Housing effort needs coordination

Editorial

The high-energy discussion of housing needs in Wallowa County has begun losing ground in recent weeks. It’s time to take steps to keep the topic at the forefront and continue the effort to fruition.

This is the ideal time to strike while the iron is hot since the state has recognized the housing crisis and has established programs to help the situation.

And while many of the programs contain spending mandates for rural Oregon, thus far, very little help has come to Wallowa County.

In a series of stakeholder meetings to make sure that state money is properly managed, representatives from Wallowa, Grant and Baker Counties and La Grande, regional and county mental health agencies, land lord groups, church outreach groups, community service providers, housing and homelessness program directors, energy and low-income assistance providers met Oct. 12.

Those attending learned $150 million in state funds for 50 different programs is available.

Wallowa County needs an organization that will help champion the state programs and assist those who qualify in applying.

The county has a long history of accomplishments from the nonprofit sector. Several already existing organizations appear to be good candidates to form a county-wide housing task force. Wallowa County Board of Commissioners sanction would give such a group the ring of authority.

A number of organizations in the county are specifically committed to the interests of business. Without question, lack of workforce housing is inhibiting economic growth and development, making housing a pressing business issue.

Essentially, the move would formalize the work already begun by an ad hoc group that has been regularly gathering as part of the Brown Bag Lunch program at Josephy Center. While that group has been effective in keeping the discussion going, it’s time to move to a more coordinated effort to take action.

A large number of organizations across the county have said “sign me up” when it comes to working on solutions to the housing crunch. Now is the time to take advantage of the momentum. A public-private partnership appears to make a great deal of sense.

Without action to consolidate the planning process and move the issue forward, the latest blaze of interest in housing will fizzle and become the latest set of wet ashes.

No one wants to see that happen. The issue clearly is a centralized authority or clearinghouse where all of the energy of the groups and organizations rallied to action of late can coalesce.

There seems to be a great deal of followership where the housing issues are concerned. What’s lacking is leadership. One group or organization has to step up and take the helm and begin the push for boots-on-the-ground solutions.

If not now, when?

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