Welcome Home Coalition Mobilizes Local Housing Movement

Karli Petrovic

As Oregon continues to weather an affordability crisis, we need all hands on deck to find solutions. Welcome Home Coalition, a Portland Metro-based housing opportunity organization, understands the problem. That’s why the group is leading the local movement to advocate for dedicated resources.

“Affordable housing programs have been defunded year over year at the federal level,” says coalition director Jes Larson. “Public housing programs and Section 8 housing are still there, but overall, there are very few resources coming from those federal programs. We are experiencing declining resources at a time when need is increasing exponentially. Welcome Home was created to identify the best mechanism to locally organize with the task of funding affordable housing.”

To accomplish such an ambitious goal, Welcome Home works with local leaders and government officials to find and build public will and support for this cause. The idea is to build a larger movement around the issue, so that housing-related funding is coupled with policies that “protect affordability and prevent displacement.”

“Our goal can’t be accomplished with revenue alone,” Larson says. “We are responding to people in crisis because we don’t have policies to protect people from the crisis. We need to get people homes they can afford and stop or slow the flood of people who land in housing crisis mode.”

Some of the legislative actions Welcome Home advocates for are inclusionary zoning, land banking and trusting, and demolition fees that disincentivize knocking down homes that could have been affordable first-time options for families. That said, Larson recognizes the need for new revenue streams: “We’re never going to get the market to build affordable housing on its own for someone whose only income is a $1,000 Social Security check every month,” she says.

Despite these hurdles and compounding problems like wage gaps, Welcome Home focuses on making an impact where it can. In addition to reaching out to the community and local organizations to spread the word, Welcome Home also conducts research and polling to find where there are opportunities to win local campaigns for housing revenue, develops leaders, and collaborates with local housing and antipoverty groups to support an entire spectrum of work dedicated to preventing housing issues.

“We’re partnering to make sure that everyone can have a place to call home,” says Larson, while knowing those who need affordable options aren’t always the people you expect. “Working families deserve opportunities to have a home and still meet basic needs for their families each week. Grandparents and disabled veterans often struggle because their incomes don’t go far enough to support having a home. Affordability is the new kitchen table conversation, and everyone, at the very least, knows someone who can’t afford rental prices or who can’t afford to live where they grew up. Sometimes, it’s first-time homebuyers with good middle incomes. This issue is incredibly relatable. People need solutions, and we have the ability and the responsibility to act.” 

Note: Welcome Home Coalition is hosting a kick-off party to celebrate the housing affordability movement. Join them on June 4 at The Rosewood Initiative on 162nd and SE Stark. Everyone is welcome!