The increased cost of living has infiltrated every aspect of people's lives—at the gas pump, the grocery store, heating or cooling houses... the list goes on. It's gotten very expensive to provide just the basics. It's no secret that affordable and attainable housing is a major obstacle for many Central Oregonians, too. In July, the median price of a home in Bend set another record high at $470,000. Home ownership continues to be a goal that is seemingly out of reach for so many.
Is there a solution to this crisis, and is anybody doing anything about it? The answer is yes. Two Bend locals have turned a longtime vision into reality that addresses both affordability and sustainability. Amy Warren, who has a degree in energy systems engineering from Oregon State University-Cascades, studied net-zero homes and realized we can meet the growing housing needs as a society by reducing our ecological footprint as individuals. Warren met with longtime friend Jason Offutt, who owns Shelter Studio, a local residential design firm, to discuss her innovative net-zero housing ideas. Offutt was supportive of the net-zero concept but insisted that any project they undertook would prioritize affordability as well. At that time, in 2015, land prices were rising quickly in Bend and the two faced an immediate hurdle: how to avoid passing on the high land cost to buyers. After more research and brainstorming, Warren and Offutt formed Kôr Community Land Trust with the goal of building low-energy homes using a model that emphasized shared resources—starting with the land under the homes.
Kôr operates under the community land trust model, with the over-arching concept being community ownership of land and individual ownership of the homes. By following the community land trust model, Kôr uses funding from grants and donations to acquire land and build homes for those who otherwise couldn't afford the opportunity.
Kôr, in collaboration with Housing Works of Central Oregon, is behind a new development in northeast Bend called Kôrazón, a small cottage community. They've recently broken ground and have begun construction on five zero-energy homes. These houses will be 1,100 square feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. Homes will be sold to Bend residents who meet income requirements and qualify for a mortgage. One home will be offered at market value for those at median income and four homes will be for low-income and very low-income qualifiers.
The application process is underway for the Kôrazón community and will close on Sept. 23. The selection will be done by lottery and applicants will be notified by Sept. 27. Interested parties must sign up for an information session to apply and review the requirements and recommendations. All the information can be found on Kôr's website: korlandtrust.org/projects/korazon/.
Kôr Community Land Trust is setting precedent and laying the groundwork for a sustainable housing program. Through tireless effort, substantial community support and perseverance, the Kôr organization is leading the way for many others to follow.