Officials at Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) are using a new analysis of unmet housing needs to help determine where low-income housing tax credits and other limited resources are distributed.

Using U.S. Census Bureau statistics and state data, the department has identifi ed gaps in special-needs and other affordable housing statewide. OHCS then can encourage housing for the groups with the greatest unmet need.

“It is one more tool that can be used to help make a tough choice when allocating resources,” says Natasha Detweiler, research analyst at OHCS.

Detweiler began by looking at the population numbers for different groups, including farmworkers, seniors, and the homeless, in each community and seeing how many units for those groups have been built.

In each location and for each type of project, the level of need was then expressed with a priority level one, two, or three ranking. Priority one indicates the greatest need.

In Multnomah County, affordable housing for developmentally disabled individuals has a priority one ranking because only about 8 percent of this population is being served. Housing for the elderly gets priority two because about 20 percent of the low-income seniors are being served by existing projects.

Proposed projects then receive points based on the priority level for its type and location in OHCS' Consolidated Funding Cycle, which is used to distribute tax credits and other funds. Priority one projects receive 37 points; priority two, 27 points; and priority three, 17 points. The overall application has a possible 200 points. Detweiler stresses that a priority three ranking doesn't mean there isn't a need for that type of housing, but the rankings can provide guidance on what the greatest unmet needs are.

Under OHCS policy, housing for the homeless is a priority one in every community. The department also gives highest priority to preservation projects.

Developers can present additional information to demonstrate why their project should be considered for a different priority level.