Housing Opportunity Day and the Fight to Fund Long-Term Housing

Karli Petrovic

By all accounts, the Oregon Housing Alliance’s Housing Opportunity Day was a success. On March 11, 2015, more than 250 advocates participated in the day-long event that began at the First United Methodist Church of Salem and ended at the Capitol. Throughout the day, participants met with more than 50 legislators and covered the Capitol’s steps with 20,000 socks that participants collected to draw attention to a startling statistic: 20,000 children and youth experienced homelessness in 2014. And they aren’t the only ones. Tens of thousands of adults also know what it’s like to be denied access to safe, affordable housing.

With those numbers in mind, Housing Opportunity Day attendees fought to address the state’s long-term housing needs by supporting the Governor’s request for $100 million. This breaks down into $85 million from General Obligation Bonds and $15 million in Lottery Backed Bonds. The goal is to deploy the funds beginning in 2017 and using it to support housing assistance in subsequent years. The money will go directly to providing increased long-term housing opportunities to low-income families with children and preventing homelessness for all Oregonians. The Housing Alliance is also asking for additional funding in the form of:

$20 million for the Emergency Housing Account and State Homeless Assistance Program
$20 million to preserve affordable homes that already exist
$5 million to ensure the Oregon Foreclosure Avoidance program’s continued success

To support these ambitious initiatives, the Oregon Housing Alliance encouraged bold action on Housing Opportunity Day. Advocates responded enthusiastically to the call for action. Jordan Davis, a participant and homeownership specialist for Portland Community Reinstatement Initiatives, described her experience as positive:

“I really enjoyed the opportunity to travel to Salem and speak personally to legislators about critical policies that could affect affordable housing in Portland,” Davis says. “I hope that by meeting residents and advocates from their districts, legislators will then advocate for state policy reform to ensure all Oregonians have housing options that are affordable for their families. I also thought it was great that the bus allowed a diverse group of advocates to meet and share different perspectives and chat about advocacy issues. I got to connect with neighbors living in my district as we shared our thoughts about housing issues during our meeting with Representative Kotek.”

The next Housing Opportunity Day is May 13. Show your support by speaking up in Salem. More details are available here.

Housing and Land Use

Although many people agree Oregon’s housing issues need to be addressed, the connection between housing and land use isn’t always immediately clear. In fact, the urban growth boundary (UGB) often gets blamed for raising housing and rental prices. This isn’t an accurate portrayal of the affordability issue. Costly sprawl is not the answer. Mary Kyle McCurdy, 1000 Friends of Oregon’s policy director, explains the issue this way:

“The ‘hidden’ costs of the increased amount of infrastructure—capital, operations, and maintenance—and the cost of transportation to individuals and households are significant. Many studies have shown that housing prices go up and down with the economy, regardless of whether a city has a UGB. Portland's housing costs are still—and always have been—relatively affordable compared to other west coast cities, with or without UGBs.  However, Portland isn’t relatively affordable when looking at wages.  Cities are even more affordable when transportation costs and the savings from compact development are taken into account. This is because the costs of subsidizing sprawl infrastructure are hidden and multi-generational, but every bit as pernicious and expensive. 

“While the Metro area is making investments in cost-effective infrastructure and development patterns, we do have to be aware of and mitigate the impacts of economic displacement.  It is only fair that public investments that increase the value of some people's property are accompanied by public investments to ensure all Oregonians benefit from those investments. This means providing tools to keep people and businesses in the neighborhoods where those pubic investments are being made.  If one cares about affordable communities, then expanding UGBs and sprawling is not the answer."

How You Can Help

Building affordable communities requires the strength of numbers. You can support this cause in a number of ways:

  • Attend the next Housing Opportunity Day on May 13.
  • Contact your legislator and ask them to support Governor Kate Brown’s request for $100 million to address long-term housing needs.
  • Call or write to your senator to ask them to vote in favor of HB 2654, a bill that would allow local jurisdictions to use inclusionary zoning to help provide affordable housing.
  • Reach out to Welcome Home Coalition and other housing organizations to find out how you can support the work they’re doing to end homelessness and displacement.