05-20-2018  11:00 am      •     
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NEWS BRIEFS

Raina Croff to Speak at Architectural Heritage Center

'When the Landmarks are Gone: Older African Americans, Place, and Change in N/NE Portland’ describes SHARP Walking Program ...

Portland Playhouse Presents August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ Through June 10

May 20 performance will include discussion on mental health; June 10 performance will be followed by discussion of fatherhood ...

Peggy Houston-Shivers Presents Benefit Concert for Allen Temple CME

Concert to take place May 20 at Maranatha Church ...

Family Friendly Talent Show, May 18

Family Fun Night series continues at Matt Dishman Community Center ...

US Marshals, police arrest Vermont fugitive in Oregon

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The U.S. Marshals Service says a missing sex offender from Vermont has been arrested in Oregon.The Marshals say 55-year-old James Rivers was arrested May 16 in Cottage Grove, Oregon, by deputy marshals and local police. It's unclear if he has an attorney.Authorities...

Oregon State study says it's OK to eat placenta after all

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — First experts said eggs are bad for you, then they say it's OK to eat them. Is red wine good for your heart or will it give you breast cancer?Should you eat your placenta?Conflicting research about diets is nothing new, but applying the question to whether new mothers...

State sees need to reduce elk damage in the Skagit Valley

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. (AP) — Elk are easy to spot against the green backdrop of the Skagit Valley, where much of the resident North Cascades elk herd that has grown to an estimated 1,600 is found.For farmers in the area — especially those who grow grass for their cattle or to sell to...

Famed mini sub's control room to become future exhibit

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) — The U.S. Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport has a new addition to its archives — the salvaged control room of the legendary, one-of-a-kind Cold War-era miniature submersible NR-1.Adm. Hyman G. Rickover, the father of the nuclear Navy, conceived the idea for the...

OPINION

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

Will Israel’s Likud Party Ever Respect the Rights of Palestinians?

Bill Fletcher weighs in on the precarious future of the two-state solution between the Israeli government and the Palestinian people ...

The Future of Medicinal Marijuana in Pets

Dr. Jasmine Streeter says CBD-derived products show beneficial therapeutic benefits for pets ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

2018 midterms: An early heat for 2020 Democrats?

ATLANTA (AP) — Look closely enough at the 2018 midterm campaign and you'll see the stirrings of a Democratic scramble to reclaim the White House from President Donald Trump.The leading players — from established national figures such as former Vice President Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders...

Northern states taking down vestiges of racism, intolerance

DETROIT (AP) — A nearly 80-year-old statue depicting a European settler with a weapon in his hand towering over a Native American that some say celebrates white supremacy has been dismantled by crews in southwestern Michigan's Kalamazoo.And at the University of Michigan, regents have voted...

Guess who's coming to Windsor? Royal ceremony weds cultures

BURLINGTON, New Jersey (AP) — With a gospel choir, black cellist and bishop, Oprah, Serena and Idris Elba in the audience and an African-American mother-of-the-bride, Saturday's wedding of Prince Harry to American actress Meghan Markle was a blend of the solemn and the soulful.Guess who's...

ENTERTAINMENT

'13 Reasons Why' premiere canceled after Texas shooting

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Netflix canceled the premiere party for its second season of the teen drama "13 Reasons Why" because of a school shooting near Houston.The streaming service announced the cancellation hours before the scheduled premiere and red carpet event, citing the Friday morning...

'Shoplifters' wins Palme d'Or, grand prize to Spike Lee

A tumultuous Cannes Film Festival concluded Saturday with the Palme d'Or awarded to Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Shoplifters," a tender portrait of a poor, impoverished family, while Harvey Weinstein accuser Asia Argento vowed justice will come to all sexual predators.At the closing...

'Jurassic Park' dinosaur expert's next big thing: holograms

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Forget the gray, green and brown dinosaurs in the "Jurassic Park" movies. Paleontologist Jack Horner wants to transport people back in time to see a feathered Tyrannosaurus rex colored bright red and a blue triceratops with red fringe similar to a rooster's comb.Horner,...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

'Deadpool 2' ends Avengers' box-office reign, rakes in 5M

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Deadpool and his foul-mouthed crew of misfits and malcontents have taken down the...

