Oregon Housing Study Presented by Hatfield Fellow

Sadie Carney
Land Conservation and Development Commission
Tue, 05/17/2016 (All day)

Julia McKenna started work as a Hatfield Fellow with the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) in August, 2015, focused on housing. Energy behind the topic grew through the course of the 2016 legislative session, with at least eight bills and countless hours of testimony responding to housing challenges from every part of Oregon getting attention at the capitol. “Housing has become part of our everyday conversation in state agencies,” says DLCD Director Jim Rue, “it’s everywhere.”

As the fellowship concludes, McKenna will deliver a final report and presentation to the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) at their May 19-20 meeting in Albany, Oregon. During ten months of research, including more than fifty first-person interviews, ten housing conferences and events, and review of 150 reports on housing; five potential areas for consideration to help elevate housing as a priority in Oregon were developed. Those recommendations are the central focus of the presentation.

DLCD’s Statewide Planning Goal 10 states that cities will adopt “plans [that] shall encourage the availability of adequate numbers of needed housing units at price ranges and rent levels which are commensurate with the financial capabilities of Oregon households and allow for flexibility of housing location, type and density.” Cities achieve compliance with Goal 10 by zoning land at densities and in the locations that make sense for a particular housing type (e.g. single family or apartments and condominiums). However, many cities lack the resources to analyze their particular housing needs, or to make the zoning changes necessary to meet those needs, and state funding has not kept pace.

Oregon’s land use system was designed to provide long range planning for cities in a way that balances multiple priorities. While it is only one tool, it is a ready vehicle for the statewide changes needed to effectively tackle issues of housing affordability and availability. But there are a factors beyond land use affecting the operation of housing markets. Factors created by local governments: zoning, development codes, state and local tax policies, state “fair housing” provisions, landlord-tenant laws, and development impact fees; and those external to government influence: available financing, interest rates, cost of construction, and federal tax policies. Solutions to the housing crisis in Oregon must be looked at holistically, land use solutions alone will not adequately address the problem.

Alongside Pegge McGuire, Director of the Housing and Energy Services for the Community Services Consortium, McKenna will discuss the affordability and availability of housing in two case study areas, Corvallis/Albany and Hood River/The Dalles as well as discuss recommended action items: technical assistance to cities, including increased grant money; increasing DLCD staff capacity to focus on housing; an update to Goal 10, as well as Goal 10 monitoring and enforcement; and close coordination with Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS). When asked about the long term effects of the work, Pegge said, “We have a significant body of research demonstrating that the location of our homes can dictate the physical health and financial success of our children and grandchildren. It is time to dedicate the resources and creative thinking necessary to make meaningful change in the lives of our next generations of Oregonians and to continue to demonstrate our place on the cutting edge of national policy.”

Reflecting on the outcomes of the fellowship, McKenna said, “If we truly want to solve these problems at a state level it is essential that we dedicate the time of talented people, coordinate the work of multiple agencies, and adequately fund the work. If we don’t, we will continue to see structural inequality and insufficient affordable housing around the state.”

Julia will go on to pursue a PhD in Urban Studies at Portland State University beginning Fall 2017.

See the full staff report here.