Affordable housing advocates in Portland, Oregon have had success recently in protecting housing programs from budget cuts. Now they are focusing on securing more ongoing, sustainable solutions. Over the past six months, 51 organizations have come together to form the Welcome Home Coalition, an effort to secure a dedicated revenue source for affordable housing and services in Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties. The Portland metropolitan region has experienced several years of skyrocketing rent increases. According to Zillow, rents in 2014 increased by 7.1% in Portland, well over the average national increase of 4.9%.
The Welcome Home Coalition is directed by the Oregon Opportunity Network, an NLIHC State Coalition Partner, along with seven leading housing organizations: Street Roots, JOIN, Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), Coalition of Communities of Color, Rose Community Development, Oregon Food Bank, and Community Alliance of Tenants. It was clear to the group early on that a winning campaign would require significant, dedicated staff time and a coordinated campaign strategy. This approach generated a rapid increase in coalition membership and growing enthusiasm in the advocacy community.
Welcome Home has set a goal of identifying a new local funding source by early summer 2015. To shape the conversation, the coalition has released a compilation of revenue sources used to support housing trust funds throughout the country. However, many common revenue sources are not allowed in Oregon. For example, mandatory inclusionary zoning policies are banned by the state legislation, and real estate transfer taxes are banned as a result of a statewide referendum.
“The State of Oregon has come a long way in its support for affordable housing,” said John Miller, Executive Director of the Oregon Opportunity Network. “Unfortunately, there are still too many restrictions on what local governments can do to raise revenue to address the housing needs of our cost-burdened renters.”
Using the compilation of funding sources, Welcome Home is conducting meetings with elected city, county, and metro regional government officials throughout the tri-county area. Welcome Home is also building and demonstrating broad support for affordable housing throughout the community. Coalition Director Jes Larson has established working groups among coalition members that focus on communications strategy, community engagement, coalition development, and ongoing research. Welcome Home will host forums and other education and advocacy events throughout the year to make sure voters in the region are informed about the importance of this issue.
“There are too many Portland families who are homeless or at risk of losing their housing,” said Larson. “This is why the Welcome Home Coalition is built to win. Our expectation is that our research into effective funding models, combined with the breadth of support reflected in our coalition members, will lead to a robust conversation and new solutions for ensuring housing affordability for area families.”
For more information about Welcome Home, contact Coalition Director Jes Larson at Jes@oregonon.org or (503) 442-9905.
The Welcome Home Coalition Funding Survey is at http://bit.ly/1zD79KA .