes for Good needed to be super clear about why they are here. With the transition to its new name, it’s clear now they’re here for people, for homes, and for the good of our entire community.
(1) A problem with expanding the UGB to make room for low-income housing is doing so would likely relegate individuals and families who can least afford the expense of driving automobiles all over town to locations lacking in convenient access to goods and services.