Sustainable Housing in Washington County
Housing Challenges - Housing Responses
The housing challenges in Washington County are related primarily to the age of the housing stock as well as the age and income of the population. It is more cost effective and preferred by elders to stay in their homes. However, older housing (71% is pre-1979) is often in disrepair; many houses are very large and most have inefficient thermal heating and insulation. Rental housing is also inadequate; it is not affordable for low-income persons especially young families who pay a disproportionate percentage of their income for rent; and there are quality issues for all income levels that are also related to the age of the housing stock.
There is a “Catch-22” in relation to subsidized housing. There are an insufficient number of vouchers in relation to need and those that are available can expire due to a common inability to find adequate housing that meets the standard for a voucher given the short timeframe allowed to find the rental. In addition, landlords are deciding not to accept vouchers because of the requirements to upgrade the housing (also related to age of housing stock). If found, there is often a mismatch between housing location and employment. Low-income persons do not often have a reliable vehicle for a long commute.
Homelessness is known on an anecdotal basis but existing measures do not adequately document those who “couch-surf”, double up with families built for single-family occupancy, or those who live in sub-standard structures (camps, trailers, school busses). Finally, and also related to the age of the housing stock, many homes are unhealthy due to lead paint and mold.
These issues, the background data supporting them, and the existing programs to address housing issues in Washington County are summarized in the Powerpoint presentation from the May 7, 2013 kick-off meeting.
Enormous Gap between Housing Needs and Available Funds
A primary metric for the Sustainable Housing problems in Washington County is the enormous gap between the documented need for housing (repair, energy retrofit, upgrade, and new) and the very low amount of funding available to adddress the need. Working in cooperation with the Washington Hancock Community Agency and multiple parnters the work team has documented that only 4% of the documented need can be addressed by the funds available across all public programs (download working document describing this funding gap here).
Final Regional Plan for Sustainable Housing in Washington County is available here.