Housing

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Safe and affordable housing, whether it be a homeowner or a renter, is a goal for many people in Cowlitz County. Often the quality and availability of housing is dependent on income and choice of neighborhood. A home that contains mold and other dangerous elements impacts the health of everyone living there, especially children. In recent years the issue of homelessness has divided Longview and Kelso into two camps: those who support a low barrier shelter and those who believe in transitional housing with sobriety.The real issue is the availability of housing. Not just low-income housing, but for all income sectors.

In community with less than a 2% rental vacancy rate finding housing is difficult. For a family whose income has risen and can move into better housing find that they are not available. They have no place to go. Business executives coming to town more often than not end up in Clark County where the availability of a wide-range of housing makes it easier to find a home. Income plays another factor in how much it takes of an individual's paycheck in order to afford a two-bedroom housing unit. The housing wage for our community is $14.38 an hour which compares well against the non-metropolitan state wage of $15.99, and well above the $11 minimum wage.

At minimum wage an individual in Cowlitz County has to work 52-hours a week to afford a two-bedroom unit. The result is members of the household working multiple jobs or both adults having to work in order to meet their housing needs. Likewise, the cost of a home takes a large portion of a family’s income each month. With 30% being the standard of gross income to pay for rent, 48% of local renters are paying more than 30%. It is little comfort this rate is not significantly different from the average across the state of Washington. At least 1,200 families are paying more than 50% of their gross income to maintain a home.

The opportunities for homeownership are better in Cowlitz County. First-time homebuyers can meet 98% of the powered funds needed to purchase a home. Those buying a new home they stand at hundred and 65% of the income needed to make the purchase. In the fourth 1:45 thousand 16 there were no housing permits in Cowlitz County as recognized by the Rumsfeld Washington real estate research Center and just 10 units of multifamily housing. This is still short of what is needed to offset the growing population. For first-time buyers, their median household income was $52,430 while established homeowner’s median family income was $62,300. The median selling price of homes in Cowlitz County rose throughout the year and the fourth 1:45 thousand 16 the price was $208,800. Local housing market is recovering from the 2007 recession but not as fast as the rest of the state.

On the horizon are three significant billion-dollar construction projects possible in Cowlitz County. Each one of those could bring in 1,000 workers for construction, plus the jobs to maintain the plants will grow the workforce. So where are these people going to live? Housing development is not an instant industry - it takes time to complete a new home. This should mean improved housing opportunities and development or Cowlitz County domain workers will look outside the county for a place to live.

After the closing of Love Overwhelming’s low barrier shelter there still remain seven agencies in Cowlitz County providing emergency or transitional housing support. Cowlitz County has organizations like Housing Opportunities of Southwest Washington and the Lower Columbia CAP are continuing to develop housing resources for low income and working families. For those who are homeless, housing services last year helped find housing for 1,600 individuals. But for the community to respond to questions of homelessness, people are going to need a place to live as well as the support of local agencies.

Community works to improve the health and well-being of its residents are hurt by the progress made in the county rankings by the Robert Woods Johnson foundation.  Out of 39 counties in Washington, we now rank 32nd for overall health and 35th for healthy behaviors. While the numbers can represent many factors, it is also evidence of the hard work by many organizations for a healthier future.

Looking at the report card every two years will not show dramatic changes. The Pathways 2020 board is concerned about data over the past 10 years and trends that need to be addressed or supported. Between 2015 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census, Cowlitz County population increased to 105,160 - an increase of 1,692 people. The county has yet to show dramatic improvement in population growth which is still just half the rate of Washington State. The population could change significantly when the three proposed industrial projects begin.

The face of the county remains primarily white but with a growing Hispanic population. 84.4% of the residents identify themselves as white, .6% as black or African-American, 2% as American Indian or nave Alaskan, 1.7% Asian, .4% native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 3.4% identified with two or more races and Hispanic alone is 8.6%.

 

Call to Action - Personal: 
  • Be physically active 30 minutes a day, five days a week
  • Be a volunteer with a youth sporting activity
  • Volunteer in trails and park cleanup efforts
  • Advocate for expansion of trails and parks systems
Call to Action - Community: 
  • Support community recreation and sporting events
  • Donate to local youth sports
  • Support and participate with Bike to Work Week activities
  • Offer worksite wellness programs for employees
  • Encourage development of Safe Routes to School projects
  • Promote access to local parks and trails
  • Make public parks tobacco-free
  • Update and print community trails map
Call to Action - Policy Makers: 
  • Adopt Zoning which emphasizes walking and recreational opportunities
  • Support Great Streets concepts
  • Fund local parks
  • Fund development of new trails
  • Support polices where the build environment contributes to health

Success Stories

Emergency Support Shelter
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More than doubling the numbers of rooms and beds  it can offer, the Emergency Support Shelter’s new location in Longview allows more clients to receive assistance, plus gives them much needed privacy. This change is expected to keep domestic abuse victims at the shelter longer, reducing the chance they will return to abusive situations as they come to realize they are capable of caring for themselves. The new location allows each household to have its own private room and bathroom, where the previous location in Kelso often saw three or four households in each room. The communal type living situation created increased anxiety in many of the people it was trying to help. The new shelter allows advocates to focus their time more on supporting people as they plan for their future instead of dealing with conflicts caused by the lack of privacy. It also has safe and secure indoor and outdoor areas where children and their parents can go to play and unwind and a chapel/meditation area. It is designed to be  a refuge where residents are able to find rest, peace and support.

Project Homeless Connect
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Cowlitz Housing FIRST! Coalition had its third annual Project Homeless Connect event in January of this year, bringing together businesses, community members, service providers and local government to work towards the common goal of ending homelessness. The event provides individuals and families experiencing or at risk for becoming homeless, with access to a hot meal, clothing and services such as housing information, basic medical and dental exams, bike repair, assistance with identification services, haircuts, clothing, job search information and many others.