City Club of Eugene: Building Workforce Housing in Eugene

Sep 23, 2019

Recorded On: September 20, 2019

Air Date: September 23, 2019

From the City Club of Eugene:

In January 2017, Eugene came in second on the list of cities with the largest housing shortage. Only 0.6% of our housing stock was then for sale—a statistic good for sellers, but terrible for most buyers and renters. Recent estimates suggest that more than 60% of Eugene renters and 30% of home buyers are “housing cost burdened,” meaning they spend 30% or more of their family income on housing. The median price of homes is now $310,500 and the median rent is $1,595, while median household income is just $44,800.

How does adequate housing supply contribute to a thriving community with a 21st-century workforce? What strategies could help support working families and increase housing affordability?

Last September, City staff created the Housing Tools and Strategies Working Group to study options and make recommendations for relieving this situation. These 34 experts and advocates developed several proposals for the City Council to consider.  Because the housing crisis is statewide, the State Legislature also acted.  They passed and the Governor signed HB2001, which nails down requirements for Accessory Dwelling Units and requires most cities in Oregon to provide opportunities for duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhouses, and cluster subdivisions by June of 2022. The law is intended to address Oregon’s deficit of 180,000 housing units—but the worry is that it could simply encourage builders to construct more expensive rentals.

Architect Kaarin Knudson and workforce analyst Henry Fields discuss the local housing crisis. They describe the challenge of providing “workforce housing,” for nurses, medical personnel, police officers, firefighters, and teachers, among others, who neither qualify for affordable housing nor earn enough to buy housing in Eugene.


Kaarin Knudsen is a member of the City’s Working Group and the project lead for Better Housing Together, a consortium of community partners working to find a wide range of housing types that support people of all ages, at all income levels in our community.  She earned an MA in Architecture from the University of Oregon, where she now teaches. She also is on the board of directors of the Architecture Foundation of Oregon.

Henry Fields is a Workforce Analyst and Economist at the Oregon Employment Department, based in Eugene, and serves as a consultant to the Working Group. He earned a BA in political science at the University of Oregon and a Masters in Public Administration from Indiana University.

Copyright KLCC, 2019