Lebanon making commendable efforts to address housing issues

Lebanon’s experiencing some growing pains, which may be a good problem to have when quality people moving in do so simply because they like the community.
But it’s still a problem.
We certainly didn’t plan it this way, but this month’s newspaper contains a number of reports about how the city and various local organizations and individuals are attempting to address the shortage of affordable housing in the community and, not entirely unrelated, the question of where to put those who have no housing at all.
Both the City Council and Planning Commission are addressing those issues, and we have a story posted online at lebanonlocanews.com about the two work sessions the council has held to figure out how to increase the availability of housing in the community. (Given our space limitations, we opted to post our reporter’s detailed account of those proceedings on the website.)
The most basic need, of course, is simply having a roof over one’s head, and the fact that the city is actively making progress toward designating such a spot is commendable.
So is the effort detailed in our story on the “sleep trailer” hosted in mid-February by Crossroads Communitiy and First Christian Church (page 16). While something like this trailer might not be the right solution for the City of Lebanon, it represents out-of-the-box thinking to solve a problem that hasn’t garnered too many solutions. You don’t need us to point that out.
A designated area goes a long way toward keeping the homeless out of doorways, as Sweet Home, up the road, has learned after it opened a managed shelter in conjunction with Family Assistance and Resource Center. Incidentally, the approximately two acres of land for that facility came from the county.
No matter what, there are going to be public costs in providing such shelter, so the question is what type of accommodation and what location would best suit Lebanon’s needs.
Then there are the next-level questions of how to facilitate the development of housing that people can actually afford. That has been a focus of the afore-mentioned work sessions, and it’s something that the city actually has the power to do – if it wants to make changes.
That might mean adjusting zoning and codes and other regulatory barriers to incentivize the development the kind of lower-cost housing that Lebanon residents need and want to see in the community. It might mean working to develop incentives not unlike the strategiesLebanon employed to attract the Lowe’s Distribution Center.
Fire Chief Joseph Rodondi’s report to the council (page 3) reveals another impact of Lebanon’s growth – the Lebanon Fire District can barely keep up with the demands placed upon it by the growing population.
The problems he describes aren’t limited to Lebanon – Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District is also struggling with staffing issues, in particular.
State Rep. Jami Cate is backing a bill that would provide tax breaks for volunteer firefighters, which would help provide incentives for local residents to consider volunteering.
Fact is, lack of firefighting capabilities is one of those problems that must be addressed. One of the fundamental responsibilities of any government is to ensure public safety, and the ability to deal with fire is probably one of the most basic safety concerns.
The fact that LFD, as Rodondi reported, only is collecting on 35% of what it bills and has to write off 60%, due to government regulations regarding Medicare and Medicaid, is a problem.
‘Nuff said. Fact is, while all these new arrivals can bring a lot of positives – talent, initiative, vision, etc., there’s a cost involved and Lebanon’s residents will pay it, one way or another.
So while these initiatives are being developed, it will be wise to pay attention to what’s happening, how the money’s being spent.
Which we will.