The Problem With Affordable Housing

Reported by Ian Snively

Photographed by Kate Gray

The issue of affordable housing affects George Fox University (GFU) students as much as the citizens of Newberg, Ore. “The availability of affordable housing in Newberg is a long-term concern of the planning commission and the city council,” says Phil Smith, a member of the 2018 planning commission and professor of philosophy at GFU. 

“In my mind,” Smith says, “the number one factor is a lack of land in the urban growth boundary that is zoned for multi-family housing.” In a city council meeting on Jan. 11, the Newberg Planning Commission proposed some solutions to include more land to build housing. This includes adding a definition to one of their housing codes. 

“Comprehensive Plan Section I. Housing 3. Mix Policies” would change so that “large residentially designated parcels” would mean “15 acres and some” amount of land, giving Newberg more land to
work with. 

“The growth of the university,” Smith said, “is another factor that makes a difference because university students are required to live on campus as freshmen and sophomores, but we let them live off campus [afterwards].” 

Students come into the housing market with their own money, renting the cheapest places available in Newberg. This puts more pressure on the supply of housing in the area. Not to mention, the housing that is available is only becoming more expensive. 

According to an article from the Newberg Graphic on Feb. 1, “The real dilemma is that the developers are building houses that are selling for $400,000 or more, twice the amount of what many people can afford.” 

Smith says the new residence hall, which GFU will build between Fulton and Villa road, will relieve some pressure on the market. But he’s unsure of how much good it would do in the long run, especially if the number of students who enroll continues to grow. 

The Affordable Housing Commission, which was formed in 2012, is responsible for overseeing the Newberg Affordable Housing Trust Fund, a plan created to provide affordable housing. New faces will be introduced to the planning commission, including John Wuitschick, who said in an interview with the Crescent that he is equally concerned about growth, but wants to also maintain Newberg’s historical significance.

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