BENEFITING: SquareOne Villages
The Eugene-Springfield area suffers from a severe lack of low-income housing options. According to the 2015 Consolidated Plan, housing costs have risen sharply over the past 25 years while income levels have failed to keep pace. As a result, a significant majority of low-income renters (76%) have a “housing cost burden”—spending more than 30% of their income on housing and utilities—and a majority (51%) has a “severe cost burden"—spending more than 50% of their income on housing. Many have already lost their housing, with 1,473 people counted in Lane County's 2015 Homeless Point in Time Count.
Public programs aimed at addressing our affordability crisis continue to prove direly insufficient. Lane County's Section 8 waiting list was opened just one week in 2015, continuing the game of musical chairs. While general demand for one and two person housing options has risen significantly in recent years, there was a net decrease of 1,800 studio and 1-bedroom units in the Eugene-Springfield area between 2000 and 2013. In 2015, the housing authority listed a 5-year wait time for 1-bedroom subsidized housing (far longer than multi-bedroom options).
New construction of traditional low-income housing is very expensive to build. A recent project in Eugene cost $169,000/unit, not counting the cost of land. However, the Consolidated plan anticipates just $13 million over the next five years to build more of such projects. If we take the 1,473 people experiencing homelessness during the point-in-time count, built traditional publicly financed housing at $169,000, and assume 2 people in each unit—that's a need of $110 million.
Emerald Village Eugene (EVE) is a project developed by SquareOne Villages (SOV), a non-profit organization with a mission of creating self-managed communities of low-cost tiny homes for people in need of housing. It builds upon the success of Opportunity Village, a transitional micro-housing community for otherwise homeless individuals and couples. This next iteration of our village model will provide more accessible and sustainable place to transition to.
Each of the 22 homes are designed to meet the building codes definition of a “permanent dwelling”—including sleeping and living areas, a kitchenette, and bathroom—all in 160 - 288 square feet. The individual dwellings will be supported by common facilities that include a community gathering area, kitchen, laundry, restroom, tool storage, and office.
Cooperative Housing Model
Unlike most affordable housing projects, residents of EVE will not simply be renters, but instead members of a housing cooperative with a share in ownership of the village—enabling them to create a modest asset that can be cashed out if and when they choose to leave. As part of this innovative model, SquareOne Villages will hold the property in trust to assure continued affordability to members of the cooperative into the future.
Members will make monthly payments of between $200-300 to cover operating costs. Each household will also accumulate a $1,500 share, paid in increments over the course of 30 months, on which they will earn simple interest. This means the initial carrying charge for each household will be $250-350 per month.
Furthermore, EVE will offer security of tenure to very low-income people, provided they continue to follow the community agreements, and a voice in shaping how their housing is operated and managed through democratic process. By combing the benefits of cooperative housing with safe, decent, and cost-effective tiny houses, EVE will offer an accessible and sustainable housing option unlike any other in the country.