▶️ What’s to blame for Central Oregon’s sky-high cost of living?


The cost of living in Central Oregon is higher than ever before, and it may be the result of who’s moving to town.

2020 Census data reveals where new residents of Deschutes County are moving from. The numbers show that 33% of those moving here between 2016 and 2020 came from California, which boasts many of the highest cost-of-living areas throughout the country.

Around Bend, several new housing developments are trying to keep up with the sky-high demand for living. They often come along with eye-popping prices.

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“From 2020-2023 we’ve seen the median home value has gone up several hundred thousand dollars just in that three-year span,” said Grant Ludwick, a Bend-based realtor. “We think that prices are only going to accelerate and we’re going to have that same feeding frenzy as soon as interest rates come down. And California, again, is going to be where a large number of these buyers come from.”

Of the other 66%, half come from other parts of Oregon and the rest come from other parts of the country besides California.

“As you compare them to buyers from other parts of the state or other states, is it home values are typically a lot higher in California. So these buyers from California are coming into our market with a lot more disposable income, a lot more money as far as proceeds from the sale of their house,” Ludwick said. “Which in turn has helped to drive prices up quite a bit here.”

State economist Josh Lehner helped collect the data. He says pointing the finger for costs based on origin location isn’t a fair representation of a complex market.

“People want to live in a great state with high quality of life and scenic beauty and lots of job opportunities,” he said. “Our conversations around this get framed as the boogeyman of California increases demand for housing and drives up our costs. That’s just an incomplete discussion.”

He says to alleviate market stress, it’s supply which needs to keep pace.

“That’s where we’ve seen the struggles in Oregon is we just haven’t we’ve chosen not to build enough housing,” he said. “That’s the crux of the problem.”

Ludwick says simply building more homes is not a straightforward solution.

“You have these barriers. The Deschutes National Forest. You have BLM land and you have zoning laws that prohibit just mass development of residential housing,” he said.

But for Ludwick, a former Californian himself, it’s clear why the houses will continue to pop up wherever they can.

“People see the attraction of ‘I can still have the lifestyle I want, but in a smaller city or area,'” he said

The Census data was collected in 2020. It’s expected these migration numbers have continued to accelerate since then with remote work becoming increasingly popular.



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