The Oregon legislature got a lot done in a very short legislative session to address the state’s shortage of affordable homes. Advocates are celebrating a number of wins this year, the most significant of which is a tripling of the state’s document recording fee that will henceforth provide an estimated $90 million for affordable homes each biennium. This victory, several years in the making, comes after persistent organizing and lobbying from the Oregon Housing Alliance, a coalition of more than 80 housing providers, advocacy organizations, and service agencies throughout the state. The Alliance is convened by Neighborhood Partnerships, an NLIHC state partner.
The funding victory provided by the passage of House Bill 4007C will increase the state’s document recording fee from $20 to $60. This dedicated source of revenue provides resources for the production and preservation of affordable homes, preventing and ending homelessness, and helping people access affordable homeownership. The new legislation also establishes funding for the First Time Home Buyer Savings Account, which will provide a small tax incentive to households saving money for homeownership.
The legislature also funded Governor Kate Brown’s (D) request for an additional $5 million to fund emergency shelter services and eviction prevention. The $5 million will help add capacity for emergency-weather shelter, motel vouchers, and rental assistance. The expanded funding is considered necessary as Oregon cities continue to struggle with far too many people sleeping in cars, in tents, or on the sidewalk. In Portland, family shelters have recently been full, and parents and children have been turned away to sleep in their cars or on the streets.
In an effort to support planning for expanded rental housing, the legislature also passed House Bill 4006B, which requires the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department to provide annual data on severe housing cost-burden rates for renters in all cities with populations greater than 10,000. Cities where more than 25% of renters are severely cost-burdened will now be required to undertake a community planning process to identify solutions. HB 4006B provides funding to support public hearings and other essential aspects of the planning process.
The legislature also took steps this session to address racial disparities in homeownership opportunities. House Bill 4010A creates a new taskforce to study the reasons driving the homeownership gap by race in Oregon. Solving this inequity is considered an import step toward addressing wealth inequality, giving more households access to acquiring property assets.
The Housing Alliance was also successful in getting the legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to voters in November. The amendment would reduce state restrictions on how local jurisdictions use bonds for housing purposes. Specifically, passage of the proposed amendment would allow local governments that issue bonds for affordable housing to partner with experienced housing developers and use other funding sources like tax credits to build more affordable homes.
Advocates who campaigned for these important pieces of legislation are grateful for the leadership of Representative Alissa Keny-Guyer (D), House Speaker Tina Kotek (D), and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D). These legislative champions helped to secure the passing margin and bi-partisan support for each bill.
“This recent legislative session was so encouraging,” said Alison McIntosh, deputy director for policy and communications at Neighborhood Partnerships. “We know the Legislature can positively impact people across the state who are struggling with housing instability. Now we’ll ask voters to help local communities build more affordable homes. In 2019, advocates will be back to ask for protections for tenants, as well as more resources to build more affordable homes.”
For more information about recent legislative successes in Oregon, contact Alison McIntosh at: [email protected]