Affordable Housing Week: Credit Unions Throughout the Northwest are Making Impacts
The Northwest Credit Union Foundation works with credit unions to implement solutions and products that address workforce housing challenges.
Tigard, Ore. (May 15, 2019) – During Affordable Housing Week, the issue is top-of-mind in the Northwest. Credit unions throughout the region are working to lead the charge in implementing real solutions and products that are making housing, whether it be to purchase or rent, more accessible to community members.
Credit unions are also partnering with community and private entities to implement these initiatives and create incentives. To help fund their work, several credit unions are now using grants from the Northwest Credit Union Foundation, with the most recent round announced this week.
The latest grants help support the implementation of projects that will pilot innovative, replicable, and scalable products to increase access to workforce housing across Northwest communities. NWCUF focuses its partnerships with credit unions who are solution oriented and engaged in their communities.
“Credit unions across the Northwest are creating and implementing real solutions to workforce housing issues in their communities, and we’re proud to partner with them to further this important work, whether it be through grants or bringing credit unions and other stakeholders together to collectively advance credit unions’ initiatives,” said Sharee Adkins, NWCUF Executive Director.
The NWCUF is awarding a total of $290,000 in project grants to Central Willamette Credit Union, Mid Oregon Credit Union, and Consolidated Community Credit Union. Each credit union has created solutions that uniquely fit their community’s needs. In June, NWCUF will re-open the workforce housing project grant, which will remain open until Sept. 13.
With support from NWCUF, Central Willamette Credit Union, based in Albany, Oregon, will create an 80/20 mortgage product for down payment assistance and to expand its community outreach throughout Oregon. Housing prices are on the rise, making ownership further out of reach. Saving a down payment is a huge hurdle, and with home prices jumping by up to 11 percent in the communities it serves, Central Willamette sees this product as a potential solution to combat this issue.
“With the continually rising cost of housing, we felt it was a timely and responsible effort for Central Willamette to commit our focus to affordable housing initiatives,” said Stacie Wyss-Schoenborn, President and CEO of Central Willamette. “The awarded funds from the NWCUF have been crucial in our continued development of partnerships, education, and product creation.”
Previously, Central Willamette received a NWCUF workforce housing planning grant, which helped the credit union complete a demographic study of its service areas and have in-depth conversations on how to more effectively reach residents who want to own homes but are struggling to meet financial requirements through traditional channels and products, Wyss-Schoenborn explained.
“Through listening to the communities we serve and partnering with local nonprofits, we were able to develop products we believe will provide access to first-time home buyers and additional capacity to those who are house poor.”
To address housing issues in its community, Mid Oregon Credit Union, based in Bend, plans to partner with community organizations that directly serve people looking for housing by launching the Workforce Housing Loan Program. Rents are increasing throughout the Bend area, with an average rise of 12 percent a year. At the same time, vacancy rates for rentals has declined to less than 2 percent. This trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.
“We have had positive discussions with several cities about how they can partner to support our efforts to increase workforce housing with the grant,” said Kevin Cole, Chief Financial Officer with Mid Oregon.
“For example, Bend offers a property tax exemption for properties that target housing for low-income people, but the income threshold is below the workforce housing range. We are hopeful the cities and county will see the benefit of what we are doing for the community and want to partner with us.”
In the Portland metro area, Consolidated Community Credit Union will use its grant funds to help the community of northeast Portland by expanding its residential lending programs. It aims to increase availability and access to workforce housing options, including accessory dwelling units (ADU) and ITIN mortgages.
ADUs include tiny homes, basement income properties, and cottage cluster developments. The credit union has partnered with government and community stakeholders that support these goals to identify and develop public policy changes that are needed to city building and zoning codes focused on affordable housing.
ITIN mortgage loans will provide immigrants with the opportunity for home ownership. Consolidated Community Credit Union, based in Portland, has partnered with the Hacienda Community Development Corporation, Oregon’s largest Latino-led housing organization, which refers clients to the credit union for mortgage services.
The median Portland home price rose by 44 percent between 2011 and 2015, making homeownership out of reach for many. Data suggests that 300,000 more people will move to the area by 2025, and with population growth outpacing new housing production, buyer competition will only increase, further escalating home and rental prices.
In November, NWCUF awarded $100,000 in workforce housing planning grants to several credit unions, including Icon Community Credit Union, in Boise, Idaho, Peninsula Credit Union, in Shelton, Washington, Central Willamette Community Credit Union, and Consolidated Community Credit Union.
These credit unions utilized their funds to study local housing and rental markets, listen to their communities, and identify potential solutions that best fit the rising housing needs of members and the broader community.
NWCUF also recently partnered with three credit unions to launch the security deposit loan pilot program, which is now helping to provide innovative financing for residents who need to secure rental housing but struggle to come up with the steep security deposit fees for entry that exists in urban areas.
NWCUF was awarded a grant from Meyer Memorial Trust to support the program’s launch. Point West Credit Union, Trailhead Credit Union, and Consolidated Community Credit Union are working on implementing the pilot program, and have committed to deploying loan funds to support 150 households over the next two years.
The Northwest Credit Union Foundation works with a network of credit unions and partners throughout the region to strengthen the financial lives of people and communities. It is focused on economic empowerment, asset building, and cooperative development. It does this by expanding opportunity and access to the economy, supporting financial literacy, and working with partners to ensure a strong future for the Credit Union Movement. Credit unions in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington represent 7.3 million consumer members and drove a positive economic impact of $7.8 billion last year, according to an independent analysis by economists at ECONorthwest.