Iraq's al-Sadr, promising reform, is constrained by Iran

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr, the maverick Shiite cleric whose political coalition beat out Iran's...

Company in Cuba plane crash had received safety complaints

HAVANA (AP) — The Mexican charter company whose 39-year-old plane crashed in Havana had been the subject of...

Palestinian publicly sets himself on fire in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — A 20-year-old Palestinian is in critical condition after publicly setting...

Iran says EU political support not enough, urges investment

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's state TV is reporting that the country's foreign minister has urged the European...

The Latest: Maduro's challengers criticize 'red points'

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — The Latest on Sunday's presidential election in Venezuela (all times local):1:01...

Amari Prewitt, right, smiles as her mom Elena Williams, left, sister Aniya Lopez, brother Julian Prewitt, and aunt Erica Williams show her the new bedroom she will be getting at their Habitat For Humanity House in Medford, Ore. (Denise Baratta /The Medford Mail Tribune via AP)
VICKIE ALDOUS, Mail Tribune

 

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Amari Prewitt-Williams was born a healthy baby, but at 3 weeks old, she developed a fever and meningitis — inflammation of her brain and spinal cord membranes.

She has coped with multiple brain surgeries, cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. Now 3 years old, the wheelchair-bound girl has trouble getting around her small two-bedroom home that is infested with mice and spiders. The home rents for $995 per month, said her mother,

Elena Williams, a certified nursing assistant at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

Fortunately, the family of two working adults and three children was chosen to receive a Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity home. Williams is putting in 200 hours of construction work for the house, and friends and family members are contributing 300 hours.

The monthly mortgage for the four-bedroom, wheelchair-accessible house will cost between $600 and $700, Williams said.
"We were blessed to have this opportunity," she said.

Habitat for Humanity is on the front lines of a local affordable housing crisis.

The rental vacancy rate has dipped to about 2 percent, rent costs are rising and the median existing home sale price in Jackson County has risen from $145,000 in 2011 to $221,500 this year.

The 2007 recession triggered a wave of foreclosures, and many developers, builders and subcontractors went belly up.
Although times were tough, Habitat for Humanity did what it could to make the best of the situation.

"One of the largest hurdles for us is buying land. The recession helped us because land became available and we could purchase foreclosed homes," said Denise James, executive director of the local organization.

Isabel Cortez, a divorced mother of three now living in a bedroom of her parents' house, is receiving another Habitat for Humanity house. Although construction hasn't yet started on the house she will live in with her children, Cortez already has logged half of her required construction hours by helping build homes for others.

"It was really nice building homes for other people and seeing the houses and their faces. I love working on houses," said Cortez, who works at Amy's Kitchen. "I'm so happy and so thankful for Habitat for Humanity. I'm very grateful. I was shocked when they told me I'd been chosen."

The Housing Authority of Jackson County is among the government agencies straining to meet the need for affordable housing. It has 5,416 people on a three-year waiting list for rental vouchers that can be used on the open market to supplement the amount people can pay for rent.

The Housing Authority also builds and manages its own housing. With new projects in the pipeline, the agency will manage nearly 1,500 units, said Jason Elzy, director of development.

The Concord, a $12.5 million apartment complex with 50 units being built in downtown Medford, is its largest current project in Jackson County. Rent will range from $456 to $584 for one- and two-bedroom apartments.

The Housing Authority will open a waiting list for spots in the building in the early fall, a few months before the building is finished, Elzy said.

He expects the apartments to be snapped up in a matter of hours.

"The last time we had a project, we had families sleeping in front of our building to be the first in line. By the time we opened at 8 a.m., the line was wrapped around the building," Elzy said. "We expect the same response for The Concord."

Elsy said government housing programs cannot keep up with the need for affordable housing.

