News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Housing and jobs are in crisis in Oregon

I would like to convey a response to Bill Bartlett’s article in last week’s issue of The Nugget, regarding the affordable-housing crisis in Sisters, Central Oregon, and arguably the U.S. (and world) as a whole. I have read his article and I fully agree with his statements. And there are certainly plenty of well-paying jobs in Sisters, and around Central Oregon as a whole.

However, we cannot deny that, at least in Central Oregon, people in very skilled professions, like a teacher or a doctor, will take a significant pay cut to come work for Sisters School District, or St. Charles Health System, compared to what they could make if they were to work for a school district or medical group in the Portland Metro Area, or Salem or Eugene. Couple this with the fact that our housing costs are out of control, and the reason we have a shortage of workers in all industries, including skilled professions, becomes clear.

To add to this, I would also like to point out that, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a lot of people would rather sit on their duff and collect unemployment, because it pays more than most jobs here currently will. Yes, I know there are people who are having a significantly hard time finding a job, even something as simple as a cashier at McDonald’s or Bi-Mart. But a lot of people are just collecting unemployment because it pays more than any job currently will.

Returning to the housing subject. As someone who works retail at $13.15 per hour, I should qualify for the low-income housing units at Ponderosa Heights or Tamarack Village. However, I do not. A single person will only qualify for those apartments if their income is less than $26,000 per year. My current income is over that. Which means I don’t qualify. And that is wrong, as I am quite clearly in poverty. Maybe not federally, but for sure in Oregon.

I sadly believe it is likely I will have to be living with my parents for the foreseeable future, as I just cannot afford to live in this town otherwise. Regrettably, I am also looking at moving to other areas in the northwest, in hopes of pursuing more gainful employment in my trade, the tech industry, as we do not have enough tech opportunities in Central Oregon.

We have the Facebook and Apple data centers in Prineville, but they don’t hire technicians very often, and that is quite likely because the people who are working there as technicians, are holding onto those jobs with a death grip, as they are probably some of the best paying, best benefits jobs in Central Oregon as a whole. Outside of Facebook and Prineville, there is Ibex in Bend and also BendBroadband and Century Link. But that is about all I can think of for most of this area.

Housing and jobs in this town, Central Oregon, the U.S., and quite possibly the world as a whole is a real problem, especially among the younger generations. Millennials and Zoomers simply do not have the advantages the Baby Boomers and Generation X did with housing and jobs. A lot of Millennials and older Zoomers have crippling college debt that they can never hope to pay off, and have not found a job with their degree, which further hinders their ability to find a place of their own to live.

There needs to be something we can do. I am not sure what it is we can do, but it has to be something. We cannot continue on with a terrible job market and out-of-control costs of living. People my age really are getting the short end of the stick. While there are people my age who are definitely lazy, most are not, and just want a share of the pie that their parents and grandparents got. I would also like to iterate that I say these things as a moderate-ish libertarian, and not a conservative or a liberal. We are in a housing and job crisis, and it is going to continue to get worse, and something must be done.

Views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and are not necessarily shared by the Editor or The Nugget Newspaper.


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