Boardman, Oregon, is a port town of just over 3,000 on the banks of the Columbia River surrounded by productive farm lands. These resources have helped the community generate above-average economic growth through its agricultural, food processing, manufacturing, and shipping sectors. As these industries have grown, however, a significant shortage of affordable workforce housing has made finding and keeping skilled employees difficult and hinders further economic development in this promising community.
In order to secure affordable housing, many who work in Boardman have had to endure long commutes from outlying towns or settle for homes that simply did not meet their families’ needs. Martin Paredes, Olgalibia Rosales Rivera, and their four children are one such family. Due to a lack of rental options in the community, the family was living in a two-bedroom apartment in a part of town that offered few family-friendly amenities and services.
Last month, the Umatilla County Housing Authority and CASA of Oregon opened the doors to Castle Rock Apartments, with 40 brand-new rental units located adjacent to schools, a grocery store, health care, churches, transportation, a safe playground, and more. To develop a quality housing facility with “built to last” standards, a number of federal, state, local and nonprofit partners worked together to identify financing options that included funding and tax credits provided by the State of Oregon and the federal government. USDA Rural Development provided a $2.4 million low-interest loan through the Farm Labor Housing Program, which offers low-interest financing to develop housing for those working in agriculture and food processing. The program also offers a rental subsidy to ensure housing and utility costs do not exceed 30 percent of a household’s income.
Today, Martin Paredes and his family live in a new, four-bedroom apartment with plenty of room for the children. In addition, the rent is lower, allowing the family to start saving for the future. “We hope to buy our own home someday,” Paredes said.
Another resident, Lisa Garcia Mendez, explains that before the new complex was built, apartments in Boardman were too expensive for farm worker families and, even then, the options were just not good. Moving to Castle Rock has changed things for her family of six. “I just feel safer here with my kids,” Mendez said.
To find out more about USDA Rural Development Housing programs click here.