Community is working to end rent burden in Southern Oregon

More than 30% of Medford's renters are paying more than 50% of their income to cover the cost of rent, according to Medford's Housing Advisory Commission.

Posted: Dec 18, 2019 6:48 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Right now the community is coming together to are discuss ways to address the rent burden that people face here in Southern Oregon.

On Wednesday the Medford Housing Advisory Commission held a public meeting, encouraging people to join a community discussion to learn about what's being done to address rent burden in Medford.  In addition, the commissioners are hoping to hear from people who live in the area and collect feedback and ideas for future initiatives. 

They want to know the battles people are facing right now just to pay their rent. A battle that's all too familiar for more than 30% of people living in Medford, according to statistics from the Housing Advisory Commission.

Justa Phillips said she lives paycheck to paycheck. "I've been able to make ends meet, but a lot of us are always just a breath away from not being able to do that."

Phillips works in White City, but she lives in Hornbrook. Every day she commutes an hour to work and an hour back home.

"I am looking at moving closer, but my options are narrowed by what's affordable," she told NewsWatch12.

Hornbrook is the closest place Phillips was able to find affordable housing.

"It still stress-inducing for sure, I mean rent is crazy and it just keeps getting crazier," she said.

Phillips isn't the only one feeling this way. According to Medford's Housing Advisory Commission, more than 30% of Medford's renters are paying more than 50% of their income to cover the cost of rent.

That's the case for Sonjja, a single mom NewsWatch12 spoke with Wednesday in Medford.

Sonjja said, "It's very stressful, I've been late a couple of times, you know, like $50 or $100, and they put a note on my door. It's so embarrassing."

She said she works 7 days a week. Most days are 12-hour shifts. This helps her put a roof over her and her daughter's head.

"Yeah, I basically live at work," Sonjja said. 

She says it was really hard for her to even find the home she's in now, let alone a home that's more affordable. That's a common scenario in Southern Oregon, where the vacancy rate has been under 6% since 2005, even dipping to a 0% vacancy rate in 2007.

The housing that is open and available isn't afffordable for most people who live in our region. Most landlords want their tenants to make 3 times as much the cost of rent every month. For example, the median household income in Oregon is about $48,000. That means rent would need to be less than $1,300 every month (if the renter only wants to spend a third of their income each month on rent, as suggested). 

NewsWatch12 browsed through places up for rent on Wednesday on Zillow. Most of them were at least $1,500, not including utilities.

Stay with NewsWatch12 for updates on what is discussed at the commission meeting.

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