"The problem is not going away anytime soon. We're barely making a dent," he said.

Easing the strain
After the 2007 recession, many homeowners who lost their jobs and houses turned to the rental market, which pushed up prices and strained the supply. Many former homeowners were hesitant to buy again in a shaky economy.

With the economy improving and rents increasing, more people appear ready to dive into home ownership, said Colin Mullane, spokesperson for the Rogue Valley Association of Realtors and a principal broker with Full Circle Real Estate in Ashland.

Homes spent an average of 73 days on the market in 2015, but are now bought in 48 days on average, according to the association.
Mullane said he helped an Ashland worker paying $1,650 in rent find a house in Medford for a $1,200 monthly mortgage payment.

"At the end of 30 years, the house is yours — and the rent doesn't go up," Mullane said.

The Rogue Valley Association of Realtors created a first-time home buyer assistance program in 2012 that allows buyers to receive grants of up to $1,000. Funded with proceeds from the Rogue Valley Food and Wine Classic, which takes place on March 31 this year, the program has $25,000 in grants to distribute in 2016, said Tina Grimes, executive officer for the association.

The program is administered by the social services group ACCESS Inc., which offers a host of programs to help home buyers. They include the "Realizing the American Dream" pre-purchase education class, the Dream$avers down payment savings program and online home buyer education classes.

For people having trouble finding a place to rent, the Ready to Rent class teaches people skills that include checking their credit report, interviewing successfully with a landlord, filling out rental applications, gathering their pay stubs and financial information and explaining rental history or credit problems, such as an unpaid medical bill.

"It can help a client address barriers before being continually told 'no' by a landlord," said ACCESS Grants Analyst Donna Lea Brooks.
With extremely low rental vacancy rates, competition is fierce and people with a negative rental history or credit problems often lose out, she noted.

"They are competing against folks without screening barriers. Who is the landlord going to pick? The one without issues," Brooks said. "This gives them the tools they need to be less of a risk to landlords and bolsters their self-esteem. Then we continue working with them so they remain successfully housed."

A statewide problem
During a short session that ended earlier in March, the Oregon Legislature passed bills in response to a statewide affordable housing problem.

One bill bans rent increases in the first year of tenancy and requires 90 days' notice for rent increases in subsequent years.
While good for renters, the bill isn't necessarily a bad thing for property owners, said Dave Wright, president and owner of CPM Real Estate Services, Inc., which manages 2,100 units for property owners.

"No rent increases for the first year are helpful for the market we're in right now," he said. "I've talked to a few of our clients and they think giving more notice about rent increases gives tenants more of a chance to relocate if they can't afford it."

Local governments will be allowed to mandate that builders set aside a portion of large developments for affordable housing in exchange for incentives such as tax waivers and the ability to construct taller buildings. They can also adopt construction taxes to fund affordable housing projects.

Wright cautioned that efforts to address affordable housing issues could create unintended consequences and higher prices.

"Ultimately, if the legislation goes too far, it gets passed on to the consumer in one way or another," he said.

The affordable housing bills that passed this year represented a compromise between the desires of builders and housing activists, said Oregon Home Builders Association Chief Executive Officer Jon Chandler.

"They were drafted to minimize unintended consequences. The housing activists don't feel they went far enough. I think they struck a balance," he said. "You can't make someone build a project that they'll lose money on."

He said the construction tax will give cities resources to fund affordable housing projects.

Chandler said 25,000 housing units need to be built each year to keep pace with Oregon's population, but only 15,000 are being built.

A lack of lending to builders and would-be home buyers, high land prices and infrastructure costs, and a shortage of skilled construction workers are all issues that need to be addressed for housing to become more available and affordable, state and local experts said.

Boosting vocational training in schools and at the community college level would not only increase the number of skilled construction workers, it would allow workers to earn living wages and pay for their own housing, Chandler said.

"Construction jobs cannot be outsourced because they are building houses in local communities," he said. "Those are family-wage jobs. They make good money. In our societal shift toward college prep, we forgot you could make $60,000 a year."

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